Ghazal 163, Verse 5


jallaad se ;Darte hai;N nah vaa((i:z se jhaga;Rte
ham samjhe hu))e hai;N use jis bhes me;N jo aa))e

1) we neither fear the Executioner, nor quarrel with the Preacher

2a) we consider it [to be] Him/her-- whoever comes, in whatever guise
2b) whoever comes, in whatever guise-- we've understood him



As if he doesn't know anyone except the Lord.
==Urdu text: p. 158 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


That is, whomever we see, we know him to be You. But between the Executioner and the Preacher there's no particular affinity. If instead of Preacher he had said Judge [qaa.zii], then it would have been good, for he's the very one who issues decrees for the killing of those who say 'I am God/Truth' [as did Mansur]. (176)

== Nazm page 176

Bekhud Mohani:

[In refutation of Nazm's criticism:] The Judge gives decrees, he doesn't argue with criminals. This was why Mirza said Preacher and didn't say Judge. There's also the second reason that when, on the Judge's order, the Executioner has come, then the reading is also given that we fear neither the Judge's decree, nor the Executioner's terrifying aspect, nor the glittering sword. (316)


There's another subtle meaning: that whoever comes, in whatever guise, we've understood him. It can also mean that no magic of appearance can have power over us. Whether he would be an Executioner or a Preacher, and in whatever guise he may come before us, we recognize his true essence. Through the effect of this meaning, there's a tone of pride and disdain in the verse, that the people of the world are not worthy of our attention. By means of the Executioner and the Preacher, two worlds are established in the verse. The Executioner carries out the punishment of this world, and the Preacher tells us about the next world, and frightens us with punishment there. We know the true essence of both. (1989: 287) [2006: 311]



In the first line we have two parallel phrases (with nice internal rhyme), and as usual it's left up to us to decide on their relationship. If they're taken as parallel examples of a single state of mind, then we're left with two instances of withdrawal from, or indifference to, all worldly concerns. This reading is the general consensus of the commentators

But if they're taken in opposition or contrast to each other, then as Faruqi says, 'two worlds are established in the verse', that of the Executioner and that of the Preacher. As he observes, each of these agents seeks to frighten us-- the Executioner, with the threat of imminent punishment in this world; the Preacher, with the threat of eventual punishment in the next world. The line suggests typical, and understandably human, reactions to each: to fear the Executioner who is an immediate threat, and to quarrel with the Preacher, who is not so dangerous in the short run. The line also makes it clear that we display neither of these typical human reactions: we can't be intimidated by threats or violence, in this world or the next.

Why are we so fearless? The second line too is carefully arranged to yield two perfectly good readings. The commentators uniformly support (2a): we're fearless because no matter who we see, and no matter in which guise we see him, we consider him to be the Divine (or at least highly divinized) beloved. But then, why do we think this? Either because we're mystically enlightened, and know that in fact nothing but God exists (as in {162,4}), so that we're quite right not to be afraid of these two threateners; or because we're mad with passion, and quite absurdly see the face of the beloved in everyone and everything, so that we're naively or foolishly unafraid of even the most dangerous threateners.

But Faruqi rightly emphasizes the presence of (2b) as well. In Urdu as in English, 'to understand/consider' can, intransitively, take a predicate nominative ('you understand the answer to be seven', 'you understand him to be a friend') as in (2a); but it can also be transitive ('you at least understand me'; 'nobody understands his poetry'). Thus it might be that we just 'understand' whoever comes, in whatever guise they come-- they can't even puzzle us, much less deceive us. In what sense do we understand them? Do we consider them to be entirely illusory? To be only contingently real? To be human agents of a Divine power? To be foolish tricksters trying cynically to intimidate us? To be petty and naive little mortals not worthy of our notice? To be genuine threats, but ones we somehow can't take seriously?

This is, in short, a radically 'fill-in-the-blanks' kind of verse. There are so many ways to put it together, and to 'understand' the authority-figures of this world and the next, that it's impossible to pin it down at all.

On samajhnaa as 'to consider', see {90,3}.