nahii;N jo dekhaa hai ham ne us ko hu))aa hai nuq.saa;n-e jaan apnaa
idhar nah dekhe hai vuh kabhuu to nigah kaa us kii magar ziyaa;N hai

1) if we have not looked at her, there has been harm to our life
2) if she never looks this way, then perhaps there is loss/harm to her vision/gaze



nigaah (of which nigah is a short form): 'Look, glance, sight, view, regard; consideration; —look, aspect (of); —watching, observation, attention'. (Platts p.1150)


ziyaan : 'Deficiency, loss, damage, detriment; hurt, harm, injury, mischief'. (Platts p.619)

S. R. Faruqi:

This theme is absolutely new-- that besides the beloved's modesty and shame, or heedlessness, some other reason would be sought for her not looking toward the lover. Just look at how a venerable elder of advanced years dives into a whole sea of themes-- that he has filled the second line abundantly with new themes. If we did not look at the beloved, then the necessary result was that our life was diminished. That is, our life-force was lessened, or our lifetime was shortened.

But when the beloved does not look in our direction, it is because if she looks, then her vision is harmed. This can have the following meanings:

(1) We are not worth seeing; thus if she looked then her gaze would be wasted.

(2) We are so bad that if she looked at us then her eyes would suffer pain.

(3) If we do not look at her then our life is diminished, but if she would look at us then her vision would be diminished.

With regard to the first meaning, nigah is 'glance'. With regard to the second meaning, it is 'eye'. And in the light of the third meaning it is 'power of sight'. To use a commonplace, obvious word in such a way that its various meanings would come into play-- what else besides this should we call 'masterful skill'?

But in the second line, at least one possibility still remains: that an entirely opposite meaning would be brought out. We are a thing worth seeing. If she would not look at us, then it's as if her eyes would be harmed, since they have remained deprived of such a wealth of show [na:z:zaarah]. For na:z:zaarah is in any case called 'wealth', so this meaning too is fully brought out. And with regard to this reading, ziyaa;N meaning 'loss, injury' is very appropriate.

In the sixth divan itself he has composed a theme similar to this one, in a style of extraordinary dryness and detachment, as if someone would be writing a report [{1793,7}]:

ham ne nah dekhaa us ko so nuq.saan-e jaan kiyaa
un ne jo ik nigaah kii un kaa ziyaa;N hu))aa

[we did not look at her-- thus we caused harm to our life
when she took a single glance, harm to her occurred]

Indeed, if we take the second line to be sarcastic, then a pleasure is created.



Note for translation fans: English offers the two possibilities 'to look at' and 'to see'; the distinction can't really be replicated in Urdu, where dekhnaa has to do duty for both. Here, in the second line 'to look at' is obviously better, since looking tends to be purposeful and 'in this direction' invites us to think of intention, of her turning her head. Then in the first line too it's better to stick to 'look' to reflect the repetition in the Urdu. (Even in English, ambiguities creep in: think of 'He was looking at me, but he didn't really see me' versus 'I saw it, but I hardly noticed it because I wasn't really looking at it'.)