|Why should I choose the loser’s role? Forbear to seek what gain I may?|
Nor think of what the morrow holds, but brood o’er woes of yesterday?
Why should my ears enraptured hear the plaintive notes of Philomel?
Fellow-bard! a rose am I to lose me in sweet music’s swell?
For I too have the gift of song which gives me courage to complain,
But ah! ‘tis none but God Himself whom I, in sorrow, must arraign!
|I grant that we have earned repute as ever reconciled to Fate,|
But to Thee still a tale of pain I can no longer help narrate.
Though we may seem like voiceless lyres, within, imprisoned anguish cries;
Its urge compels, and I obey, framing these plaintive melodies.
Hear Thou, O God! these sad complaints from those of proven fealty;
From lips accustomed but to praise hear Thou these words in blame of Thee!
|From when eternal Time began, Thy Timeless Self had also been;|
But then no breeze its sweetness spread though the Rose reigned the garden’s queen.
Canst Thou, in justice, but confess, O Lord! from whom all favours flow,
Had not the south wind toiled in love the world Thy fragrance would not know?
The glad travail we sought for Thee rejoiced our souls and was our pride—
Thinkst Thou the followers of Thy Friend insanely spread Thy Truth so wide?
|Before we came, how strange a sight was this most beauteous world of Thine!|
For here to stones men bowed their heads, and there in trees did ‘gods’ enshrine!
Their unenlightened minds could seize nought else but what their eyes could see,
Thou knowest, Lord, Thy writ ran not —Man neither knew nor worshipped Thee!
And canst Thou say that even once one of these did Thy name recite?
It was the might of Muslim arms fulfilled Thy task and gave them Light.
|Yet once there lived the Seljuks here, Turanians too, and wise Chinese,|
Sasanians drew their breath and thrived in rose-perfumed Iranian breeze;
And elsewhere in Thy peopled world the Greeks of Yunan held their sway,
While sons of Israel side by side with Christian nations had their day.
But which among these nations raised the sacred sword in holy fight,
Self-consecrated to Thy cause, to set their crazy world aright?
|’Tis we and we alone who thronged as warriors on Thy fields of fray,|
And now upon the land we fought and now upon the salt sea spray.
We made our Azan’s call resound beneath proud spires in Western lands,
And made that magic melody thrill over Afric’s burning sands.
The pageantries of mighty kings to us were shows that mattered not,
Beneath the shade of blades unsheathed in Kalima we glory sought.
|Our only life was then to face the perils 0f Thy holy wars;|
To glorify Thy name we died, adorned with hallowed battle scars.
Not lust for power for our own sakes our drawn-sword’s playfulness inspired,
Nor roamed we hand-in-glove with Death for worldly riches we desired.
Our people, had they set their hearts on this world’s riches or its gold,
Not idol-breaking would have gone but idols would have bought and sold.
|We stood our ground like rocks when once the foe had met our phalanx dread;|
Before our might the bravest quailed and, vanquished, from the battle fled.
And those who offered Thee affront our swift, relentless fury faced,
Their mightiest arms we set at nought, their insolence and pride abased.
On all men’s minds we set Thy seal, Thy tawhid’s firm and sure impress—
The selfsame message preached our lips when swords danced high in battle’s stress.
|Declare Thou whose fierce valour once did Khyber’s barriers overthrow?|
Or whose resistless might once laid famed Caesar’s proudest cities low?
Who smashed to dust man’s hand-wrought gods, those things of straw and earth and clay?
And who did unbelieving hosts to spread Thy name and glory slay?
And who was it that quenched and cooled the fiery urns of fair Iran ?
And in that land did once again revive the worship of Yazdan?
|Among those nations, was there one who craved Thee as we craved and sought?|
Or risked the perils of fell war that Thy Divinest will be wrought?
Whose was that conquest-thirsty sword which won and held the world in fee?
And whose the Takbeer-sounding call, which wakened all the world to Thee?
Whose was the fateful wrath which made all idols shrink in terror just?
“There is no god but God,” they cried, as crumbling down they kissed the dust.
|When worship’s ordained hour was come, and furious raged the battle’s fray,|
Those men of Hijaz, staunch in Thee, facing Thy Ka‘ba, bowed to pray.
Mahmood the king and slave Ayaz, in line, as equals, stood arrayed,
The lord was no more lord to slave: while both to the One Master prayed.
Slave or slave’s master, rich or poor, no sense of difference then felt,
For each a brother was to each when in Thy Presence, Lord, they knelt.
|And Thou dost know we went about at sunrise or when stars did shine,|
In banquet-halls of Time and Space, like goblets, filled with tawhid’s wine
Both heights and lowlands we traversed to spread Thy message; O glad pain!
Not even once, Thou knowest well, we strove against the world in vain.
Not only land we bore Thy Word Glorious across the heaving seas,
Upon our steed of zeal, we rode unto their darkest boundaries!
|We who removed from this world’s book the leaves which were with falsehood stained,|
We who, from tyrant ignorance, rhe prisoned human race unchained,
We who with myriad sajdas filled Thy holy Ka'ba’s hallowed shrine,
Whose bosoms reverently held Thy great and glorious Book Divine—
If our meed still the obloquy that we have shirked the Faithful’s part,
How then canst Thou make claim to be the kindly faith-compelling heart?
|For there are those of other faiths among whom many sinners ,|
Some humble, others puffed with pride, drunken in their effrontery;
If some have vision, thousands are of little worth, neglectful, worse;
And millions upon millions live from Thy dear, glorious name averse.
Yet see how still Thy bounties rain on roofs 0f unbelieving clans,
While strikes Thy thunder-bolt the homes of all-forbearing Mussalmans!
|In idol-houses, hark! they say, “Behold, the Muslim star sinks low!|
How glad they are that now at last Thy Ka'ba’s brave protectors go!
They say, “The world is well rid now of hymn-reciting camel-men,
Their Quran folded in their arms, at last they hie them from our ken!
Thus they rejoice who own Thee not; yet still unmindful seemest Thou
Of Thine own One-ness, Thy tawhid—Art Thou so unregarding now?
|That ignorant men who lack the grace to ope their lips in conclave high|
Should have their coffers treasure-filled, is not the burden of our sigh;
But O, that this world’s best should fall to unbelievers from Thy hand
While we on promises are fed of pleasures in a shadowy land!
Where are those favours which Thou once upon our grateful hearts didst pour ?
Why cherishest Thou not, O Lord, the Faithful as in days of yore?
|Why from the bounties of this life the Faithful now no profit gain|
Though still Almighty Thou remainest and limitless Thy means remain?
If Thou but will, fountains can flow from barren desert and parched sands,
And mirage-bound a traveller be while walking through green forest lands:
Yet foemen-taunted, grace-deprived, and poorest of the poor are we!
Is this Thy recompense to those who sacrifice their lives for Thee?
|Thy world, how eagerly, today on strangers, all its grace bestows:|
For those who walk Thy chosen way a world of dreams its glamour throws!
So be it then, so let us pass, let other nations hold the sway—
When we are gone, reproach us not that tawhid too has passed away!
We live here only that Thy Name, May live here in men’s minds enshrined;
Can saki bid his last adieu and leave Love’s cup and wine behind?
|Thy court-yard empties. They depart who came to worship and adore;|
The midnight’s sighs, the dawn’s lament, mow Thou wilt miss for evermore!
They came, they gave their hearts to Thee, they had their recompense, and went.
But hardly they had seated been when from Thy Presence they were sent!
They came glad lovers, begging love; With future promise turned away:
Go, shine Thy Beauty’s lamp about and seek and win them if Thou may!
|The love of Layla burneth still, and Majnun passion’s yearning knows;|
In hill and valley of the Nejd the fleet gazelle still leaping goes;
The soul of Love is still the same, still, Beauty’s magic charms enthral,
Thy Ahmad’s feemen still abide; and Thou art there, the soul of all.
Then Stranger! why estranged today the bond of love ‘twixt Thee and Thine?
Upon the Faithful, O Unkind, why frowns Thy eye of wrath Divine?
|Did we forswear our faith to Thee? To Thy dear Prophet cease to cling?|
Of idol-breaking did we tire? Or take to idol-worshipping?
Or did we weary of Thy Love, Or Thy Love’s rapture ever shun?
Or turned we from the path which trod Qaran’s Owais and Salman?
Thy Takbeer’s unextinguished flame within our hearts we cherish yet:
Aethiop Belal’s life, the star by which our own lives’ course we set!
|But even if a change hath been, and we in Love are less adept,|
Or out of resignation’s path our erring wayward feet have stept;
If, unlike trusted compasses, our souls respond not now to you,
And if to laws of faithfulness our roving hearts are now less true ;
Must Thou too play the fickle flirt with us, with others, day by day,
We cannot help the sinful thought which shame forbids our lips to say.
|Upon the peak of Mount Faran Thy glorious Faith Thou didst perfect—|
With one Divinest gesture drew a host of fervid first-elect;
Thy flaming Beauty filled the world and set a myriad hearts on fire;
Then blew the quintessence of Love in Man to passion’s wild desire.
Ah, why within our deadened hearts that holy flame today leaps not?
Though still those burnt-out victims we which once we were, hast Thou forgot?
|Upon the dale of Nejd is stilled the clanging of the captive’s chains;|
To glimpse the camel-litter, Qais no longer with his madness strains
The yearnings of the heart are dead, the heart itself is cold; so we;
And desolation fills our house for shines not there the Light of Thee.
O blessed day when Thou shalt come, a thousand graces in Thy train
When by unbashful glad feet turn towards our nesting-place again.
|Beside the garden fountain now, Quaffing wine, strangers sit, alas!|
The cuckoo’s note their ear regales and their hands hold the sparkling glass!
From all this garden’s riot far, calm in a corner seated too,
Love-longing lunatics await Thy frenzy-kindling breath of hu!
The passion for the flame’s embrace— Thy moths—ah, let them once more know;
And bid Thy ancient lightning strike and set these ash-cold hearts aglow!
|Towards the Hijaz turn again the straying tribe their bridle-strings!|
Lo, wingless soars the nightingale aloft, upon its yearning’s wings!
The fragrance in each blossom hid within the garden palpitates,
But with Thy plectrum wake its strings— the lute that livening touch awaits!
Yea, longs to break its prison’s bounds the string-imprisoned melody;
And yearning Sinai waits again to burn itself to dust in Thee
|Resolve, O Lord! the travail sore which this Thy chosen people tries,|
Make Thou the ant of little worth to Solomon’s proud stature rise!
Bring Thou, O Lord, with our grasp that most rare love for which we pray;
To India’s temple-squatters teach the truth of the Islamic way.
Our hearts’ desires, long unfulfilled, unceasingly our life-blood drain;
Our breasts, with thousand daggers pierced, still struggle with their cry of pain!
|The fragrance of the rose has borne the garden’s secret far away—|
How sad it is, the traitor’s role the garden’s sweetest buds should play!
The bloom-time of the rose is done; The garden-harp now shattered lies;
And from its perch upon the twig, away each feathered songster flies—
But yet there uncompanioned sits a lonely bulbul, all day long;
Its throat a-throb with music still and pouring out its heart in song.
|The darkening cypress sways no more; From shadowy nests its doves have fled;|
The withered blossoms droop and die, and all around their petals shed;
Those memoried, old garden walks of all their former pride lie shorn,
Despoiled of raiment green, each branch in nakedness now stands forlorn;
Unmoved by passing seasons’ change, the songster sits and sings alone:
Would there were in this garden some could feel the burden of its moan!
|This life no more its joy retains, nor even death can bring relief;|
‘Tis sweet to sit alone and sigh and eat a sad heart out in grief.
Out from the mirror of my soul what gems of thought now strive to shine;
What visions splendid, dreams sublime, arise within this breast of mine!
But in this garden lives not one to see and hear, to feel and know:
No tulip with its streak of pain, to sense my heart-blood’s smarting flow.
|May this sad bulbuls lonely song to grief each listening soul awake;|
The clangour of these rousing bells make drowsy hearts their sleep forsake!
Let Faithful hearts re-plight their troth, and forge afresh their bond Divine;
Let in the long-parched breast of each the old thirst wake for sweet old wine!
The blood of sweet Arabian vine O’erflows this wine-jar Ajamy,
Although the singer sings in Ind, of Hijaz is his melody.
Translated by: Altaf Husain