labaalab hai vuh ;husn-e ma((nii se saaraa
nah dekhaa ko))ii aisii .suurat se ab tak

1) she is altogether brimful of the beauty of essence/meaning/innerness
2) {we/people} have not seen anyone with such an appearance/aspect/exterior, up till now



ma((nii : 'Meaning, intended sense, intent, signification; indication, import, drift, acceptation; intrinsic quality; —spirituality; —substance, essence; reality; the interior or hidden part (of anything)'. (Platts p.1050)


.suurat : 'Form, fashion, figure, shape, semblance, guise; appearance, aspect; face, countenance; prospect, probability; sign, indication; external state (of a thing); state, condition (of a thing), case, predicament, circumstance; effigy, image, statue, picture, portrait; plan, sketch; mental image, idea; —species; specific character, essence; —means; mode, manner, way'. (Platts p.747)

S. R. Faruqi:

In Islamic, Sufistic, and philosophical thought the terms .suurat and ma((nii are very important. Because its meaning hasn't been completely apparent, commentators often mistakenly think that between the two terms is the same relationship that exists between presentation/accident [((ar.z] and essence [jauhar]. The real state of affairs is that according to the Sufis, ma((nii is that effective principle that is operative in creation. Thus Maulana-e Rum in his 'Masnavi' says [in Persian], through the lips of Shaikh Akbar,

'Compared to essence, what is appearance? Only lowly.
Essence [through its weight] makes the sky bow down.
The Shaikh-e Din [Muhyuddin ibn Arabi] has said that "God is essence,
The Lord of the Two Worlds is an ocean of essence".'

Thus the real existence is essence, and everything else is appearance. That is, we can call ma((nii [the English word] 'reality' and .suurat [the English word] 'appearance'. It's not necessary that every essence/reality should have even one appearance. These two are different, and diversely framed, things.

In ma((quulaat ke siyaaq-o-sabaaq , Askari Sahib has given an excellent commentary on both terms. He says (in vaqt kii raaginii ):

In our philosophy first the word .suurat is used with the word maadah and in opposition to it. In the main line of western philosophy these mean [in English] 'form and matter' or 'essence and substance'. Here both .suurat and maadah are such realities as cannot be perceived by means of the external [physical] senses.... If we go beneath this interpretation, then the word .suurat is used in opposition to ma((nii . On this level the word .suurat gives proof of the reality that would be perceptible by means of the external senses, and the word ma((nii of the reality that would not be perceptible by means of the external senses.

If we keep in mind the above commentaries, then it becomes clear why Mir in his 'autobiographical account' [sar-navisht savaani;h] [entitled ;zikr-e miir] called his father's face 'entirely essence' [saraapaa ma((nii], and what he means in the present verse by calling the beloved 'brimful of the beauty of essence'. That is, the beloved's beauty is such that it can't be perceived by means of the external senses. And [Mir's father] Mir Taqi's face was 'entirely essence' in the sense that because of his spiritual accomplishments he had become entirely purified of human pollutedness and had become a manifestation of the glory of the Lord.

In ;zikr-e miir , so to speak, the term 'entirely essence' is from the Sufis' world; and in the present verse, it is from the world of reason/probability. After all, the pleasure of the verse is in his having called the beloved 'brimful of the beauty of essence', but it's also in his having declared the proof of this beauty of essence to be the beloved's 'appearance'. That is, her appearance is such that it's clear that she's full of the beauty of essence.

To suppose the beloved's body to be a flagon or a wineglass, and to suppose 'beauty of essence' to be wine, and to say that she's full to overflowing with the 'beauty of essence'-- this is an extremely eloquent utterance, because in it spiritual or metaphysical reality has been expressed in physical, or rather almost erotic, words.

If we keep in mind the saying of Maulana-e Rum that God the Most High is an 'ocean of essences', then another meaning of the verse becomes that because the beloved is brimful of the beauty of essence, she is a single pearl in God the Most High's ocean of essences; or she is a single meaning among the unlimited meanings of which God's existence is the speech. That is, the beloved is that in visible form. No matter how we look at it, it's an uncommon verse.

[See also {307,3}; {320,4}; {944,1}; {1620,3}; {1779,13}.]



That great pair ma((nii and .suurat can be made to look like opposites, with the former meaning something like 'inner essence' and the latter referring to 'external appearance' (see the definitions above). Yet in ordinary Urdu usage ma((nii far more often means 'meaning'; it's the ordinary, least-marked word for 'meaning' that SRF uses hundreds of times in his commentary. And .suurat is even more protean: it can refer to human beauty or 'appearance' in general, or perhaps even more commonly to the abstract 'aspect' of something, as in .suurat-e ;haal .

It's impossible to say who the viewer(s) might be, in the second line (since to represent the subject the ko))ii would have to be kisii ne ). And in fact, whoever they are they may well be be non-viewers, since the beloved is so brimful of the beauty of inner essence that her 'form, shape, aspect' appears to make her quasi-invisible. For if we take the grammar literally, we have 'X never saw someone of such an aspect, up to now'. Does that mean that X has never seen the beloved at all, ever? Or does it mean that X has never seen the beloved, until right now? Or does it mean that X is just full of wonder, and has never seen anyone else of such an aspect?

All this marveling and this heavy-duty Sufistic tone, combined with the possibility of such a noumenal and phenomenal person never being able to be 'seen' at all, invites the verse to be read in a tone of wry or deflationary humor. Compare Ghalib's similar use of fancy philosophical terminology for a potentially absurd effect: