Ghazal 111, Verse 14


ham muva;h;hid hai;N hamaaraa kesh hai tark-e rusuum
millate;N jab mi;T ga))ii;N ajzaa-e iimaa;N ho ga))ii;N

1) we are monotheistic, our faith/sect/quality is the renunciation of customs/laws
2) when religions/communities were erased, they became parts of belief/faith/integrity


muva;h;hid : 'Declaring, or professing, the unity of God; orthodox; —one who believes in the unity of God'. (Platts p.1088)


kesh : 'Faith, religion, sect; —manner, quality'. (Platts p.889)


rasm (of which rusuum is the plural): 'Marking out, delineating, designing; —sketch, outline, model, plan; way followed (in respect of doctrine and practices of religion, &c.), manner, custom, practice, usage, settled mode; injunction, precept, canon, law'. (Platts p.592)


millat : 'Religion, faith, creed; —a nation, people'. (Platts p.1064)


iimaan : 'Belief (particularly in God, and in His word and apostles, &c.); faith, religion, creed; conscience; good faith, trustworthiness, integrity'. (Platts p.115)


He declares all communities and sects [ma;zhab] to be collections of different customs, the renunciation and erasing of which is the true religion [ma;zhab] of Oneness. And he says that these very communities, when they are erased, become parts of the faith.

==Urdu text: Yadgar-e Ghalib, p. 152


'We are monotheistic', that is, we are convinced of the original Oneness and consider his/its essence to be unique. And that thing is unique in which there would be no necessary parts [whatsoever]. Knowledge about him/it is obtained only by means of contraries: as, he has no partners, he has no body, [etc. Since all groups represent a partial and thus false perspective,] all communities [millate;N] are false/vain, and when they become absorbed, then they are parts of monotheism [tau;hiid]. (119-20)

== Nazm page 119; Nazm page 120

Bekhud Mohani:

We believe that the Lord is one, and our religion [ma;zhab] is to renounce customs. The sects [millate;N] will be erased. Faith will become community-wide [qaumii]. That is, in our eyes the beliefs and rituals of the different sects [ma;zhab] have no more force than customs which are the result of the imitation of ancestors or unacceptable thought. The gist is that to become possessed of faith, it's enough merely to know the Lord as one. All the rest is mere padding [;Dhakoslaa]. (224)


Terminologically speaking, a muva;h;hid is a person who would believe in the oneness of the Lord, but would not believe in the Prophet. [The Muslim Sufis use the term in this way.] In a non-terminological sense, a muva;h;hid is a person who would be 'monotheistic' in belief-- that is, who would believe in the 'oneness of being' [va;hdat ul-vujuud]. In this sense, a real Muslim is also called a 'monotheist'. In some of his letters Ghalib has called himself a 'monotheist' in just this sense: that he believed in 'oneness of being'.

In the verse it has been said, 'We are monotheistic, and our path is that we renounce customs (that is, outward sectarian [ma;zhabii] behavior)'. It's obvious that here 'monotheistic' has been used in its technical meaning-- that is, a person who believes in the oneness of the Lord, but doesn't believe in any sect [ma;zhab]. In the light of this interpretation the second line, instead of expressing some principle or point, expresses a personal belief and action: that in our capacity as a monotheist we know that the only true religion [ma;zhab] is not to have a religion [ma;zhab]. In this way this verse too displays Ghalib's special style of paradox, and the second line has the rank of personal inquiry, more than that of some historical truth. Another interesting point is that the condition for erasing or abandoning a religion [ma;zhab] is that it first be acquired; otherwise, a thing that's not in the heart at all-- what meaning can it have to erase it?

== (1989: 183) [2006: 204-05]



The terms here are a wild conceptual jungle, and surely were deliberately framed to be so. All of them are notably broad and highly flexible-- 'monotheist(ic)' [muva;h;hid], 'customs/laws' [rusuum], 'religion/community' [millat], and 'faith/integrity' [iimaa;N]. Then of course the commentators generally favor the term ma;zhab , which itself they use in varying ways, as can be seen. So the verse could easily be taken to mean, in order of increasing radicalism:

=We don't recognize divisive and archaic customs; all petty factionalism and disputes about ritual, etc., must cease, as religious groups purge themselves of particularisms.

=We don't recognize Shi'as, Sunnis, etc.; all such sectarian groups must merge into a greater Muslim whole.

=We don't recognize Muslims, Christians, Jews; these groups must vanish into a larger 'People of the Book' whole.

=We don't recognize any special religious groups whatsoever; all religions must ultimately be absorbed into some greater (or even humanistic?) 'faith'.

My own feeling is that Ghalib put this verse together chiefly to drive his more literal-minded critics mad. I have known people to quote this verse with great confidence to 'prove' all kinds of things about Ghalib's own religious views. If Ghalib is anywhere where he can hear them, I know he must be chuckling.

But in general, Faruqi's interpretation surely makes for the richest reading of this enjoyably-- and, it seems to me, playfully-- enigmatic verse. An excellent verse for comparison is {208,9}.