hastii mauhuum-o-yak sar-o-gardan
sai;Nka;Ro;N kyuu;N-kih ;haq adaa kariye

1) existence, hypothetical/illusory; and a single head and neck!
2) how would one fulfill (all the) hundreds of rights/claims?!



mauhuum : 'Thought, imagined, fancied; supposed, surmised; —imaginary'. (Platts p.1096)


sai;Nka;Ro;N : 'By hundreds, in hundreds, hundreds of, hundreds npon hundreds'. (Platts p.711)


kyuu;N-kar (of which kyuu;N-kih is here a metrically shortened form): 'By what means? in what way? how? in what manner? why?'. (Platts p.890)


;haq adaa karnaa : 'To render (one) his due, give (one) his rights; to do what is right; to perform social or domestic duties'. (Platts p.479)

S. R. Faruqi:

Here a verse of Ghalib's inevitably comes to mind:


Ghalib's verse is deservedly famous. The whole verse is so flowing that it seems as though two prose sentences have quite spontaneously become metrical and emerged from the lips. Then, the repetition too in the first line of dii , and in the second line of ;haq , is extremely pleasing, and also adds to the meaning. Despite all these points, one is forced to say that Mir's verse is much superior to Ghalib's, and of course Mir has the honor of primacy.

In the elegance/arrangement of words, usually Ghalib outdoes Mir. But here, Mir's words too, in comparison to Ghalib's, have taken on a more thought-provoking and 'intellectual' quality. And this is not to speak of the meaning! First we take up Mir's second line:

(1) Hundreds of people (beloveds, friends, venerable elders, beautiful ones) hare rights-- how would we fulfill them?

(2) God Most High has hundreds of rights, how would they be fulfilled?

(3) God Most High and creatures have hundreds of rights, how can we fulfill them?

(4) Because kyuu;N-kih adaa kariye has an insha'iyah structure, it has multiple meanings: (a) They cannot be fulfilled. (b) Is there any way to fulfill them? (c) What power do we have to be able to fulfill them? (d) What can we do, so that these claims can be fulfilled?

Now please look at the first line. Existence is there, but it's hypothetical. That is, it's not the kind of thing that one could give in return for some tangible thing, or indeed for any real thing at all. In any case, let it be hypothetical-- but there is an existence nevertheless. People certainly call it, if not real, then 'quasi-real'. And what is our capacity? One head and neck. That is, these two combine to make a single thing. Without a head, the body is useless; without a body, there's not even a head at all. Now with these real or quasi-real things, how many and whose rights would we fulfill? If the head and body are assumed to be two separate things, such that to fulfill one person's right we bend our neck, and to fulfill someone else's right we have our head cut off, even then only these two things have happened, and the rights/claims are countless.

From an intellectual point of view, Mir's and Ghalib's verses both have the problem of 'rights/claims'. In both verses the idea has been axiomatically established (that is, it has no need of any proof) that on a person there are many rights/claims, and rights/claims of many people. And to fulfill those rights/claims is a duty laid on a person (by way of a proof of his humanity). There is a hadith that says 'your eyes too have rights/claims upon you'. By 'eyes' is meant human existence-- that our life, our body, has a right/claim that we not torment it.

Bernard Lewis has done high-quality work on Islamic studies and Islamic history. But his prejudice, or sometimes his mental failings, keep showing through here and there in his writings. [A discussion of Bernard Lewis's incorrect view that in Islamic culture rights/claims belong only to God.] A culture that had no conception both of the rights of God, and of the rights of servants of God, would have difficulty in understanding the present verses of Mir and Ghalib.

Now let's consider a final (for the present) point about Mir's verse: that the speaker does not refuse to fulfill the rights/claims. His problem is only that the rights are many, so that to fulfill them thousands of means are required, and here we have only two pieces of equipment. Thus many rights will not receive the fulfillment that we would wish to give them. Whether in the affairs of life or the affairs of passion, we are always in harm's way. It should also be kept in mind that apart from one head and neck we have nothing that we could use for the fulfillment of rights. It's a peerless verse.



Note for grammar fans: The refrain, kariye , is a regularly-formed variant version of the common, irregularly formed polite imperative kiijiye . Here it is used not as an imperative, but as something like an abstract future subjunctive.

Another note for grammar fans: I was taught in my elementary Hindi/Urdu class that just as dono;N means 'both' (not just 'two', but 'two out of two'), and tiino;N means 'all three' (three out of three), and chaaro;N means 'all four', similarly with other such constructions, so that sai;Nka;Ro;N should include an element of completeness: not just 'hundreds', but 'all the hundreds'. But as the numbers get higher, I don't know how much attention people really pay to this distinction.