6 Kahae Husayn jae faarig thivaen, khaas maraatba paavaen
7 Ashiq hovaen taan ishq kamaavvaen
Rahaoo/refrain (Line 1, etc.):
Aashiq: s.m. One who loves passionately, one who is amorous, enamoured, in love; — a passionate lover, a lover, an inamorato. (A bard is called aashiq in Faarsi. In Panjaabi a bard is also called sughar).
Kamaavaen: You may earn, etc.; from kamaana: v.t. To earn, acquire, etc.; to accumulate, save, to work, labour; to perform, to do (good); to perpetrate, commit (a crime); to exercise (the faculties), to clean or curry (leather); to clean (a privy, etc.); to dress or prepare (land); to train and condition (the body and mind) in a way which brings (them) into good order.
Line 2; Nakka:adj. & s.m. The eye (of a needle); border, edge, a lane; the forepart; a bamboo or tube; the head of a water channel.
Line 4: Paak:adj. Pure, clear, clean, holy, spotless, blameless, innocent, free, undefiled, unpolluted, immaculate, fair. Aalooda: adj. Defiled, polluted, sullied, soiled, stained, spoiled; smeared, immersed, covered; loaded (with), overwhelmed. Shackh: s.m.An old or elderly man, a venerable old man, an elder; a head or chief of a tribe, or of a village; the head of a religious confraternity, a doctor of religion and law, a prelate; a reputed saint.
line 6: Farrig: adj. Emptied out or free from care, or anxiety; contented; free from labour or business; free, at leisure, unoccupied, unemployed, disengaged; — cleared, absolved, discharged; — easing (from labour, etc.), ending, finishing; relieved (from something, including emptying out faeces); devoid (of) or relieved of wisdom, the mind, &c.. Khaas:adj. Distinguished (from others), particular, peculiar) special, distinct, private; kept for private use (of a king or master), personal, own, proper; — choice, select, choicest, best, pure, unmixed, unadulterated, excellent, noble; — adv. Particularly, peculiarly, especially, &c.. Maraatba:s.m. Step, degree; station, post of honour, tank, status, condition, dignity, office, charge; class, order, category; — time, turn.
1 If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain 2 Love’s way, the eye of a needle, if a thread you were, passing obtain 3 If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain 4 Pure on the surface, polluted within, to be called a prelate you feign 5 If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain 6 Says Husayn if you’re disengaged, a special station you’d attain 7 If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain
This is a deceptively simple kaafi. It appears clear and spontaneous but there is a complexity via delicate and subtle poetic skill. Shaah Husayn uses common language and similes from everyday experience. He does not startle us with the obvious juxtaposition of the incongruous. But he does juxtapose the incongruous most subtly. He draws upon his own weaver’s background, childhood and language.
Rahaao/ refrain (Line 1): Aashiq hovaen taan ishq kamaavaen If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain
The etymology of the word Aashiq is not well known. It is an Arabic word which Faarsi has assimilated. So have Panjaabi and Urdu. As mentioned in the Glossary, in Faarsi, a bard is also called an Aashiq. Perhaps Shaah Husayn is also using this application of the word.
The word Aashiq is most often used for a lover whose love is intense. This love is usually for God. But also for a woman or man, though in society this was rarely openly articulated. In Panjaabi poetry the poet assumes the position of a woman and articulates her ishq (for a person, or God). Ishq for God is a very high and intense feeling which leads many Sufis ultimately (if ‘successful’) to echo Husayn bin Mansur al-Hallaaj’s phrase Anal Haq (I am Truth).
The first two words give a hint as to the intensity of meaning in this kaafi. The second word hovers over and envelops both ‘being’ and ‘becoming’. This position has its own richness. Is ishq present in us and then is drawn out at a prompting? Or is it a matter of ‘becoming’ an aashiq? Or is it both?
This kaafi secures its meaning firmly in both positions. The second part of this line not only focuses on ‘becoming’, but takes it further. Ishq can be earned, though perhaps it is a never-ending or Continuous process. The word kamaavaen includes the body and mind in a way which brings them both into good order. However the poet mentions a proviso here before ishq can be attained. We have to first become an aashiq. But this too is already inherent in our pre-disposition. Love-rapture is dormant in all of us. When we allow it to flower, we become love-raptured. Thus the line contains the subtle and obvious conditionality to our becoming an aashiq. And yet it also contains a quiet prompting that we should and can become an aashiq because it is within our natural disposition to achieve this state.
Line 2: Raah ishq da sui da nakka, dhaagahovaen toon jaavaen Love’s way, the eye of a needle, if a thread you were, passing obtain
Now come to a simple image. The image of a needle and thread. The image has two elements in the background. The thread and needle are part of a weaver’s daily experience. They are also the tools used by almost every woman. Though the poet bypasses gender in this kaafi, the ‘male’ and ‘female’ images are most subtly present here.
We are now introduced to the way of ishq. What is this way? This way of ishq has always clashed with other ways. The tradition of ishq is to link up with the Beloved, become a part of the Union and then to unite others. First a person must be self-integrated. Then we can integrate with others. This is the opposite of the quest for material benefits and power.
What is the aashiq working against and why is he trying to recreate? Man has developed expedient relationships. In these relationships composite man himself is being lost. Man is ‘absent’. Making man ‘present’ again is also known as aashqi.
The issue is, why does man become ‘absent’? A man’s (and woman’s) potential and qualities lose purpose in a measured-out world. For he (or she) loses sight of relationships when he associates these with what he can get in return.
A woman can bring herself into the activity of becoming a woman. This is ishq. The place where we lose ourselves is the very place where we should search for ourselves, not where the light is better. Expedient relationships have been shed and authentic ones created. This is a recreation of being a woman (or man) and not a distortion of these ‘conditions’. This ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ is also aashqi.
A woman becomes what institutions (marriage, family obligations, household, etc.) dictate. When a woman accepts these institutions as the only reality she may become absent as an individual (and just go through the flow of life). Man does the same. Man and woman have now developed relationships based on self-interest which exist under the garb of mutual interest. Similarly, children are viewed as old age pensions. Thus, relationships have become very distorted. Man and woman are busy making each other absent. Making man and woman present is the purpose of tales such as Saasi Punnu and Heer Raanjha. This is the role of ishq: to re-establish authentic relationships; to recreate the potential and quality of man; to recognise antecedent truth. This is the way of ishq.
The poet tells us that the way of ishq is not easy. It is like going through the eye of a needle. Though the poet pursues the images of a needle and thread, the word nakka also brings other images into our minds. A nakka is a constriction in a water channel which can easily be dammed. When opened, water flows through quickly, with facility. All the relationships of man are guided through what appears to be a hump, or a bottleneck in the relationship. But once beyond, the water flows into the field and brings fertility. This is where the second phase of the aashiq’s function starts. A thread which has found union with a needle becomes a productive tool. Then it is ready to stitch together a relationship, and other things, other relationships.
The second part of the line tells us that if we are, or become a thread, then we can go through the eye of the needle. The word hovaen straddles ‘being’ and ‘becoming’. It seems to involve both. It links up with the first line where the same word appears. From there it brings the word ishq to this line. We can recognise that the whole process of rediscovering or recreating the authentic self is similar to that involved in converting cotton into yarn. That process starts with pummeling (carding, to remove the seed); then drawing it into yarn; then meticulous processing. All this does not happen on its own or through introspection but through action. And also through being acted upon. Perhaps the role of the spiritual guide is subtly present in this process. In this line the thread is going through the eye of the needle. Is there someone putting it through?
Cotton cannot pass through the nakka (the door of re-creativity). It has to become subtle, fine, strong and flexible. The nakaa envisages that we have to become what the nakka requires. If the thread is too thick, or has knots in it, or has weak portions, it would not do too well. All these adjectives apply to man. Once man’s being and becoming make him a thread, he can pass through the door of ishq. This is achieved through preparing oneself for forging authentic relationships. Then, as a woman puts a thread through the eye of a needle (first honing its end bit), she can draw it through quickly. A similar urgency of passage is also presented here. All of these are the rites of passage of ishq.
Rahaao/refrain (Line 3): Aashiq hovaen taan ishq kamaavaen If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain
The refrain reminds us that ishq has to be gained. It has to be earned. And only an Aashiq can achieve it. We are drawn to becoming an Aashiq by the conditional line: if you are a lover, then we’ll gain love. Does this require pre-disposition? Or a certain attitude towards life? And towards others?
Line4: Baahar paak andar aalooda, kya toon shaekh kahaavaen Pure on the surface, polluted within, to be called a prelate you feign
Now a new character is introduced. This is the prelate. Shaah Husayn harshly criticizes his having a squeaky-clean facade but a defiled interior. What is the shaekh doing in this kaafi? Why is he making an appearance? The reason seems to be that the poet sees the prelate as an antithesis of an Aashiq (Sufi). Shaah Husayn belonged to the category of Aashiq. And the Aashiq has an old quarrel with the shaekh. They have conflicting views on religion. There are two broad arguments and assessments of religion. The shaekh says that the Aashiq is excluded from religion and the Aashiq says the shaekh is excluded from religion. Both are out of religion for each other. If the aashiq says Anal Haq (I am Truth), the shaekh crucifies him for saying this. If a shaekh was writing this line he would be calling the aasbiq names. Here the rationale of the poet is that people of the shaekh‘s ilk only work through a facade, and not with their whole being. Their ‘clean’ relationships are really the product of inner defilement. The aashiq sees himself as steadfast — the same internally as externally. He does not condone any deception in ishq. The shaekh would quarrel endlessly with this position, and would call the aashiq a heretic.
Rahaao/ refrain (Line 5): Aashiq hovaen taan ishq kamaavaen If love-raptured you were, love you’d gain
The refrain underscores the fact that the shaekh is neither an aashiq, nor can he gain ishq. (This of course is the aashiq’s point of view).
Line 6: Kahae Husayn jae faarig thivaen, khaas maraatba paavaen; Says Husayn if you’re disengaged, a special station you’d attain
This line is like a double-edged sword. It takes a jibe at the poet himself and it takes the same jibe at the shaekh. There are three words here which draw our attention. The first is faarigh which also means becoming empty. Aashiqs (read here as faqeers also) first empty themselves of greed, arrogance, anger, lust for possessions, self-delusion, etc.. And then recreate relationships. The word faarig also means relieving oneself. This links up with the pollution in the shaekh (in the poet’s viewpoint). Perhaps if the shaekh is relieved of all the pollution within, he may become an aashiq too?
What is the aim of this exercise? Will it gain a special status for the poet?
Shaah Husayn must be smirking when he wrote this line. The word maraatba also means station. In the metaphor of this kaafi it means becoming a thread. And passing through the needle. But, the poet says, that station is reserved for the status-seeking shaekh.
The kaafi has four words which are not from everyday Panjaabi. These are aalooda, faaig, khaas and maraatba (a derivative of the Arabic word martaba). These words are put into the kaafi because they are from the vocabulary of the shaekh. And they are shown as quaint words which have no real meaning for the poet as they are the vocabulary of non-aashiqs.
For such a shaekh, kbaas maraatba is to be called a shaekh. The poet tells us being called a shaekh is an epithet that is more like a self-styled title than a substantial de scri ption of the quality of the man. The poet uses the stereotyped shaekh in this kaafi, a stereotype that poets like himself have helped to create. (And aashiq and faqeer have become epithets too).
But if Shaah Husayn becomes relieved of all the defilement in man then then he will also gain a khaas maraatba. This khaas rnaraatba is different. It is.’ represented by de scri ptive words for an aashiq. There is no deception in ishq. If there is, it would not remain ishq. Then a thread must be the same throughout or it would not continue to pass through the eye of the needles (or will break). So does an aashiq. He has consistency, internally and externally. The aashiq and the needle are presented as one by the poet. Now a new and even unexpected union may be found and new relationships may be stitched together. Indeed this becomes the purpose of the metaphor of the needle and thread after the thread has passed through the eye of the needle and the two have become ready to stitch (relationships, etc.).
Rabaao/refrain (Line 7): Aashiq hovaen taan ishq kamaavaen if love-raptured you were, love you’d gain
The refrain reminds us that the key is to be an aashiq. Is the ability to be love-raptured a pre-disposition? Then only can the love-raptured achieve love? But perhaps being a lover is also an act of becoming. Once we become an aashiq, can love be gained only then? Or is it there all the time? But if one is not an aashiq then love cannot be gained. On this last point, this refrain is categorically clear.