be-tafaavut hai farq aapas me;N
vuh muqaddas hai;N mai;N ;xaraab bahut

1) non-{distant/disparate} is the difference/separation/deterioration between us
2) she is pure/hallowed; I, greatly ruined/spoiled



tafaavut : 'Being far apart, being widely separated; distance; interval; difference, distinction; dissimilarity; discordance; disparity'. (Platts p.328)


farq : 'Separation, intervening space, interval; distance; division, partition; interruption; dispersion; distinction, difference; discrimination; —defect, something amiss; a falling off, deterioration'. (Platts p.779)


muqaddas : 'Hallowed, sanctified, consecrated; holy; purified; blessed'. (Platts p.1055)


;xaraab : 'Ruined, spoiled, depopulated, wasted, deserted, desolate; abandoned, lost, miserable, wretched; bad, worthless, vitiated, corrupt, reprobate, noxious, vicious, depraved, profligate; defiled, polluted, contaminated'. (Platts p.487)

S. R. Faruqi:

tafaavut = distance, the space between two things

With regard to the use of language, this verse is such that even Milton would have been proud of it; and with regard to thought, this verse would have been a crest-jewel for Baudelaire. About Milton it's been said that he made his language fresh, uncommon, and powerful by taking many Latin words that are used in English and despite their customary meanings in English, using them in their original Latin meanings. His opponents say that by using the words of another language with other meanings, Milton ruined the shape of English. In any case, there's no doubt that this method bestowed on Milton's language an inimitable individuality, because he was well acquainted not only with Latin, but also with French and Italian, which compared to English are closer to Latin. Because he knew the natures of several languages, he had an uncommon power of looking at Latin words from a broader point of view and absorbing them into English.

About Mir, in the Introduction I've already argued that he sometimes uses Arabic words in their Arabic meanings. The present verse is a lofty example of this practice, because through it both an iham and a paradox have been created. In Urdu, tafaavut is used with the meaning of 'difference' [farq]. In Arabic, it means 'distance, the space between two things'. Here this meaning is the intended one: that although we (the beloved and I) are not very distant-- that is, we are neighbors, or we keep on encountering each other-- nevertheless between her and me there's a farq . The word farq means 'separation', and also 'difference'.

And for this paradox (that is, despite there not being distance, there is distance) he has mentioned this reason: that the beloved is pure [paakiizah], and I am a drinker and debauchee, or a wanderer by temperament, or a home-{wrecked/wrecker} [;xaanah-;xaraab]. In the word muqaddas there's also a light touch of sarcasm, and a kind of idealism too. But there's no sorrow at his being ;xaraab ; in fact, there seems to be a certain amount of pride.

Without attaching his name, Baudelaire sent to a girl a series of romantic poems. When the girl learned that the author of these poems was Baudelaire, she was attracted to him. But Baudelaire responded, 'I loved you as long as you and I were far apart'. It's obvious that such a person would declare this verse of Mir's to be in his own voice. Then, we also know of the pride that Baudelaire took in his own ruinedness. He's composed a peerless verse.



This is the kind of verse where the difference [be-tafaavut ? farq ?] comes in between a genuine sui generis ustad like SRF and an outsider like me. Mir is such a fine poet that he has given both of us plenty to enjoy, but how differently we enjoy it! SRF is quite sure he knows which senses of those two words be-tafaavut and farq are intended in the first line. By contrast, I find that I enjoy the line largely because those two words have such a wide range of meanings, and because so remarkably many of the meanings overlap. Just take a look at the two definitions, and see how many ( literal and metaphorical) ways there are to juxtapose them and place them in (non-)opposition to each other.

And then of course when we look to the second line for further insight, we find a radical-- though very possibly tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic, as SRF notes-- opposition. She is holy, sacred, pure; the speaker is ;xaraab . But some of the senses of ;xaraab convey only pathos ('deserted, abandoned, lost'); others are more general ('miserable, wretched, bad'); while others evoke moral evil ('noxious, vicious, depraved'); and still another group seems to create the mirror image of the beloved's purity ('defiled, polluted, contaminated'). So the first line's claim that there's not much distance (or difference, or distinction, or separation, etc.) between her and him, now has several possible trajectories of development, all of them thoroughly available.

But all these possibilities emphasize the distance (or difference, or distinction, or separation, etc.). So in what sense is there no distance etc. etc.? Are we being pushed toward a Sufistic view of the ultimate mystical oneness of everything? Or does the verse make a philosophical claim (like the idea that in politics the leftmost part of the left wing comes around and bumps into the rightmost part of the right wing)? Or does it suggest that names are just labels (calling people holy or depraved doesn't really accomplish much)? Or is the verse a sarcastic sneer on the lover's part (yeah, sure-- she's no more 'holy' than I am 'depraved'!)?

In short, the verse makes a show of having a certain kind of conventional structure-- a general statement, followed by a more specific illustration or proof that will explain or establish it. But of course, then the verse systematically denies us the chance to read it that way.