buud nah buud ;sabaat rakhe to yih bhii ik baabat hai miir
is .saf;he me;N ;harf-e ;Gala:t hai;N kaash kih ham ko mi;Taa))o tum

1) if {the world of possibility / 'existence nonexistence'} would maintain stability, then even/also this is a single/particular/excellent/unique matter/account, Mir
2) in this page, we are an erroneous letter; if only you would erase us!



;sabaat : 'Continuance, subsistency, durability, permanence, stability, endurance; constancy, firmness, steadiness, steadfastness, fixedness; resolution, determination; soundness, validity'. (Platts p.368)


baabat : 'Account, head, item (of account), article, business, affair, matter'. (Platts p.117)


;harf : 'Changing, altering; inverting, turning (as a coat); —extremity, verge, border, margin, brink, brow, side, edge; ridge or ledge (of a mountain); summit of a mountain; —nib (of a writing-reed) obliquely cut; a crooked pen; writing obliquely; —a letter of the alphabet'. (Platts p.476)

S. R. Faruqi:

buud nah buud = existence and nonexistence; that is, the world of possibility
baabat = baat

In this verse the utterance buud nah buud is devastating. Existence is called buud , and since in the world of possibilities there's existence and also nonexistence, Mir has used the paradox buud nah buud to mean the world. If the world had been kept stable, or if the world would remain stable, even that is ek baat , because the world is something after all. It has, after all, some meaning. But we are excess baggage, or useless. What do we need with stability? If only you would make us nonexistent!

It is an interesting question who is the addressee, and who the speaker, of the verse. It's possible that the lover might be the speaker, and the beloved the addressee. In this case, the lover has reached such a stage of hopelessness and despair in which his existence has become meaningless to him the way the existence of an erroneous letter on a page is meaningless. (It should be kept in mind that 'page' is used as a metaphor for existence, such as in 'the page of existence' [.saf;hah-e hastii].)

It's also possible that the speaker might be some ordinary man, or the lover, and the addressee might be the Creator of the Universe. In this case, the meaning emerges, 'Oh, if only you would erase us from the page of existence; after all, we're no use for anything!'.

The third possibility is that the speaker might be the verse, and the addressee might be the poet. That is, Mir's verses are saying with the 'tongue of their situation' [zabaan-e ;haal] to their creator (that is, Mir), 'The world of possibilities may no doubt be an insubstantial thing, but even if it would prove to have some stability, even then it's nothing much. We who are your verses are as vain/useless as an erroneous letter. If only you had erased us from the page of the divan!'

Now the question arises that if the last possibility too is taken as plausible, then why are Mir's verses calling themselves 'erroneous letters'? The reason for this is the same old reason: that is, the failure of expression. Since the 'tongue of the situation' is in truth the tongue of the speaker, the poet himself is feeling that his expression is imperfect. All the world's poets have gone through this experience. Mir has said in the third divan [{1165,5}]:

((ibaarat ;xuub likkhii shaa((irii inshaa-:taraazii kii
vale ma:tlab hai gum dekhe;N to kab ho mudda((aa ;haa.sil

[we wrote fine phrases of belles-lettristic poetry
but the intention is lost; let's see when the goal would be attained!]

The theme of the 'erroneous letter', Sauda too has well versified:

.saf;hah-e hastii pah ik ;harf-e ;Gala:t huu;N saudaa
jab mujhe dekhne bai;Tho to u;Thaa jaataa huu;N

[on the page of existence I am a single erroneous letter, Sauda
when you sit down to look at me, then I am made to rise [=removed]]

In Sauda's verse, in the second line the 'meaning-creation' is also fine. But Mir's verse, because of the freshness of its words and its multiple meaningfulness, is somewhat better than Sauda's verse.

In Mir's verse buud nah buud also reminds us that Hazrat Bandah-navaz Gesu-daraz has mentioned five levels of Sufistic progress. Shah Sayyid Khusrau Husaini says in his book, on the basis of Hazrat Bandah Navaz's book asmaa)) al-asraar , that... [the five stages are:]

sharii((at <--> the spoken <--> the breath
<--> the done <--> the heart
<--> the seen <--> the spirit
;haq al-;haqiiqat
<--> the existence <--> the head
;haqiiqat al-;haq
<--> buud nah buud <--> the hidden

Thus buud nah buud is the level of mystery that is not apparent. Now the meaning of Mir's verse emerges as: if buud nah buud (which is not even apparent) would possess stability, even then it's a small matter [ik baat], because although that world is not apparent, it's after all present. In contrast, I am that traveler who has lost the road to the truth, and who has no more reality than an erroneous letter. Thus the only good thing is for me to be erased.

Allama Shibli has written (in maqaalaat-e shiblii , vol. 7) that buud is a Sufi term, and its meaning is 'that which is real, but cannot be seen'. Shibli writes in addition that in this regard, the opposite of buud is namuud , which means 'that which can be seen, but is not real'. In the light of this point, one more meaning of Mir's buud nah buud comes into view: 'that which is real but cannot be seen ( buud ) will after all be established as nah buud '. And that which is buud -- its being nah buud is the proof of its reality. Now the meaning of Mir's verse would become that whether it be buud or nah buud , if it would have stability then it's a small matter-- we are an erroneous letter; that is, we are visible, but in reality we have no standing, so we're merely namuud . And the only right thing is our being erased.

However much we and the Urdu language may pride ourselves on such an uncommon verse, it's still not enough.

[See also {944,1}.]



I love SRF's idea that the speaker could be the verse itself, talking to Mir. It can't be taken very far in terms of evidence, but it certainly can't be discounted either.

That first line opens up so many possibilities! SRF has analyzed buud nah buud , but what really calls out to my mind is ik baabat . The word means an 'account' or something like an item in a ledger (which opens up excellent lines of wordplay with the 'erroneous letter'); more generally, it means 'business, affair, matter' (see the definition above). In this latter broad sense it has striking affinities to the protean baat . In fact, SRF explicitly equates it with baat .

If we accept the equation, then perhaps we're entitled to read into it some of the same idiomatic uses that we can establish for baat . And in any case, we can certainly make use of the well-established idiomatic powers of ek . Here are some of the possible readings. If this 'world of possibility' would maintain stability, then:

= ... this is nothing much ( ik baabat as something small, minor)-- Who cares whether this petty, dubious world of possibility would hold together?

= ... this doesn't make any difference ( ik baabat as the same one thing)-- It's all the same, it's all one, whether the world of possibility holds together or not.

= ... this would be an extraordinary, unexpected thing ( ik baabat as something unique)-- This world of possibility is so petty, so doomed, that it would be remarkable if it could even sustain itself for very long.

= ... this too is something that should be taken into account ( ik baabat as some matter or affair)-- If the world of possibility is going to last for a bit, then 'this' too is one more thing that should be considered:

='this' meaning the world's unexpected stability

='this' meaning our status as an erroneous letter

Then, if these possibilities aren't enough, consider the bhii . It can mean 'this too' (along with other things); it can mean 'even this' (this which is in an extreme class of its own). And finally it can be the specially idiomatic form that is just a sentence re-balancer ( yih bhii ko))ii baat hai?! )-- 'What! What kind of a thing is going on here?! Is this any way for things to be?!')

All these possibilities are swept up at the beginning of the second line with 'on this page', and the only real assertion made in the line is that 'on this page we are an erroneous letter', and the desirable, desired thing is for us to be removed. But perhaps we are out of place on this page because it's such a flimsy, shoddy, disintegrating page? Perhaps our place might be on some mystically accessible page of fine parchment and excellent calligraphy? Perhaps if we were erased from this page, we might be able to move on to someplace better where we would really feel at home?

Compare Ghalib's take on his own out-of-place existence: