Friday, 31 October 2014

AASHOORA: The Alchemy of Sorrow

Khoanaen Nawa is the best to read non-Muslim poets on Karbala

Aaj tak roti hae teray gam mei her mahfil Hussain
Iss mein koi shak nahi to hae jehan ka dil Hussain (
There are only two categories of people in the world: those who know they love Hussain(a.s) and those who don’t know though they too, deep in their being, stand witness to the glory that Hussain(r.a) is. And one can club all great thinkers, artists, poets, saints with the first camp. (None can claim to be indifferent to the tragedy of Karbala). One can almost set the love of the Prophet (SAW) and, by implication, love of Hussain(R.A), as a criterion of distinguishing believers from disbelievers.  
 “Ham haen haediri,” “ham haen hussaini” is indeed a universal slogan and Hussain(a.s) as a symbol of protest “against real suffering” and as a “sigh of the oppressed, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions” (seeing how Yazids seem to triumph everywhere one recalls Marx’s point about religion) is there to stay as long as justice is sought and justice is not done, Hussain(a.s) will be invoked. It means as long as Yazids are there – Yazids of Capital, of Terror, of centrifugal passions – the fight is on. All of us who have yet to curb temptations of nafs-i-ammara need to remember heroism of Hussain (RA) to succeed in the great odyssey of salvation. Muharram and Aashora constitute the great narrative or a drama of the soul. In fact all quest literature and the genres of elegy and tragedy echo a theme that karbala evokes. Religion understood as making sacred or sacrifice (“ibtida Ismail, intiha Hussain”) is enacting or living the tragedy of Karbala in our soul. It is letting the body be “killed” or better subdued or transcended for the sake of Spirit or Virtue (which include goodness and justice). Transposed existentially Karbala is a battle against the yazid of desire in us. Hussain(a.s) stands for, to use Platonic language, the sovereignty of Intellect against desires or passions. 
There is a Hussain (RA) of historians and a Hussain of poets. The later Hussain is more an archetype, a symbol, a celestial figure of Metahistory.  All artists or poets  share a certain version of religion of love and for hundreds of non-Muslim poets anthologized in the bulky book Khonaaen Nawa by Irfan Turabi. This religion of love is exemplified in the love of Muhammad(SAW) and his family especially the great grandson  Hussain (AS). All gam partakes of gam-i-Hussain(a.s) if Hussain(a.s) is understood in deeper metahistorical  or esoteric sense. Hussain (RA) is part of our very being, our deepest drive for goodness, truth and justice that we are born with. Deep down, we all believe in the primacy or “sovereignty of the Good” (to echo Iris Murdoch’s famous work) and Justice (in Kashmiri we say kraeh khoti chu insaaf ) and an important early school of Muslim theologians defined God in terms of attribute of Justice and were called Ahl-i Tawhid wal Adl. I have not seen any Muslim who doesn’t share gam-i- Hussain(a.s). We, as humans, are all for Husssain(RA). After the personality of the Prophet (SAW) it is martyrdom of Hussain (RA) that has attracted the non-Muslim world to Islam. In fact if the love of the Prophet and his great grandson constitute signposts of one’s belief system it is hard to label anyone, at least among thinkers, artists and poets as outright  disbeliever. The verdict of jurists and theologians who codify belief system notwithstanding, I think the poet’s position –his statement of his faith – needs to be appreciated on different terms. Nothing unites Shias and Sunnis better than the love of the Prophet (SAW) and his family. There are thousand and one modes of expressing this love and even those who are classed as non-Muslims have expressed their love in countless ways. The current anthology of Gulhaayi Akeedat of around 100 non-Muslim poets is evidence of the latter. 
All these points about Imam Hussain(a.s) are echoed in the anthology that constitutes a definitive contribution to elegiac literature. Reading it one’s faith is refreshed, many unknown poets get resurrected and a new chapter in the dialogue between communities opens up. One perceives a different universe where the powerful symbol and love of the Prophet (SAW) and Hussain (RA) melts the ice of prejudices against different communities. All of us worship Beauty and Love and we differ only in the extent to which we have surrendered the self that covets power or worldly glory – the Empire of Yazid – and got transformed by the Grace of the Beloved. 
Reading the poets he has painstakingly anthologized, we come to better understand those whom Muslims would ordinarily imagine to be excluded from the grace emanating from the Prophet (SAW). Reading such verses as:
“Yae haen berkatee ek nam-i-nabi kae
Gam-e-doonu-aalam thikanae lagae hein"

"Hosh kehta hae unki yaad mei guzrae hayaat/
Aur junoo kahta hae khak-i- toyyiba hi ho jayae"

Tabeen koi bi nahi daekha Muhammad sa/
Jigar kae zakhm dikhanae madenae chalo (Menk)

“Guzaratae haen jo yaad Hussain maen ham arsh/
Hayat mein wahi lamhae shumaar hotae haen
(Arsh) one is simply moved. Great things have been said about sorrow as “the swiftest horse that takes one to perfection,” as the best thing under earth designed for tuition of men, as the wazeefa by  thinkers and saints. Our poets sing:
“Naimat koi bi naimat-i-gam ka badl nahi”

“Gam-i- Shabeer mei pur khoon hou jis ki aankhae/
Bhar kae damen mein wahi lal-o-gohr aata hae

zamanae mein hara gulshan-i-Zohra hoga/
Yom-i-aashoor yehi lae lae kae khabr aata hai

“Hindu sahi magr hoo sana khan-i- Mustafa” or

Hae kousari hindoo bi talabgaar-i-Muhammad”

Is wastae na shoal tera muj tek aasaka” 

“Khuda tera aashiq tu aashiq khuda ka/
Maen tum donoo per hoo fida ya Muhammad”
(Dilooram Kousari)

“Mumin jo nahi hoon to mein kafir bi nahi shad/
Is ramz sae aagah haen sultan-I madeena” 
One can cite scores of great devotional or naatiya verse or poetry in honour of Hussain(a.s). It means Hussain (RA)has conquered the world through the beauty of his soul. 

Although selections are not often appealing in terms of artistic form, love, devotion, faith, felicity of phrase is noticeable on every page. This is a book that along with Khunaab and few other works would constitute permanent contributions to literature on na’t, hamd and marsiya.
Scholar, compiler, editor, researcher, Turabi is arguably the most important name in research in Kashmir on elegiac poetry in Urdu and Kashmiri. His distinction is his specialization on contribution of non-Muslim poets to elegiac literature. Turabi has been able to single handedly add a significant chapter in scholarship and history of elegiac literature.

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