Ghazal 68, Verse 2


nah ho bah harzah bayaabaa;N-navard-e vahm-e vujuud
hanuuz tere ta.savvur me;N hai nasheb-o-faraaz

1) do not be, foolishly/absurdly, a desert-wanderer of the illusion/imagination of existence
2) still/now in your imagination/thought is lowness and highness


harzah : 'Nonsense, twaddle; --trifles, bagatelles'. (Platts p.1225)


vahm : 'Thinking, imagining, conceiving (esp. a false idea); --opinion, conjecture; imagination, idea, fancy;--suspicion, doubt; scruple, caution; distrust, anxiety, apprehension, fear; --a superstition'. (Platts p.1205)


vujuud : 'Being found; invention; --being, existence; entity; life: essence, substance; --body; person, individual'. (Platts p.1182)


ta.savvur : 'Imaging or picturing (a thing) to the mind; imagination, fancy; reflection, contemplation, meditation; forming an idea; idea, conception, perception, apprehension'. (Platts p.326)


'Existence' refers to 'existence with reference to God', and lowness and highness have the same cause-- that is, you consider that there are degrees of existence, of which the high degree is necessary [vaajib] and the low degree is suppositional [imkaan].... That is, the established [=correct] path is to consider every substance to be existent and only existent, and don't create categories for existent things, for this path is groundless. (67)

== Nazm page 67

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, he wanders uselessly, enduring hardship, in 'existence without reference to God'. He realized that there is still lowness and highness in the image of You. If that is so, then the image of you is still incomplete and defective. (116)

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, you still consider the world of material substances to be separate from the existence of God, although all this is the attraction of His power and is not separate from Him. As long as this state exists, don't cast your glance upon the substance and reality of the world. In short, first acquire belief concerning the 'unity of being' [va;hdat ul-vujuud]. (150)


[The commentator Asi says:] It's a sarcasm toward the Sufis. The meaning is, you in your illusion want to traverse the road of 'unity of being' [va;hdat ul-vujuud]-- that is, monotheism and mystical knowledge. And in it you've established ranks-- first attain 'oblivion in the Shaikh', then 'oblivion in the Prophet', then 'oblivion in God'.... If you're absorbed in these thoughts, then traversing the road is a vain and foolish task. (189)


In the context of interpreting this verse, the first crucial thing is that 'being' [vujuud] should not be assumed to be 'unity of being' [va;hdat ul-vujuud]. The second thing is that the word 'illusion' [vahm] should be given a suitable importance. In the verse it has been clearly said that that you must not travel uselessly in the desert of 'the illusion of being'. Now you are trapped in 'lowness and highness'. 'The illusion of being' refers to that stage when we begin to doubt the existence of ourselves and of things in the world, or become ensnared in the illusion that we or the external world have existence. Both these views can be events of one single station [on the mystical path]....

To doubt our existence, or to have doubts about our existence, is the 'illusion of existence'. 'Lowness and highness' we can take as meaning the lack of right judgment, the need to look around for the proper course, the tendency to go along keeping an eye out above and below (that is, worldliness), the habit of measuring things according to their rank instead of their real essence. Now the interpretation of the verse becomes: you haven't yet arrived at the stage of illusion about your existence. As yet you are imprisoned in the fears and dangers of the road. You are still a beginner, don't try to reach the level of finality.

== (1989: 77-78) [2006: 96-97]


DESERT: {3,1}

This is one of those hyper-metaphysical ones that it's hard to pin down even enough to fix up a few possible readings. In a verse like this the usual parts of Ghalib's bag of tricks, like hanuuz with its double meaning of 'still' and 'now', are hard even to plug in, because of the extreme open-endedness and generality of the interpretive possibilities.

In this way the verse reminds me of the far more fascinating {41,4}. In both verses the second line seems to call into question the validity and/or desirability of judging things, of seeing them in terms of pairs of opposites. On this reading, {41,4} describes an arguably (though not explicitly) praiseworthy state of non-discrimination between 'defective and perfect', while the present verse scolds the addressee for discriminating between 'lowness and highness'.

The commentators have a variety of ideas about this one. I have quoted Faruqi's at length because to me it makes the most sense. But I can't add anything of significance myself. (Nor, I suspect, given the structure of the verse, can anybody else.)