Thursday, November 30, 2006

Giving One's Life in the Holy Land

I am not big on reading newspapers (though not for the same reasons as you-know-who), and newspapers from societies where the press does not operate very independently are even further down on my list. But following a link from something else, I happened to run into this story (click on the graphic to see a clearer version of the graphic if the one on this page is blurry):

[I am not sure if the story is still available online, but click here to check, if you want to.]

Now I was in a rather odd mood when I first to saw this story, because I have to admit that on the one hand, it is a very, very sad, depressing almost, thing to read. But on the other hand, an couple of couplets from a "naat", a peaen to The Prophet, very popular in Urdu-speaking communities came to mind and wouldn't go away for quite a while. Of course, from just a short newspaper story, I don't know what the real particulars of the case are, but the spirit of these lines echos through my mind; it evokes a kind of religious, or spiritual fervour that is very, very different from the kind that is so common today. It evokes a gentler, deeper, more spiritual attachment to things we hold holy than the type of car-burning, Kalashnikov-toting one so often in the news today. Here are the lines I am talking about:
hum madinay main tanha nikal jayaingay
aur galiyon main qasdhan b-hatak jay'eingay

hum wahaan jaa kay waapas naheen aayaingay
d-hoondthay d-hoondthay loag th-hak ja'eingay
in quick-and-dirty translation:
we will venture out into The City (of Madina) all alone
and lose our way in the streets, on purpose

we go to that land, and will not return
try and try as they might, folks will tire of trying to find us
That spirit of unselfishly loving something, even the very dirt of a a place you hold holy, with all one's spirit, and of not wanting or expecting anything in return--no virgins or Houris, no looking forward to rivers of honey, no glory for one self or one's community, no status as a martyr or a Shaikh--seems so far from the folks so often associated with faith today, be it Muslim militants, telegenic Shaikhs and Imams, evangelical pastors, or Bible, Qur'an and Geeta-spouting politicians and pundits.

Like I said, I don't know the particulars of this case; but I'd like to think that if something like this happens, it is in this spirit...

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Tee Emm said...

Sufi have to their credit of bringing in the lighter, more refined elements that are been hidden in the otherwise hard-core Islamic practices. For example, late Abdul Ghani Phoolpuri, a famous saint of India Pakistan used to enthusiastically explain in his majalis (talks) that the words of Azaan actually translates into 'Allah kay Aashiqoon, Aajao; Allah Tum Ko Bula Rahay hain' (translated roughly as 'O lovers of the Almightly, come; He is wanting to see you').

Abdul Qadir Jilani RA (the gigantic figure of Sufis in India) used to say (in persian) 'Mulla-e-Khusk na bashi' (Don't be a dry preist). And he used to give wasiyat to his disciples who efforted thru the religious books and courses not to sit on the masnad (traditional seat of Imam or Sufi) immediately after graduation from the bookish school (madarssah) but instead join the company of someone with a heart that has been tendered over time with the passionate love of the Almighty. Molana Rumi puts is very nicely proving once again that he is the king of examples ( shehinshah-e-tamaseel): An uncooked kebab will make its eater vomit with bad taste; but heat it just right and its smell (let alone the taste) will make hindus (for whom cow is sacred) Muslim'

One sufi says that the entire religion of Islam is nothing but love. In love, the lover wants to meet and talk to the beloved everyday - this is Salaat - five times a day without any break all through the year. The lover stops eating in the divorse of his beloved and even enjoys the hunger itself - this is Saum / Rooza. The lover wants to spend money on his beloved (shopping at Macy's!) and enjoys parting with his own money during this - this is Zakaat. The lover, going crazy, wants to circle around and visit the abode of his beloved - this is Hajj/Umrah/Tawaf. Finally, at its peak, the lover wants to give away his life for his beloved if needs be - this is jihad. Dying in Makkah, Madina or the saintly Karbala is on the same line; except that the wishful thinker wants to avail the luxury without actually fighting blood and sword.

iFaqeer said...

Wonderful description of the spirit, there, TM.

Just one small point of discussion...You mentioned that the peak of love is to dedicate or sacrifice one's very being for the Beloved. And that is Jihad. But the question is what is what spirit this Jihad is carried out in. You can call it "Adaab-e-Ishq", the manners or the protocol of love. And that is where I see most of the people raising the word Jihad today going wrong. And in two ways: Firstly, for love to be true, it has to be unselfish and the whole idea of only expressing one's love and acting on it in the hope of reward, to the folks who pursued True Love ("Ishq-e-Haqiqi", the "Sufis" call it), is to demean both the emotion of and the Beloved. Secondly, too often we see the folks who claim to be waging Jihad today not bothering to pay heed to the manner in which that highest level of Love is examplified, in this case by The Prophet and by others who have lived The Path of Love; say Abu Bakar and Ali; or, if you looked further afield, Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila come to mind.

Thanks for the quote from Ghaus-e-Azam. I think I might put it in my signature.

Zunaira said...

Sabahat, you brought a rush of memories with that verse. I wasn't satisfied with your translation so permit me to try my keyboard at it:

Alone we venture out to Madina
Wandering, losing ourselves in its lanes

There is no return, no recall from Madina
People will seek us in vain

iFaqeer said...

Good translation! Like I said, mine was rather quick-and-dirty. The
only thing I'd change in your translation would be to change "to
Madina" to "in Madina".

Though the reason I introduced "The City" in my translation was that I
wanted to emphasize the parallel to the same kind of feeling towards
other cities and/or locales that communities of faith pine for...say
Zion in the Psalms, Africa for Rastafarians, and so on...

Arsalan said...


Nicely done. However, the problem with your translation is that its interpretive. The original is in the future tense with a sense of yearning. Your translation depicts the present tense. Also, the first
verse, I think, talks describes going out and about in Madinah not the journey towards madinah. Notice that "Madinay mein tanha nikal jaingay" is used instead of
"Madinay ko tanha nikal jaingay".

So I gave it a try. Here is what I have. Have at it!

hum madinay main tanha nikal jayaingay
aur galiyon main qasdhan bhatak jay'eingay

hum wahaan jaa kay waapas naheen aayaingay
dhoondthay dhoondthay loag thhak ja'eingay

We will roam about in Madinah by our selves
And in its lanes we will be lost, knowingly
We shall not return once we reach there
People will look (all over) for us, but they will have
to give up


Zunaira said...

S, I see your point in using the 'City'. I didn't realise you were aiming for a global understanding ;)
For nostalgic reasons, I prefer the use of Madina but that's just personal.

Arsalan, that's another interesting translation and I take your point on tenses (!). I don't translate word for word--my emphasis is on what the verse means (to me at least) and more importantly how it sounds in English. With a few edits, yours could work nicely.

We will roam about in Madinah
And in its lanes we will be lost

We shall not return once we reach there
People will seek us, and they will have to give up

iFaqeer said...

For reference, the full text of the naat can be found at:

and video here: