Ghazal 108, Verse 12x

{108,12x}

shai;x jii ka((be kaa jaanaa ma((luum
aap masjid me;N gadhaa baa;Ndhte hai;N

1) Shaikh-ji, going to the Ka'bah-- well, it's 'known' [to be impossible]!
2) you 'tie a donkey in a mosque'!

Notes:

gadhaa : 'An ass, a donkey; (met.) a stupid fellow, blockhead, fool'. (Platts p.899)

Asi:

Janab Shaikh Sahib-- well, we know the situation of your pilgrimage to the Ka'bah. Where are you, and where is the Ka'bah?! Perhaps your betaking your Presence to the Ka'bah would be as if through your auspicious arrival you would have made the mosque into a stable, in which you yourself are seen to be the donkey.

Or else this: Shaikh Sahib, you have bestowed on me advice to go to the Ka'bah. Oh, praise to God, what a fine thing-- where am I, and where is the Ka'bah?! This is just the kind of unsuitable idea as if you had tied a donkey inside a mosque. (167)

Zamin:

To tie up a donkey in a mosque-- after all, in what way can that stop anyone from going to the Ka'bah? This verse cannot even be called a pleasantry [la:tiifah]. It's entirely useless and fit to be scrapped. (244)

Gyan Chand:

Shaikh-ji, your going into the Ka'bah-- well, it's 'known' to us [to be impossible]! This would be just the same kind of thing, as if a donkey would be tethered inside a mosque. He has called the Shaikh a donkey.

== Gyan Chand, p. 270

FWP:

SETS == SUBJECT?
ISLAMIC: {10,2}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

Here's a mischievously amusing little sneer at the Shaikh. (For more on this use of ma((luum , see {4,3}.) The second line seems to be an idiomatic expression used for something crazily inappropriate, but I haven't been able to document it as such, and the commentators don't seem to recognize it either. Here are some possible ways to read the implications of the verse:

=Shaikh-ji, you're too stupid to go to the Ka'bah-- you're such an insensitive fool that you would tether your donkey in the precincts of a mosque!

=Shaikh-ji, for you to enter the Ka'bah would be about as suitable as for a donkey to be led into a mosque and tethered there.

=Shaikh-ji, when you speak of going to the Ka'bah, when you aspire to something so far beyond you-- it's as if with your words you 'tether a donkey in a mosque'.

=Shaikh-ji, you can't see beyond your nose-- far from wanting to go onward even as far as the Ka'bah (much less beyond it, as a real seeker would), you limit your sights only to settling in at your local mosque (compare {93,3x}).

There's also Asi's second reading, in which the Shaikh has advised the speaker to go to the Ka'bah. On that reading, the speaker is self-deprecatingly applying the 'donkey tied in a mosque' metaphor to himself. This reading is certainly less egregiously rude to the Shaikh. Ghalib doesn't even mention the Shaikh very often, and hardly addresses him at all, so it's hard to definitively show how likely he would have been to sneer at him, as compared to sneering at himself. I think he'd be more likely to call the Shaikh a donkey than call himself one. That's certainly true of Mir, who makes an extraordinary number of extremely contemptuous references to the Shaikh. A couple of verses in which Mir explicitly calls the Shaikh a donkey are discussed by Faruqi in M{930,4}.

When I asked the Urdulist about 'tying a donkey in a mosque', three people helpfully provided some general background.

Rajeev Kinra suggested that it might allude to a famous verse by Sa'di:

;xar-e ((iis;aa agar bah makkah ravad
chuu;N biyaayad hanuuz ;xar baashad

'Even if Jesus's donkey goes to Mecca,
He's still just a jackass when he comes back.'

David Lunn thought of one of the anecdotes about Mulla Nasruddin: 'who, supposedly, when asked where the centre of the universe was, replied that it was exactly where he had tied his donkey (or, in another version, under his donkey's left back foot)'.

Raheel Ahmad thought of a famous hadith, based on an Arabic proverb: 'Trust in God, but tie your camel'.