Ghazal 186, Verse 6x


go zindagii-e zaahid-e be-chaarah ((aba;s hai
itnaa hai kih rahtii to hai tadbiir vu.zuu kii

1) although the life of the wretched/helpless Ascetic is vain/trifling/profitless
2) there is this much: that there {indeed / at least} remains the device/contrivance of ritual-ablution


be-chaarah : 'Without remedy, means, or resources; without choice; helpless, destitute, unfortutunate, miserable, wretched; —unfortunate person, helpless person, poor fellow, poor wretch'. (Platts p.202)


((aba;s : 'Play, sport, trifling, frivolity, vanity, absurdity; —adj. & adv. Trifling, frivolous; vain, idle, absurd, nugatory, profitless, bootless'. (Platts p.758)


tadbiir : 'Forethought, judgment; deliberation, counsel; opinion, advice; expedient, contrivance, plan, device; provision, management, arrangement, ordering, conduct, regulation; policy, prudence; skill'. (Platts p.314)


vu.zuu : 'Sacred ablution performed before prayer, and which consists in washing, first the hands, then the mouth inside, then throwing water on the forehead, washing the whole face, the arms, and lastly the feet):

Gyan Chand:

Ritual ablution is necessary after becoming impure, which can be from sexual activity or wine-drinking, etc. Ghalib says out of mischievousness that although the wretched Ascetic's life is useless, there's at least this: that he secretly does some deed from which he becomes in need of ritual ablution, and contrives to make his ritual ablution afresh.

== Gyan Chand, p. 490


ISLAMIC: {10,2}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

In what sense does the practice of ritual ablution 'remain' to the wretched Ascetic?

=It remains open to him despite his general wretchedness, when because of his asceticism he has no other comforts.

=It remains always conveniently at hand, in the sense that he's always in a mosque and thus right near the pool of water used for ritual ablution.

=It remains as a readily available 'contrivance' or 'device', so that he can hastily and furtively remove the impurity of whatever sins he's been committing (this is Gyan Chand's reading).

=It remains as a form of atonement for his trifling, vain, foolish life as an Ascetic-- such absurd austerities require re-purification afterwards.

And of course, there's the related question of tone-- is the verse contemptuous, sympathetic, mocking, melancholy, or simply matter-of-fact? As usual, we're left to decide for ourselves.