Ghazal 141, Verse 3

{141,3}

kis parde me;N hai aa))inah-pardaaz ay ;xudaa
ra;hmat kih ((u;zr-;xvaah-e lab-e be-savaal hai

1a) in {which / what kind of} veil are You mirror-perfecting, oh Lord?
1b) in {which / what kind of} veil is the mirror-perfecter, oh Lord?

2a) since mercy is requesting excuse with/for a non-asking lip
2b) mercy! for there is an excuse-requester with/for a non-asking lip

Notes:

pardaaz : 'Performing, accomplishing, finishing, completing'. (Platts p.246)

Nazm:

Necessarily, the non-asking lip will be lifeless, and he has called the lip non-asking and lifeless because of the affinity with the fact that when breath reaches a mirror it clouds it. So it certainly happened that one ought to express a wish to meet with the mirror-perfecter through a non-asking lip. And the mirror-perfecter is the one who would give brightness/polish to the mirror. The verb for 'mercy' is omitted-- that is, 'have mercy'. (151)

== Nazm page 151

Bekhud Mohani:

Oh Lord, since mercy is requesting excuse on the part of a non-asking lip, in which veil is it a mirror-perfecter (is it adorning itself)? That is, what is the delay in mercy's descending on patient and grateful people? Ghalib: {174,4}. (277)

Faruqi:

After some weeks of thought and reflection, I've been forced to arrive at the conclusion that this verse can't support analysis and commentary. I won't say that the verse is meaningless, but I'm certainly forced to say that Ghalib made this verse outwardly very beautiful, but what he presumably wanted to say was not able to be expressed....

The verse can be put into prose in three ways:

1) Oh Lord, that mercy which is the excuse-requester of a non-asking lip, in which veil is it mirror-perfecting?

2) Oh Lord, in which veil is your mercy mirror-perfecting? (Look,) even the non-asking lip is excuse-requesting at this time.

3) Oh Lord, in which veil are you mirror-perfecting? (Show) mercy, for a non-asking lip is excuse-requesting....

The phrase 'mirror-perfecting' has created the real difficulty. What connection is there between 'mercy', or the Lord himself, and mirror-perfecting? This isn't revealed by the verse in any way.... If Bekhud Mohani's meaning be considered accurate, then it becomes easy to express the meaning of the verse. The divine mercy is delayed in manifesting itself because it is absorbed in self-adornment. But the difficulty is that for 'mirror-perfecting' a meaning of 'self-adorning' is not established in any dictionary.

As for the commentary that [Nazm] Tabataba'i has written for this verse, the prose reading that it generates has been given in my (3) above. But in this position to take 'mercy!' to be an exclamation is absolutely contrary to Urdu idiom....

Then what is the meaning of the verse? I can say this much: that 'mirror' should be considered a metaphor for the heart, and it should be imagined that by 'mirror-perfection' (for a mirror to be polished) is meant for the radiance of the divine light to fall on the heart. These two notions are absolutely self-explanatory, there's nothing further needed. Now the interpretation has become that the speaker was absorbed in sins, or was heedless toward the Lord. He never even asked anything of the Lord. His lips were without a question. Not to ask can be on the basis of arrogance, or on the basis that whether or not I would say anything with my lips, the heart is the Lord's mirror-- it will be, or will continue to be, polished by the radiance of the divine illuminations. A period of time passed. Suddenly I felt that up till now I had been in the sleep of heedlessness. I didn't even ask anything of God, and now that I look, I find that the heart is entirely black and lightless. Then the speaker makes a plea to the Lord for mercy. The plea is not accepted. He again makes a plea, and says, oh Lord, in which veil is your radiance raining down illuminations on my heart? I call to you again and again, but I find my heart only lightless. Look-- now even my non-asking lip (which up till now had never asked you for anything) is asking to be excused for former heedlessnesses and shortcomings. Now permit your radiance to manifest itself in my heart.

This reading allows for all the words in the verse, but the truth is that to take the meaning of 'non-asking lip' to be that the speaker was non-asking in past times, is merely conjectural. And it's also true that however many commentaries on this verse I have looked at, they seem to be even less trustworthy than my own. (1989: 264-66) [2006: 288-90]

FWP:

SETS == GENERATORS; IZAFAT; KIH
MIRROR: {8,3}
VEIL: {6,1}

Even Faruqi is pretty much flummoxed, and how often does that happen? Here is an case in which Ghalib indeed seems to have outsmarted himself. The verse simply, and incurably, lacks connection between its lines. There are too many possible ways of putting the verse together, and they aren't framed or joined so as to interlock into real ranges of meaning. Instead of having several meanings, or even half a dozen, this verse could be tortured into having a couple of dozen-- and all of them vague and un-punchy and excessively obscure. It would be like trying to figure out a puzzle made of wet spaghetti.

Isn't it remarkable that relatively soon after composing this ghazal, he composed {139}? Nobody could ever accuse him of being a boring middle-of-the-roader.