bandah hai yaa ;xudaa nahii;N us dil-rubaa ke saath
dair-o-;haram me;N ho kahii;N ho hai ;xudaa ke saath

1) no servant, oh Lord, is with that heart-stealer!
2) whether she would be in temple/church and Mecca, wherever she would be, she is with the Lord



dair : 'A convent or monastery (of Christians, or of Sūfīs, &c.); a temple, a place of worship, a church'. (Platts p.556)


;haram : 'The sacred territory of Mecca; the temple of Mecca, or the court of the temple; a sanctuary'. (Platts p.476)

S. R. Faruqi:

The prose of the first line will be like this: yaa ;xudaa us dil-rubaa ke saath ( ko))ii ) bandah nahii;N hai . This has two meanings. One is that it has been said in a tone of confusion/suspicion; the other is that it has been said in a tone of astonishment or admiration. If we decide that the first line is interrogatory, then the meaning becomes, 'Oh Lord! is there no servant with her (that is, no person)?'.

All these interpretations have a 'connection' with the second line, which has an entirely novel theme-- that wherever the beloved is, whether that place be a temple or a mosque, or any place at all, the Lord remains with her.

'With the beloved, the Lord remains' has several meanings, and in every meaning there's a new aspect. (1) The beloved wanders and roams around alone, she has no attachment to any other person. When someone is alone, or goes somewhere alone, then it's a common idea to suppose that he's under the Lord's protection. For example, there's Mir's own verse from the third divan [{1243,7}]:

miir ka((be se qa.sd-e dair kiyaa
jaa))o pyaare bhalaa ;xudaa ham-raah

[Mir, from the Ka'bah, resolved to go to the temple
go, my dear, for goodness sake-- may the Lord go along with you!]

Thus if the beloved is everywhere alone, then the Lord is with her.

(2) Whether it would be a temple or a mosque, the Lord is present everywhere. Thus if no one is with the beloved, then the Lord is certainly with her.

(3) The Lord is with the beloved in the sense that Wordsworth [in 'It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free'] declared his little daughter to be a companion of the Lord:

Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

That is, the beloved has the innocence of sanctity and the untouchedness of purity; thus she's near to the Lord. Or again, since in human beauty the glory of the Lord is reflected, the beloved has obtained the rank of companionship with the Lord for this reason.

The tone of admiration or surprise, the theme of seeking divine revelation in the beloved, and the theme of the beloved's wandering alone-- these reasons have made the verse extraordinary.

A THEORETICAL DISCUSSION: In the first line the 'entanglement' [ta((qiid] is such that people nowadays, and especially people of the 'Lucknow school', will declare it to be unpleasing. But as I have already said many times, the principles of poetry are formulated in the light of the practice of great poets, not under the guidance of grammar books and self-proclaimed lawmakers. The classical poets made current many modes of ta((qiid -- or rather, they used them freely. So who are we to complain?

Some people (for example, Muhazzab Lakhnavi) say that no matter who commits a fault, it's still a fault. In this view is the erroneous idea that the standard for erroneous and correct, and the distinction between erroneous and correct, are something necessary and easy. The truth is that we obtain those standards and distinctions from the work and practice of the users of the language. With regard to grammar rules, common usage and acceptance is the standard; and with regard to poetry, the practice of great poets is the standard.

For example, with regard to grammar this sence is incorrect: paa;Nch la;Rkii kitaab pa;Rte hai;N . But the reason is not that there's some canonical law according to which this sentence is incorrect. The reason is only this: that in the Urdu language not paa;Nch la;Rkii , but paa;Nch la;Rkiyaa;N , is used. And in this language the custom is that the verb agrees in gender with the subject. Behind these facts there's no sacred principle, there's just common acceptance and custom. Thus after paa;Nch the plural ( la;Rkiyaa;N ) is necessary. But in the following line by Amirullah Taslim, it's not necessary to say chhih chhih chaukiyaa;N :

chhih chhih chaukii chauk me;N bai;Thii chor nah chanchal band hu))aa

[half-dozens of female guards sat watching; neither thief nor libertine was captured]

Accordingly, the modes and methods of poetry are obtained only from great poets. And the greatness of great poets lies above all in their being masters of the creative use of the language. Thus to declare any practice of theirs faulty, only on the grounds that such-and-such is written in books, or we've heard such-and-such from elders, is entirely inappropriate, and is harmful to the language and to poetry both.

For example, Dr. Abd ul-Sattar Siddiqi has proved, in two contentious essays, that in Hafiz's poetry every 'fault' appears that has been forbidden and denounced in books on grammar and meter-- so either those books are incorrect, or Hafiz is not a great poet. It's obvious that the second possibility cannot by any means be acceptable. Thus if those books are not incorrect, according to which Hafiz committed 'distasteful and shameful faults', they are also not important in practical terms, because Hafiz did not act on their rules, but he was still judged a great poet.

It's also possible that those things that are said in books to be incorrect, might have been decided by some individuals on the basis of their personal likes and dislikes. Or conclusions might have been drawn on the basis of the work of some one poet in some one time, while later poets showed through their practice that the things that had been construed as 'faults' are not displeasing. Thus it's possible that in later times things might not be considered faults, which in some previous time some one individual, or some people, had declared to be incorrect.

Concerning the modes and methods of poetry, the fundamental principle is that things written in books are correct if they are also established by the practice of great poets; and concerning the language, the fundamental principle is that things written in books are correct if people act on them. In [extremely technical] matters like ta((qiid , tavaalii-e i.zaafat , taqaabul-e radiifain , ta;xfiif-e ;harf-e a.slii baa al-;xu.suu.s dar alfaa:z-e faarsii-o-((arabii , i((laan-e nuun , etc.-- in all such matters the practice of great poets is authoritative, not the contents of books. The principle expressed by the late Muhazzab Sahib is meaningless because its real meaning is, 'Everything that I declare to be incorrect, is incorrect'. [A discussion of Muhazzab Lakhnavi's inconsistencies with regard to Mir Anis]. He and other Ustads like Niyaz Fat'hpuri never explain how one single poet can sometimes be authoritative and sometimes not authoritative, [so that their argument fails].

And if proof from books is desired that ta((qiid can be pleasing, then we are familiar with Ghalib's saying [see G{62,9}] that in Persian ta((qiid is considered to be pleasing; and Urdu (according to Ghalib) follows Persian. [A discussion of the approval given by Abd ul-Qadir Jurjani, on the grounds that ta((qiid gives rise to changes in meaning that can be literarily important and excellent.]

I have no proof, but it seems to me that when Shibli, Mas'ud Hasan Rizvi Adib, etc., have insisted that the more closely poetry follows the word order of prose, the better, their insistence is due to the fact that in English, where meaning usually changes with word order, ta((qiid has been disliked. In modern English poetry, ta((qiid is envisioned as unforgivable tastlessness.

This long protest and this degree of detail was necessary because some people object that in Mir's poetry the 'fault' of ta((qiid is great, and how can we call a verse with a 'fault' in it good?



I have rearranged SRF's commentary in order to put his specific comments on this verse before, rather than after, his general reflections on the nature and grounds of literary judgment. For the same reason I've somewhat abridged SRF's discussion of these issues. I feel pretty sure that for most of my readers, as for me, the 'fault' of ta((qiid is not something we even notice in the verse, so we don't need to be persuaded at length that ta((qiid is not really a 'fault'. I think he's entirely and obviously right, but he's fighting battles internal to modern Urdu critical literature-- battles that aren't very significant in our present context. Needless to say, if you're seriously interested in these issues, you'll need to read SSA in the Urdu, especially its long introductory chapters, and of course you'll want to look at other theoretical work by SRF (and others) as well.

That first line in fact opens with a kind of iham, because it's so easy and natural to read bandah hai yaa ;xudaa as 'whether it is a servant or the Lord'. Only as we read or hear more of the verse can we tell that that's a misreading, and that yaa ;xudaa has to be treated as a vocative exclamation.