The poetry of faith, love

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       Aadil Hussain

In the genre of Naat (poetry written in praise and admiration of the holy prophet of Islam), there is hardly anyone who could match the elegance and soulfulness of Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (R.A), the Mujadid (reformer) of the 14th Century, especially when it comes to Urdu language. He was an Islamic scholar, jurist, theologian, ascetic, Sufi, poet and reformer and has his works on law, religion, philosophy and the sciences.

People might not know about the range of works by this reformist, but what nearly everyone knows about him is his poetry in praise of the holy prophet. Perhaps the main reason for this is his unparalleled love for the beloved prophet (SAW) for which every couplet that he wrote stands a witness to it. While reading his poems (gazals) about the prophet (saw), one feels a strange curiosity to read more, for his oeuvre not only teaches you what true love actually is but also compels you to live it.

Ghunj Ghunj Uthe Hai Nagmat-e-Raza Se Bostaan

Kyun Na Ho Kis Phul Ki Mid’hat Mei Vaminkaar Hai

Famously known as Aala Hazrat, for Ahmad Reza Khan (R.A) the entire world, the life in it, precipitated only because of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and our abilities, the life in our body, our creation and our resurrection are all there because of him. The angels and the messengers are all his allies and speak in praise of him. The existent and the non-existent, the new and the old, the light and the beauty as well as the planets and the sun are all there for him. He bases his poetry sometimes on the verses of the Quran and sometimes in the sayings and miracles of the prophet (SAW).

His poetry is all praises for the prophet of Islam and stresses on the theme that the messenger of Allah (saw) is the sole reason behind the creation of the universe- this finds its base in a hadith where Allah manifests to the prophet (saw), “Were it not for you, I would not have created the universe” (Sharah Hadaiq-e-Bakhshish). On shifting from the universal to the personal, the poet wishes that his tongue, whenever it moves, moves in praise of his Beloved (SAW) only.

Zameen-o-Zaman Tumhaare Liye, Makeen-o-Makan Tumhaare Liye

Chuneen-o-Chunaa Tumhaare Liye, Banay Do Jahan Tumhaare Liye

In a different poem, the poet reflects the shadow of the same concept, seeing the prophet (saw) as dearest to Allah, for whom not only the heavens were chosen as a dominion but also the space and the time.

Wohi Noor-e-Haq Wohi Jil-e-Rab, Hai Unhe Ka Sub Hai Unhe SeSub

Nahi Un ki Milk Mei Asmaan, Ke Zameen Nhi Ki Zamaan Nhi

Taking one back to the Holy Quran, perhaps Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a) chooses the twenty-sixth verse from the third chapter- Ali ‘Imran, 3:26- {in which Allah declares to the prophet (saw), “Say, ‘O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will . . . “} to depict how Allah raised the status of the prophet (saw) above all, and made him the owner of everything by the His Will.The flags of supremacy of the prophet (saw) waves among the heavens, the people on the earth can hardly perceive how high they soar!

Farsh Wale Teri Shaukat Ka Ulu Kya Jaane

Khusrawn, Arsh Pay Udta Hai Fareera Tera

Mei to Malik He Kahunga Ki Ho Malik ke Habeeb

Yani Mehboob-o-Muhib Mei Nahi Mera Tera

The poetic technicalities of Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a) shine brightly throughout his oeuvre. Perhaps, he is the only poet who has composed a poem (gazal) in four different languages- Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hindi. The meaning is not lost, rather it is enhanced and completed, as one moves from word to word throughout each couplet. The Arabic flows into Persian with so much ease as does the Persian into Urdu or Urdu into Hindi. The poem is miracle on both the planes-while horizontally the metre and all other poetic necessities flow into each other easily, vertically the words touch the heights of meaningfulness, though multi-lingual.

Lam YaatiNazeeruka Fi Nazarin Misle To Na Shud Peda Jaanaa

Jag Raaj Ko Taaj Tore Sar So, Hai Tujh Ko Shahe Dosra Jaanaa

“Your equal has not come in any sight, a like of you has not been born,

The crown of the world’s kingdom only suits your head, we know you as the King of both the worlds.”

Al-Roohu Fidaaka Fa Zid Harqaaa Yak Sho’laa Digar Barzan Ishqaa

Mora Tan Man Dhan Sab Phok Diya Yeh Jan Bhi Pyaare JalaaJaanaa

“The soul is devoted to you, increase the fire, add yet another flame of your love

You have blown me, my body and my wealth away, come and burn this life too O Beloved!”

(Note: The above two couplets have been translated by Mufti Zahid Hussain al-Qadri)

The songs of unique beauty of the Beloved (saw) dominate his poetry. He looks at the prophet (saw) as someone in whose beauty even a slight imperfection is out of question, imperfection being a thing far, its thought cannot exist. If the prophetic beauty be like a flower, it cannot have thorns, and if it be like a candle, it is smokeless.

Wo Kamaal-e-Husn-e-Huzoor Hai Ki Gumaan-e-Naqs Jahaan Nahi

Yahi Phool Khaar Say Duur Hai Yahi Sham’a Hai Ki Dhu-aan Nahi

Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a) is cautiously very selective in his poetry. He does not let himself easily be fascinated by the similes used by other poets. He develops similes in a very particular way, and if he compares the Prophet’s (saw) beauty with anything, the thing has to be refined first and the refinement should be worthy as the smokeless candle or thrown-less flower discussed in the above couplet. In one of his gazals, talking about the Prophet’s (saw) appearance, he first tries to compare it with the radiant day. Dissatisfied he makes the comparison rather with the soaring sun, at last ends up saying neither the day nor the sun is worth because the prophet’s (saw) appearance is far more majestic.

Rukh Din Hai Ya Mihr-e-Sama, Ye bhi Nahin Who Bhi Nahin

Shub Zulf Ya Mushk-e-Khata, Ye bhi Nahin Who Bhi Nahin

Continuing the same poem, the poet says that once nightingale mistakenly described the prophet (saw) as a flower and the dove compared him with a vivacious cypress. Amazement, hearing such mundane comparisons, shook up and scolded both for the prophet (saw) is far majestic than the two.

Bulbul Ne Gul Un Ko Kaha, Qumri Ne Sarv-e-Jaan Faza

Hayrat Ne Jhunjhla Kar Kaha, Yeh Bhi Nahin Who Bhi Nahin

Alluding to the beauty of prophet Yusuf (A.S),Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a) concludes that if the women of Egypt cut their fingers on seeing Yousuf (A.S), the men of Arab sacrificed their lives on the name of prophet Muhammad (saw). The act of the women of Egypt was unintentional, the men of Arab were conscious about their decision. Further, the scene of Egypt occurred only once in history, while people still continue to sacrifice their lives on the name of the prophet (saw), they will always do it. The poet wonders if the prophet’s (saw) thought (name) has such charm, what would be the state of his appearance.

Husn-e-Yusuf Pe Kati Misr Mei Angusht-e-Zana

Sar Katate Hai Tere Naam Pay Mardaan-e-Arab

The poet is so much charmed by the Prophet’s thought (name) that he wishes, like the men of Arab, to sacrifice himself on it. Not his life alone, he wishes to sacrifice the two worlds, rather millions such worlds had they been in existence, on the prophet’s name.

Karun Tere Naam Pe Jaan Fida Na Bus Ek Jaan Do Jahaan Fida

Do Jahaan Se Bhi Nahi Jee Bhara Karun Kya Karodun Jahaan Nahi

Praising the fragrance of Messenger of Allah (saw), Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a) states whichever way the prophet (saw) went, the fragrance of his pious body caused the hearts to bloom, love spread everywhere and people forgot their age-old animosity. The devastated grief-stricken lanes revived to life with the heavenly aroma. Here again the poet reminds us of the Hadith that whenever the companions of the prophet (saw) were to search him, they would choose the path fragrant (heavenly), therefore would meet him (Sharah Hadaiq-e-Bakhshish).

Unki Mehak Ne Dil Ke Gunche Khila Diye Hai

Jis Rah Se Chal Diye Kunche Basa Diye Hai

Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a) throughout his work cautiously praises the prophet (saw) and maintains that it is behond the a human being to praise him the way he should be. He maintains that the prophet (saw) is the slave and Messenger of Allah and at the same time the prince of all creations. On a hadith- where the prophet (saw), “Do not exaggerate my praise, like the Christians do with the son of Mary; Verily, I am a slave [ of Allah ], so call me: ‘The slave of Allah and His Messenger’ ” (Bukhari 3445)- Imam Ahmed Raza Khan (r.a)  poetizes:

Haqq Ye Ke Hain Abd-e-Ilah, Aur Aalam-e-Imkan Ke Shah

Barzakh Hai Who, Sirr e Khuda, Yeh Bhi Nhi Who Bhi Nahi

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