Ghazal 204, Verse 7


nahii;N kuchh sub;hah-o-zunnaar ke phande me;N giiraa))ii
vafaadaarii me;N shai;x-o-barhaman kii aazmaa))ish hai

1) there is no {'grip' / holding-power} at all in the noose/coil/snare of prayer-beads and sacred-thread
2) in faithfulness is the test of Shaikh and Brahmin


phandaa : 'Noose, net, snare, trap ... ; grasp, gripe, toils, clutches; perplexity, difficulty; maze'. (Platts p.290)


giiraa))ii : 'Taking, seizing, holding; grasp, seizure; the power of taking or laying hold'. (Platts p.942)


The relationship of the Shaikh to the prayer-beads, and of the Brahmin to the sacred thread-- don't consider that they can't emerge from these coils. Rather, consider for how long they uphold these styles []. (231)

== Nazm page 231

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, the coils of prayer-beads and sacred thread amidst which the Shaikh and the Brahmin pass their time-- don't consider the strength of the coils of prayer-beads and sacred thread, but rather, test them both in the arena of faithfulness, and see which individual passes the test. That is, which one upholds this style with faithfulness for a whole lifetime. (288)

Bekhud Mohani:

In the coils of prayer-beads and sacred thread where is that strength such that the Shaikh and Brahmin would not be able to emerge from them? Indeed, it's necessary to see which one remains steadfast in his views and beliefs, and to what extent. That is, the real question is of faithfulness and steadfastness of temperament, not of infidelity [kufr]. Only faithfulness [vafaadaarii] is the basis of faith [iimaan]. Ghalib says, {120,8}. (407)


ISLAMIC: {10,2}
TESTING: {4,4}

As Bekhud Mohani observes, {120,8} is the obvious verse for comparison. The commentators seem sure that, as this verse would suggest, 'faithfulness' means simply 'adhering to one's religious practice for a lifetime'. And yet, there are some subtleties in the verse that hint of further possibilities. The Shaikh and Brahmin, by definition, are loyal to the coils of prayer-beads and sacred thread that epitomize their religious commitment. Yet the word phande is basically a negative one, and in fact negative in a heavy and highly-charged way-- 'noose, snare, trap, difficulty', etc. (Vasmi Abidi points out that it can be used neutrally in contexts like embroidery, to mean simply 'loop', but with regard to general speech I think Platts is right to emphasize its evocation of the hangman and the hunter.)

Does this mean that the Shaikh and Brahmin might be 'trapped' or 'ensnared' by their own religious symbols? And if so, would this entrapment occur against their will, so that they'd struggle to escape, the way trapped creatures normally do? If so, they would perhaps succeed, since these nooses have no real 'gripping power'. But what form would their struggle take?

Or would this 'entrapment' and 'snaring' occur without their awareness, such that they'd complacently think themselves well-grounded, or firmly anchored, or otherwise safely bound into their own religious systems? If so, they'd be deluded, since these symbolic coils have no 'gripping power' and thus can't provide any ultimate security.

And above all, the great question: what is the relationship of the criterion of 'faithfulness' in the second line to the religious coils in the first line? Toward what end is the required 'faithfulness' to be directed? Does 'faithfulness' consist in remaining steadfastly within one's own symbolic 'noose', as the commentators maintain, or in struggling persistently to escape from it into some larger religious or philosophical vision? (Along these lines, remember {111,14}.)

Or is 'faithfulness' perhaps a different quality altogether, one that's shown in human relationships quite independently of all religious roles and symbol systems? On this latter reading, the first line is simply dismissive: it doesn't matter at all what religion you belong to, or what symbols you festoon yourself with, for the only important test is your human quality of 'faithfulness'. This doesn't seem to be merely the normal 'faithfulness' shown by the lover in the ghazal world-- unless we want to say that the Shaikh and Brahmin are both lovers who are engaged in pursuing the true, divine Beloved. This is a perfectly possible reading, with an elegance of its own. If we don't adopt it, then we readers have to decide for ourselves, as Ghalib so often permits or forces us to do, what kind of a quality 'faithfulness' is. I always think of a little aphorism by C. S. Lewis: 'Courage is the form of every virtue at the testing-point'.

Compare also a very different 'Shaikh and Brahmin' verse, {121,9x}.