nah ve log hai;N ab nah ijmaa(( vuh
jahaa;N vuh nahii;N yih jahaa;N aur hai

1) neither those people are now, nor that gathering/consensus

2a) where those are not-- this world is other/different
2b) the world is not that one-- this world is other/different



ijma(( : 'Act of assembling; assembly; council; senate; court of justice; crowd; collection; amount; whole; —concurrence, agreement'. (Platts p.24)


jahaa;N : 'Which place, where, in the place which; wherever, wheresoever'. (Platts p.401)


jahaa;N : 'The world'. (Platts p.401)

S. R. Faruqi:

The meaning of ijmaa(( is 'coming together', or else it is short for ijmaa((-e millat , meaning 'for the Islamic community to become agreed on something'. There is a reliable hadith that says 'My community will never agree on an error'. Thus many problems have been decided by the consensus of the community. In the present verse both meanings are appropriate. One is that now the kind of people have not remained, who were there in a former time. Now where is that kind of gathering of people? How can there be such a gathering as there was in a former time? The second meaning is that now people do not agree on anything the way they used to agree in past days.

In the second line a commonplace idea (now the world has changed) has been said in a very dramatic but revelatory style (that is, not that kind of drama in which someone would address someone with direct attention). The repetition of jahaa;N has produced several benefits. If the verse had only said jahaa;N vuh nahii;N or jahaa;N aur hai , then there would have been only a change of time or situation. By saying ( yih ) jahaa;N vuh ( jahaa;N ) nahii;N hai jahaa;N ( ko))ii ) aur ( jahaa;N ) hai , the point also emerges that we, or you, or all of us, have been lifted out of our familiar world and transported to some other world.

Or again, making the change more powerful than only one of time or condition, the verse has said that the change is such that it's as if the very essence of the world has changed, the very perception of it has changed. As though this world is not at all that world in which we were born and had been living.

The latter meaning has the aspect of a simile. The former meaning has the aspect of a metaphor. A simile is often more powerful than a metaphor, because we are obliged to reflect on the things comprised in a metaphor. A simile says its idea very clearly. It's another thing that a simile itself often makes use of the help of a metaphor, because metaphor pervades the whole language, and changes its guise in various ways before coming into the text.

In the present verse, the use of everyday speech has also been done very well. Nowhere has any comparison been made between this time and the earlier time. But the effect of the words is such (now neither those people exist, nor that gathering) that it becomes clear that preference has been given to the earlier time over the present time. The masterful artistry is such that the possibility has still been kept open that perhaps this is a story something like that of sleeping and waking-- that the speaker has in reality awoken after having been placed in some other time or some other world. Iqbal's verse necessarily comes to mind:

shaayad kih zamii;N hai vuh kisii aur jahaa;N kii
tuu jis ko samajhtaa hai falak apne jahaa;N kaa

[perhaps it is the ground of some other world--
what you consider to be the sky of your world]

It can't be expected that Iqbal would have known this verse of Mir's, and Iqbal's verse is also entirely harmonious with his own system of thought. But undoubtedly Mir's verse includes among its elements Iqbal's verse as well.

Another meaning of ijmaa(( karnaa is 'to resolve, to make a resolution'. This meaning has not been seen in Urdu, but if this meaning would be applied to the present verse, then the aspect that emerges is that now people do not have that 'resolve/determination'. This can mean that the people of this time are not resolved to obtain the beloved; people's hearts are extinguished. Among them there's a lack of resolve. [A Persian verse by Sa'ib that uses the word ((azm , 'resolve'.]

Indeed, in Urdu ijmaa(( is used with ;xaa:tir and :tabii((at in the sense of composure, confidence, tranquility. These meanings too are appropriate here, that now that composure has not remained among the people.



What a terrific little riddling, multivalent second line! It contains two pairs of opposites: nahii;N and hai;N , and also vuh and yih , plus the aur that, most enjoyably means 'other' or 'different'. These five words are thus all enmeshed in wordplay-- and the other two words in the line are both jahaa;N . This perfect little line consists of seven words, every single one of which participates in interlocking wordplay.

The two occurrences of jahaa;N are of course the most energetic. How convenient it is to have a single word that is both the relative pronoun 'where', and a noun meaning 'world'! Thus we get both readings, (2a) and (2b), and perhaps one could play around a bit more and wring out further complexities. It's the extreme compression of this line that makes such tricks possible.

Here's a lovely version of the same trick, by Ghalib:


We feel in the first line that 'those people' are (some kind of) venerable elders, and that the passing away of their generation and their world is a source of regret to the speaker. But nothing in the line itself gives us any such information. 'Those people' could be cruel oppressors, for all we know, and their 'gathering' or 'consensus' could be a form of tyranny, and the speaker could be exulting in their overthrow. Yet we don't believe that, we reject that thought. We feel the nostalgia that pervades the verse. But on what is our feeling based? Can we anchor it in the human psychological tendency to mourn our losses by speaking of them, by dwelling on them? ('But where are the snows of yester-year?' is not a meteorological question.) If that general human tendency to nostalgia is the source of our reading of this verse, does that count as a 'mood' or 'tone' internal to the verse, or is it something external?

Compare the following verse,


which opens itself much more readily to negative readings, and has no such tone of nostalgia, although its starkness and uninformativeness have the same 'fill-in' order seen in this verse. For discussion of general issues of 'mood' or 'tone', see {724,2}.

Note for script fans: Notice the ve in the first line, versus the vuh in the second line. Since they're both long syllables, the former must be showing respect for the venerable elders by making its pluralization explicit.