Ghazal 109, Verse 3x

{109,3x}

tamiiz-e zishtii-o-nekii me;N laakh baate;N hai;N
bah ((aks-e aa))inah yak fard-e saadah rakhte hai;N

1) in the discrimination between evil and virtue, there are a hundred-thousand aspects/ideas
2) with/through/like the reflection of a mirror, we keep a single blank account-book

Notes:

tamiiz : 'Discernment, judgment, discrimination, distinction, discretion, sense'. (Platts p.337)

 

zishtii : 'Ugliness; deformity;—evil, ill; wickedness; trouble, sorrow, woe'. (Platts p.616)

 

nekii : 'Goodness; good; piety, virtue; probity; —beauty, elegance'. (Platts p.1167)

 

((aks : 'The reverse (of), the converse, or the contrary (of); counterpart; inversion; reflection... a shadow, a reflected image (as in a mirror, or water, &c.)'. (Platts p.763)

 

fard : 'A single person, an individual; a single thing or article;... a single sheet or strip (of paper); a piece, fragment; the outer fold (of a quilt, &c.); a draft (of an account); a register, record, statement, account-sheet; a list, roll, catalogue;'. (Platts p.778)

 

saadah : 'Plain, unadorned; white; pure, unmixed, simple; ... without writing or impression, blank (as paper, &c.); ... candid, sincere, artless, guileless, open, frank'. (Platts p.623)

Asi:

Who would make the discrimination between evil and virtue, good and bad, and who would fall into this confusion/contentiousness? The way a mirror has fallen into making the rounds [pher] of the distinction between evil and virtue, good and bad-- we have not fallen into that infirmity/fault. Rather, in contrast to it, we keep a single blank account-book. (170)

Zamin:

That is, when we sit down to make the discrimination between good and bad, then a hundred thousand kinds of aspects/ideas are created. With this thought, we look at all things and maintain dealings with them all. But we are not partial to anyone's virtue or evil situation; so to speak, our heart is a single blank account-book, like a mirror that reflects whatever is present in its surroundings and shows an image of everything. It is not inclined toward anybody's virtue or vice; rather, in its heart it gives equal place to everyone. (251)

Gyan Chand:

Whether something is good or bad, its recognition is based on opposition. The mirror is apparently a discriminator between vice and virtue, but this task is not so easy. Before the mirror, all people appear clear and clean, as simple individuals. But this doesn't mean that they are inwardly such. The mirror shows only the outside; the connection of vice and virtue is inward. An official paper [daftarii ka;Ga;z] is called a fard . A fard-e saadah is an account-record [naamah-e a((maal] on which nothing would be written.

== Gyan Chand, p. 274

FWP:

SETS == BAH
BUREAUCRATIC: {38,7}
GOOD/BAD: {22,4}
MIRROR: {8,3}

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

Gyan Chand provides an invaluable bit of information: that a fard-e saadah is a technical term for an account or register [naamah-e a((maal]. According to Platts, an a((maal-naamah is a 'Register of one's doings or conduct; the register in which the deeds of men are supposed to be recorded' (Platts p.61). This reading validates itself by establishing an excellent connection with the first line. The idea of a record or register of human behavior, kept by the recording angels Munkir and Nakir, is well-established; for a protest against it, see {36,10}.

However, in the present verse the speaker claims to maintain something unique: not an account-book full of complexly distinguished good and bad behavior, but a 'blank register' of deeds. How does he do this? Why, 'with/through/like the reflection of a mirror', of course. And how much help does that give us? Needless to say, not much-- it's piquant but absurdly multivalent. Thanks to the complexities of bah , here are some possibilities:

=We keep a morally neutral, unjudgmental account-book, the way a mirror undiscriminatingly reflects whatever it sees.

=We keep an account-book that is blank the way a mirror is blank (both offer a mere bright surface).

=We keep a blank account-book that is in a 'reversed' form (the way a mirror's reflection is a 'reversal' of what it reflects; see the definition of ((aks above.

=With the aid of a mirror, we keep a blank account-book-- we use the mirror to look at ourselves and the world at one remove, rather than viewing things directly and judgmentally.

Brilliantly unresolvable, isn't it? And then, the literal meaning of fard-e saadah , as evoking both 'simplicity' and a 'unified individuality', also provides an enjoyable counterpoint to the judgmental multifariousness of the first line. (As does the contrast between the laakh and the yak .)

Finally-- what is the tone? Is the speaker chuckling about how he sneakily gets away with something, avoiding moral censure? Is he neutrally reporting his record-keeping practices? Is he proudly announcing his defiance of the Recording Angels? Is he impatiently noting his detachment from this transitory and insignificant world? As usual, the tone is left to be decided afresh by every reader, and in every recitation.