By Shoaib Hashmi

Some time, in a cerebral moment, you must have pondered that we are in trouble with that. On the one hand, there is the basic tenet of faith that revelation is no more; and on the other there is the spirit’s natural reluctance to accept that all contact with the divine is at an end. And so we circle around and try to get round the question one way or the other. When Daata Sahib wrote his great book, he named it ‘Kashaf-ul-Mahjoob’; and critics are in the habit of saying the ‘Divaan’ of Ghalib is an ‘Ilhaami Kitaab’!

Because ever so often, you come across a piece of writing or creation of another sort, and even at first sight all your senses tell you “This is not the work of man -- it is touched by the divine”! Them in the West are not cultured, so they do not talk in these terms, but in the music of Mozart or Beethoven, there are always moments when you are conscious of this. Closer to home Roshan Ara Begum, and Ustaad Vilayat Khan could make you aware of such a moment even in a live performance. The music would suddenly soar, and at the same time the musician too would take on a radiance which was something to behold.

The poet in whose work you get the feeling most often, and most overwhelmingly is Jalaluddin Rumi. He is the supreme exemplar of the Sufi mystique, and I am aware that in reading him, one is receptive to all the layers of meaning and depth in the human words of his enigmatic art form. But more than that one is conscious that he too is supremely receptive to thoughts whose origin is not in the everyday experience of material life. And ofttimes one gets the feeling that there is a tumultuous torrent into which he has plunged with a great open heart to be carried away by it willy-nilly, and the words and the meaning of his poetry too takes on the aspect of a relentless flood which sweeps you along in its torrent, unstoppable.

Now I know your ilk, and you will not pay attention until you have had your say with a, ‘Show me’! So herewith a small part of what brought this on; it is from the

‘Divaan-e-Shams-e-Tabrez’, and it goes:
Gar tu nishaan bebeeni, ai yaar andar een rah,
Az khesh be-nishaan sho, ta tu Nishaan bebeeni!
(If you would see a Sign my friend, in this pathway,
Obliterate all signs of yourself, that you may see a Sign!)
Az chaar-o-panj beguzar, dar shash-0-haft menigar,
Choon az zameen bar aai, haft aasmaan bebeeni!
(Leave aside the four and the five, and do not tarry in the six and seven,
Come away from all the earth, and gaze upon the Seven Heavens!)
Haft aasmaan chu deedi, dar hashtumeen falak shau,
Pa bar sar-e-makan neh, ta La-makaan bebeeni!
(And having gazed upon the Seven, pass on to the Eighth,
Set your foot in that place, and Behold -- the Place Beyond Time and Space!)
Bar band chashm-e-daava, bekushai chashm-e-maani,
Yakdam ze khud nihaan shau, Oora ayaan bebeeni!
(Close the eye of reason, and open wide the eye of Meaning,

Then hide yourself from your own gaze, and look upon Him, unveiled!)
It is a pity that one cannot find a better phrase than ‘The Place Beyond Time and Space’ for Lamakaan; but then I suppose that is true of all of it. Rumi spent centuries immersed only in poetry and honing an idiom which is unmatchable. It is said that as of now the most avidly read poet in America is Rumi; and one often thinks that not knowing the Persian original, they probably miss out on a very large part of the beauty. Ah, well, one is thankful for little mercies!

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.