Ghazal 151, Verse 6


kis roz tuhmate;N nah taraashaa kiye ((aduu
kis din hamaare sar pah nah aare chalaa kiye

1) on which day did enemies not always carve out aspersions/slanders?
2) on which day did not 'saws [always] move on our head'?


tuhmat : 'Evil opinion; suspicion (of guilt); allegation; false accusation, falsely charging one with a crime, aspersion, detraction, calumny, slander'. (Platts p.348)


taraashnaa : 'To cut out, carve, shape, form, fashion'. (Platts p.315)


aaraa sir par chal jaanaa : 'To be tortured, tormented, put to excruciating pain'. (Platts p.37)


For tuhmat , [the verbs] honaa , karnaa , duharnaa , baa;Ndhnaa , lagaanaa -- all these are in idiomatic speech. But the author has composed tuhmat taraashnaa only for the wordplay with 'saw'. (162)

== Nazm page 162

Bekhud Mohani:

[As for Nazm's criticism,] it's possible that the author composed it only for the wordplay with 'saw'. But in those two fragmentary words the glory of the idiom is found. Here, praise for inventiveness is obligatory for every connoisseur. If only Janab the Commentator had considered how idioms come into being! (292)


It's surprising that Allamah [Nazm] Tabataba'i has sworn that tuhmat taraashnaa is not in the idiom, when here tuhmat taraashnaa has been used in its original meaning, and has been used very well for wordplay with 'saw'.

In the second line there are two meanings. One is that the enemies made false accusations against us, and that the 'carving out' of accusations caused us so much pain that it was as if saws were moving on our head. The second meaning is that the enemies' 'carving out' of accusations kept making the beloved disaffected toward us, and the beloved kept giving us punishment....

The metaphor of 'saws moving on the head' reminds us of the martyrdom of Hazrat Zakariya, and thus establishes an implication of the speaker's innocence and loftiness of rank.

== (1989: 275-76) [2006: 299-300]



This mushairah verse makes the cleverest possible use of an idiom. The first line offers us taraashnaa , which we take in its extended or metaphorical sense, just as in {93,3x} (where it's combined with mirror imagery). Only when we're allowed (after the traditional mushairah-performance delay) to hear the second line-- and even then, only as near the end of the line as possible-- do we get to enjoy the idiom that is suddenly revivified or made graphically real by our instant reimagining of the first line as a literal description (of course-- those saws are 'carving out' reproaches!).

Here is an intriguing documentation of the original idiom, from 'A Dictionary, Hindustani and English' (1847) by William Yates, p.18:

As another part of the possible resonance of this idiom, we could consider the martyrdom of Hazrat Zakariya, adduced by Faruqi. It is not narrated in the Qur'an, but becomes well-known in later story literature. Here is one account, for which I'm indebted to Janab Zia Inayat-Khan (Dec. 2004):

The [Urdu] compendium al-anbiyaa (Kanpur, 1911) relates that when Hazrat Zakariya became the target of a crew of murderous apostates, a tree bid him to secrete himself in its hollow, and he gladly accepted the invitation. At first his pursuers were confounded, but then Satan intervened and betrayed his location, prompting the villains to produce a saw [aaraa] and begin cutting. When the saw neared his head, Hazrat Zakariya let out an 'oof'. Suddenly Hazrat Jabra'il descended with a message from God: 'If you seek salvation in God rather than in a tree, refrain from 'oof'-ing'. Hazrat Zakariya submitted, and stifled his 'oof' as the saw blade dug in.

There are also apparently traditional references to the blame [tuhmat] attached to Hazrat Zakariya for the pregnancy of Maryam; people didn't know that this had actually been caused by divine intervention. I thank Janab Syed-Mohsin Naquvi (Dec. 2004) for this information.

Note for grammar fans: On chalaa kiye , see {215,1}.