Ghazal 118, Verse 1


ka((be me;N jaa rahaa to nah do :ta((nah kyaa kahii;N
bhuulaa huu;N ;haqq-e .su;hbat-e ahl-e kunisht ko

1) if I went and stayed in the Ka'bah, then don’t taunt me! --in any way, ever,
2) have I forgotten the right/claim/Truth of the companionship of the people of the fire-temple?


:ta((nah : 'Blame, reproach, chiding, taunting, taunt, reviling, ridicule, scoff, gibe, derision; ignominy, disgrace; aspersion'. (Platts 752)


;haqq : 'Right, title, privilege, claim, due, lot, portion, share, proprietorship;—duty, obligation;—behalf, benefit, interest; —the Truth, the true God'. (Platts p.479)


kunisht : 'A temple of idolaters, or fire-worshippers; a Christian church; a Jewish synagogue'. (Platts p.854)


If I went to the Ka'bah, then so what? Am I one ever to forget the idol-temple [but-kadah]? (126)

== Nazm page 126

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, if I went from Hindustan to make the Hijrah, and remained at the Ka'bah, then why do you taunt me? I am not a man to forget the companioniships of the idol-temple [but-kadah]. (179)

Bekhud Mohani:

So what if I'm staying here? Have I forgotten the right to companionship of those who stay in idol-temples [but-;xaanah]? That is, no difference has been made in my and your relationships. (238)



This is an energetic, aggrieved, yet defensive, utterance. Thanks to the wonders of kyaa , it can be read in several ways: (1) as an indignant, challenging rhetorical question ('Have I ever done so? Of course I haven't!'); (2) as a serious, informal appeal to fairness ('Come on, you know me-- have I ever once done anything like that?'); or (3) as a genuine expression of uncertainty, possibly a private moment of self-doubt ('Is it possible that I've in fact somehow done such a thing?')

The speaker insists, in the face of 'taunts' that are probably (but not necessarily) from his former companions, that his staying in the Ka'bah will have no effect on his former allegiances-- it just won't make any difference. This is a piquant notion in its own right-- that someone would not only semi-apologize for staying in the Ka'bah, but would also insist that it really wouldn't make any difference at all! (In this connection, consider {124,5}.) And by no coincidence, the word for 'right/claim' [;haqq] is also, in a piquant kind of wordplay, one of the names for the 'True God'.

But the 'taunts' add another dimension as well. What kind of attack might they represent?

= the 'taunts' might be accusations that he's slumming-- that he's lowering himself by leaving a higher, more exacting allegiance for an inferior, commonplace, more convenient one

= the 'taunts' might be accusations that he now thinks he's superior-- he's gone all smug and 'orthodox' on us, he's narrowed his worldview into that of the Shaikh

= the 'taunts' might be accusations of sheer fickleness-- he doesn't know his own mind, he's shallow and idle, he's just in search of novelty and fresh thrills

The commentators tend to read kunisht unselfconsciously as 'idol-temple', which seems an understandable South Asian reaction. But in fact it's more general (see definition above), and this verse thus belongs to Ghalib's set of 'in between religions' verses.

Do the old companions have a 'right to companionship', or a 'right given by companionship'? The i.zaafat can easily go both ways. Either way, the right belongs not to the kunisht , but to the 'people' of it. Perhaps the ahl-e kunisht are simply the visible representatives of the kunisht itself, and have their right in that capacity. But the verse feels more personal: it feels as though it is about the privileging of friendship and personal loyalty above all outward religious affiliations.