Ghazal 86, Verse 5


hai pare sar;had-e idraak se apnaa masjuud
qible ko ahl-e na:zar qiblah-numaa kahte hai;N

1) beyond the limit of the senses is [their/our] own {worship/prostration}-object
2) people of vision call the Qiblah the 'Qiblah-pointer'


qiblah : 'Anything opposite; --that part to which Muslims turn their faces when at prayer; the temple of the Kaʻba in Mecca; Mecca; --an altar, a temple; an object of veneration or reverence'. (Platts p.788)


numaa : 'Showing, exhibiting, pointing out'. (Platts p.1153)


qiblah-numaa : ' 'Showing the qiblah '; an instrument by which Muhammadans at a distance from Mecca ascertain the direction of the qiblah ;—a mariner's compass'. (Platts p.788)


Calling the Qiblah the 'Qiblah-pointer' is something that clearly no one other than Mirza has done.
==Urdu text: p. 147 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


The author has versified this problem: that by doing prostrations toward the Ka'bah, the goal is not to do prostrations to the Ka'bah. Rather, the one to Whom we do prostrations is beyond the directions, and a prostration must have a direction. For this reason, He has decreed the direction of the Ka'bah. (85)

== Nazm page 85

Bekhud Dihlavi:

To separate the Qiblah from the 'Qiblah-pointer' is a theme that could fall to Mirza Sahib's lot alone. Before Mirza Sahib, nobody said it. This verse is an answer to the objection of those people who say that the Muslims too prostrate themselves before the stones of the door of the Ka'bah. He says, our worship-object is absolutely very far beyond the limit of the senses. That is, whether we have seen the Ka'bah or not, we prostrate ourselves in the direction of the Ka'bah. (135)


ISLAMIC: {10,2}
SPEAKING: {14,4}

Except for its much greater depth and memorableness, this would be a classic mushairah verse, with all the elements in place. The first line is theologically irreproachable, since every Muslim knows that God is not a material object that our senses can detect. We effortlessly read masjuud in its normal sense of something that is 'adored, worshipped' (Platts p.1033). But the line is also quite obscure as to its intention-- what is the point of such a vague, broad abstraction? And in particular, the use of apnaa , literally 'own', denies us any information about the identity of the worshiper(s) in question.

In a mushairah setting, we of course are compelled to wait through the traditional tantalizing interval of repetition, audience response, and so on, before we are allowed to hear the second line. And then we learn not only who the worshipers are ('people of vision'), but also where the first line was going. We realize that masjuud is to be read, unusually, in its absolutely literal, grammatically precise sense of 'a receiver of sijdah [prostration]'. But the full sense of the verse is withheld until the very last moment-- qiblah-numaa is the final word in the second line, right before the refrain. Thus it comes with a shock of surprise, delight, and fulfillment.

As the commentators admiringly observe, nobody but Ghalib would think to call the Qiblah the 'Qiblah-pointer'. (There does exist a compass-like instrument called a qiblah-numaa (see the definition above), but that fact doesn't really help to resolve this particular verse; at the most, it could slightly adjust the nature of the question being asked.) This verse offers the intellectual shock of radical originality. Yet this originality is of a focused, limited, lucid kind. Far from being difficult to understand, Ghalib's point is impossible to miss. And, as in the case of all the best mushairah verses, once you get it you've got it. This is a verse that in a sense yields up all its intellectual content at once, like a crushed grape. It doesn't demand that you work at it, reread it, worry it in your mind before you can figure out what it's saying.

But then of course once you've got it, what exactly have you got? Since the Qiblah itself is a pointer (to the Ka'bah) already, what does it mean to call this pointer, in effect, a 'pointer-pointer'? Does it mean that the Ka'bah itself, to which the Qiblah points, is merely a proximate goal, and a pointer in its own right? If so, it must point to something 'beyond the limit of the senses'. But how can anything beyond all sensory perception be 'pointed to'?

Perhaps that's why it's the 'people of vision'-- and na:zar is the ordinary word for sight, gaze, etc.-- who don't just 'see' the physical or literal Qiblah as one might expect, but who 'see through' it and consider it merely a pointer toward the real, immaterial masjuud . There's thus a nice play on 'sight' and 'insight', which fortunately we can more or less capture in English with the double (physical and mental) sense of 'vision'.

On this unspecific use of apnaa , see {15,12}.