Ghazal 115, Verse 5

{115,5}*

qaid-e ;hayaat-o-band-e ;Gam a.sl me;N dono;N ek hai;N
maut se pahle aadmii ;Gam se nijaat paa))e kyuu;N

1) the prison of life, and the bondage of grief-- in reality/essence/origin both are one
2) before death, how/why would a person find escape/release from grief?

Notes:

a.sl : 'Bottom, root, origin, base, foundation; original, source; an essential, a fundamental principle; essence; element, principle; chief thing, main point, original or old state or condition; original or primary signification'. (Platts p.59)

 

aadmii : 'Descendant of Adam; a human being; man; individual, person'. (Platts p.33)

 

nijaat : 'Escape, liberation, deliverance, freedom; salvation, pardon, absolution; —flight'. (Platts p.1124)

 

kyuu;N : 'Why? wherefore? how? what? well?'. (Platts p.890)

Nazm:

That is, life and grief are the names of one single thing. Thus in life, the diminishing of grief is in principle absolutely impossible. (124)

== Nazm page 124

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, the way the prison of life causes suffering, in the same way the bondage of grief gives trouble. The root of both of these is identical. (175)

Bekhud Mohani:

The reality is that 'life' is another name for 'grief'. So while we're alive, the longing to find escape/release from grief is vain. (234)

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS; TRANSLATABLES
BONDAGE: {1,5}
LIFE/DEATH: {7,2}

At the heart of the verse is an iihaam involving the word a.sl . The common role of a.sl me;N in spoken Urdu is like that of 'in reality' or 'in fact' or 'in truth'; it's a sort of filler phrase that's thrown into sentences to give them convenient shape and balance. It's one that is taken chiefly as the speaker's claim of seriousness and honesty. And it does work perfectly well that way in the verse.

But after hearing the second line, we realize that in this verse it also needs to be taken with absolute literalness. The 'prison of life' and the 'bondage of grief' are not just one, but inherently and indissolubly one. They are one in their origin, their essence, their root, their original condition (see the definition above). It is their common a.sl that makes the hope of separating them so vain, so misconceived. The question in the second line serves to point out the logical error of even forming such a hope. We humans are descendants of Adam [aadmii], and thus inherit his burden of suffering.

The verse has a kind of swingy flow that makes it irresistibly easy to memorize and recite. Yet ultimately it's a verse of mood. The two fused images of captivity and helplessness turn the prospect of death into nijaat , into an 'escape' or a 'release'. It's really about about reasoning-- about mutually implicated entities and the logical error of trying to separate them. The sadness, fatalism, resignation in this stark little verse are deep enough not even to rise to the surface. But they're there, and we can feel them.

Compare {95,6}, a shorter, simpler, and bleaker study of life and death.

It's also worth comparing Mir's M{402,2}:

qaid-e ;hayaat qaid ko))ii sa;xt hai kih roz
mar rahte he;Nge us ke giriftaar ek do

[the prison of life-- it's some harsh prison! for every day
they will keep on dying, its captives, one or two]