An Article by Shaukat Jamil:
When I was a high school student, Pakistan was a newborn country. Like any new nation the people were full of beans. Though wrongly, Iqbal was regarded among one of the architects of neoteric state. So his day was observed with great fanfare in the schools. Our fellow students would parrot the speeches written by their elders on his so-called philosophies of KHUDDI,MARD-E-MOMIN etc. Glowing tributes were showered on his so-called poetry dubbing him SHAIR-E-MASHRIQ. I could hardly understand any thing orated in those ornamental speeches.
But there had been no mention of Iqbal in our household which was otherwise reckoned among top literary families of the city. Our father, on the other hand, was a great maven of Ghalib s poetry which constituted his nocturnal studies.Once I asked him to differentiate for me the variance between Ghalib and Iqbal and he replied that whatever Ghalib wrote was almost true while almost everything written by Iqbal was false for all practical purposes. On another occasion he admonished me never to read any book not written in English, not written by an all time great western writer and not published by a reputable western publisher save Deewan-e-Ghalib. He further elaborated that by Western writer he meant the citizen of Europe and not of USA who lack the ability to analyze the complex emotions of the characters.He further advised me not to read a book winning a Nobel Prize unless it is written by someone who is an all time great. A Nobel Laureate is one year s great who in some cases cannot hold a candle to an all time great.Then he went on to narrate the quotation from some eminent Englishman claiming " Our prose is finest in the world and our poetry is second to none.One rack of good English literature is worth the entire literature of Arabia and Persia." He further said that Bible was the best book written so far. On my inquiry, he told me the name of the worst book he ever read but unfortunately, I cannot share her name with you.
It was in this backdrop that I grew up.I knew that one day I shall have to read Deewan-e-Ghalib.I made many half-hearted attempts to read it but failed for a variety of reasons. At long last I went through and came to the conclusion that the book was greater than what I concluded by way of my father s lecturing. Ghalib is rightly called the greatest poet of the world since his philosophies fore-ran the Western philosophies by some fifty years which no other poet of the world could claim.Since I have already written aplenty on the quality of his poetry in my book so I need not repeat it.Here I intend to write some thing peculiar to his poetry the understanding whereof will help the intellection of his poetry. The following points are worth noting:-
1- Ghalib s poetry is precis of poetry and not full poetry.The need therefor arose because Ghalib could see more facets of an issue than any other poet of Urdu. Since he used the vehicle of ghazal to poetize his perceptions whose scope is limited to two hemistitches only which is inadequate to accommodate the multifarious facets of his perceptions so he had to repair to summarization nolens volens. Ghalib said:-
Baqadar-e-zauq nahin zarf-e- tung naaye ghazal
Kuchh aur woosat chaaheye mairey bayan kay liye
Since ghazal would give no quarter to even Ghalib so he started summarization as under:-
Nukta cheen hay, ghum-e-dil oosko soonaye na baney
Kya baney baat jahan baat banai na baney.
The first hemistich should have been Nukta cheen hay maira mehboob gham-e-dil oosko soonaye na baney but was abridged to suit the verse. Since no other Urdu poet needed to condense his ideas because the facets in his perception of idea were so thin that they could could even sparsely be accommodated hence he did not need to telescope.
The abstraction of ideas cited supra not only beautified Ghalib s poetry and made it more quotable but made it more complex thereby making it susceptible of differential exegesis. It was the desire to find neoteric gloss in Ghalib s poetry that kept my father glued to his magnum opus for his entire life.
According to Oscar Wilde complexity is the difference between superior and inferior art. Since no one has written such complex poetry as Ghalib s so he undoubtedly ascends to no 1 position in poetry. Yes, complexity is not the only factor that determines the quality of poetry. Asghar Gondvi is also very complex in his versification.But I cannot stand him like Iqbal in the midst of poets. So despite all complexities I reckon him an ordinary versifier. A versifier is a second grade poet and should never be brought up in the critique of poets. It is in deference to complexity that I call Momin the greatest poet of Urdu after Ghaljb though the critics award this status to Zauq. I like the following verse from Momin:-
Yaad aa gaien hain kufr kee rangeenian mujhey
Yeh aur baat hay keh musalman nahin hoon main.
2-When I write English and enter the complexity zone I find myself at a loss for words owing to my limited knowledge of English so I use the word nearest to my intent. Ghalib faced a similar dilemma. What he wanted to say transcended the scope of vocabularies of Urdu, Persian and Arabic.So he used the word nearest to his intent. Thus in order to understand the donnee of his verses one should apply the meanings of the words loosely otherwise he will miss the target. Let us find an example from deewan. Ghalib claims that he is a Sufi and he defines Sufism as under:-
Qatra apna bhee haqeeqat mein hay dariya laikin
Hum ko taqleed-e-tunuk zarfeay Mansoor nahin
This is correct for the God says in Bible that We have made man in our own image. This point is not denied in Quran.So Allah and human have the same design but there is enormous difference in magnitude.But at other place Ghalib says:-
Oosey kaun daikh sakta keh yagana hay woh yakta
Jo dooee kee boo bhee hotee to kahin do chaar hota
Here he says that there is not a whiff of resemblance between man and God.This is the idea of an agnostic and not of a Sufi.So Ghalib was an agnostic not a Sufi. Since no suitable word existed to define his personality so he made use of the word nearest to his personality to define it I dare say he was the first agnostic after Buddha and much clearer in his view than Buddha, in subcontinent.An agnostic like me believes in God of universe and not in God of theology.To cut down on the voluminosity of this message I am not quoting a number of verses to confirm my assertion. But Ghalib was not at all a Sufi and was an agnostic out and out and he had to use the word Sufi to define himself for want of a proper word. Agnosticism gives birth to humanism by abolition of religions and other dogmas.Humanism is the whole while religion is a part of humanity. Since part cannot be equal to whole so no poet holding belief in any religion or any other dogma could stand comparison with Ghalib.
Once we have ascertained the personality of Ghalib, we can understand his poetry in earnest.Let us compare the poetry of Ghalib the Sufi and Ghalib the agnostic. See the verse below:-
Aatey hain ghaib sey yeh muazameen khayal mein
Ghalib, sareer -e- khaama nawa-i-sarosh hay.
Now if you regard him Sufi then the verse states that it has come down upon him via an oracle but if you regard him agnostic then it means that the ideas originate in his unconscious. Since I regard him agnostic so I credit him with the discovery of unconscious in a poet s way some seventy years before Freud. To avoid error Ghalib s poetry should be regarded as poetry by an agnostic. Besides, agnostic there were many words that Ghalib used in a loose sense to make them rhyme. So the words should be used in loose sense to arrive at the correct significance of the verse.
3-To squeeze in the multitude of facets of his perceptions, Ghalib has put izzafat to use in his inimitable way. There are hemistiches where he used four IZZAFAT in one. see the verse below:-
Shor-e- nairang-e- bahar-e-gulshan-e- hastee na poochh
Hum khooshee aksar raheen-e-na khooshee kartey rahey
No other poet of Urdu ever made use of such exquisite use of izzafat in poetry because he did not need to squeeze in anything in his poetry. If your ideas are rare and thus your poetry lacks profundity you will be spacing tour words with padding to complete a hemistich so there cannot be any thought of cramping the space so no izzafat is needed.
Though there are still a few more points that separate Ghalib from the herd but in view of the prolixity of this message I end it here. May be the points may come under discussion under different topics in future