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This choice is principallya reflectionof the source materialsavailable to the author. With the exception of the couplet by the pre-Partition poet-philosopherMuhammad Iqbal , thepoems examined here were all writtenbetween the year of the June War and the 2nd Gulf War , two criticaljuncturesin the modernhistory of Palestine.
The Urdu poetryon Palestine is fundamentally an expressionof solidaritywith the Palestinian people.
As such, many of the themes thatappear in the poetryare not dissimilarto those to be foundin the Arabic poetryon Palestine: thetragedyof displacementfromthe land, the suffering of exile, thecalamitiesof successive militarydefeats,the failuresof Arab leadership,thepolitical bias of the West, theheroism of resistanceand so forth. But the poetryalso contains much thatis specificto theUrdu poetical tradition. Withoutexception, the Urdu poets affirmthe legitimacyand justicity of the Palestinian cause.
This position forms the moral, rational and ideological underpinningof the Urdu poetry on the subject. In a poem published in , Muhammad Iqbal criticisedthe rightsin Palestinein the following logic of Zionist claims to territorial couplet: If theJewshave therightto theearthof Palestine 30 Alif18 This content downloaded from The poem is entitled "Palestine": O blessed But heart-tornland Your olive orchards Your valleys redolentwithgrape and fig Your fieldsshimmeringlike greensatin Your dancingrivers Are now no longerthe wealthof yourcontentedchildren.
They have fallento serpents From thefireof whose breath And thepoison of whose fangs From horizonto horizon Is a clamourof deathand lamentation. Yesterday,theholy Messenger and greatProphets Dressed in softrobes Withtheirbroad,illuminatedforeheads Lit in yourdwellingplaces The candles of love. But now theMessengers' legacy The miraclesof David and Jesus Everythinghas been looted Aggressorsand usurpershave In place of yourhistoriesof tolerance Laid at everystep thefoundationsof slaughterhouses.
In such a conflagrationdid they Seize you That not only you but everythingin this world that is Alif18 31 This content downloaded from These are yourchildren,afflictedand sorrowing But unvanquished Who are hungry But do not ask even forcoarse bread But ask fora gun. O blessed But sorrowfulland The arroganceof theaggressorand theusurper Is as the shortnessof thenight Your unvanquishedchildren Armedwiththe swordof tomorrow'ssun Will cut thethroat Of thisbriefnight.
The rays of the sun will ornamentyour head like a diadem The day of yourvictory Is approaching.
In the opening passage, the poet affirmsthe legitimacyof Palestinian rights to the land of Palestine and, conversely, the illegitimacy of Israeli occupation. Throughout the poem, the relationshipof the Palestinians to the land is depicted as that of childrento a mother,an image that is standardin the works of the Palestinian poets themselves.
The Israelis are described as "aggressors" jangbazon and "usurpers" ghasibon who have occupied Palestine by force. In otherwords, the Zionist enterprisein Palestine is characterisedas a formof colonial occupation. The poem emphasizes the plightof the Palestinians as victimsof violence who 32 Alif18 This content downloaded from The poem concludes with strong expression of support for the armed struggle as a means to the liberation of Palestine.
Zahir Kashmiripresentsthe Palestinian cause as it is generallyunderstood in theThirdworld:the struggleof a dispossessed and oppressedpeople fightingto liberate their land against an illegitimate and unjust occupier. The Palestinian struggleis universalisedas a symbol of the greaterhistoricaland moral conflictbetweenjustice and injustice,for whichthepoet employstheelementalimageryof lightand darkness.
I have foundit usefulto begin withthe above analysis of Zahir Kashmiri's poem precisely because the historical and moral perspectivesthatinformit lie at the heartof theUrdu poetic discourse on Palestine. The corpus of modernUrdu poetrycontains numerous examples of this literatureof solidarity,resistance and indictment.
The Urdu poetryon Palestine is thus expressive of the same consciousness which, for example, produced an outpouringof poems in Urdu in the s and 70s on the Vietnam war, writtenin support of the Vietnamese struggleagainst the United States7 and more recentlyon South Africa. However, as will be seen later in the paper, in the particularcontextof Pakistanipolitics and societyin the s, the Palestinianstruggletook on a more specificmeaningin the Urdu poetry whereby it became a metaphor for the resistance of opposition movementsin Pakistan against the authoritarianmilitary regimeof General MuhammadZia al-Haq It is furtherinstructiveto note thatZahir Kashmiridoes not so much locate or express his identificationwiththe Palestinianstruggle in termsof religioussolidarityas he does in termsof his oppositionto historical injustice.
While the poem contains a religious element, namely its portrayalof Palestine as a holy land, the poet does not Alif18 33 This content downloaded from This is surprising,as virtually no post-PartitionUrdu poet of note has been a political Islamist,while a good many have been strongly committed to the culture of confessional co-existence in the context of South Asia and have lamentedits decline,just as Zahir Kashmirilamentsits destructionin Palestinein theabove poem.
Never beforewas therea darknesssuch as this, Though we too have seen thelamplightstremble, Never beforedid thewinds put out the sun. This "internalisation" of theissue of Palestineis thesubjectofthefollowing freeversepoembyTariqJami "I am translating entitled Palestine": I was translating a poem.
I readtheword,"hand"- I wrotedown"manacle" Although thereferencewas to a handcuppedin prayer. Somewhere,therewas a mentionof theneckof a wine jar, But the onlythingthatcame to my mindwas an iron collar. For"feet",I couldonlycomeup with"shackles", Even thoughthepoorpoet was trying to say something abouttracesofhenna. I wrotedown "a cry"as thoughtranslating a soundof sorrow - ButwhenI lookedagain It was thecall toprayer. I reallydon'tknowwhatthingsarecomingto!
Perhapsit is something to do withthosereportsin the papers,on television, in films, Thatrefuseto leavemymind: Those images of Palestine,despoiled,destitute, fallen, broken,ruined Imagesofflight andseparation Of howitis thatpeopleareuprooted fromtheirland Drivenfromtheirhomes Exiled Evenfromtheirownblood.
Whentheriversoftimeflowwithburning blood How do theseas andoceansremaincalm? All theseimagespass frommyeyes and entermybody, mysoul,myverybeing, Like explosions And,liketheearthofPalestineitself,I am inturmoil. Whathappenstherehappensin me.
So howam I totranslate poetry? The gulfbetweenme andPalestine'sdaysofjoy Thatis thetranslationofeverypoem. The well-known poet and playwright, Amjad Islam Amjad, whose book of translationsof modern Arabic verse was dedicated "To the Palestine liberation movement,"l2 provides one such example in the following passage from a poem entitled"A JerusalemNight": That wall of lamentation Which was the symbol of griefof those who broughtus thisdarkness Became now theemblemof our own suffering I am standingoutsidethatholy city In whose rampartsburncandles litby myown blood A briskwind begins to blow A soldierhas placed a lock on thegate Raising his gun he says to me: "Go!
Nighthas fallen,go back to yourdwellingplace, For thisholy cityis a cityforbiddento you. How farwill theheavy sorrowof thisthicknight Accompanyme on my way? At one level, the answer is to be found in the manner in which the poets refract the moral and ethical imperatives of the issue of Palestine throughthe conceptual and imaginal vocabularies of the Urdu poetical tradition. Modern Urdu poetryhas inheritedfromthe classical poetryof the 18th and 19th centuryghazal traditiona distinctethos and a rich lexicon of poetical concepts and images.
The love of the Urdu poet is generally illicit and 36 Alif18 This content downloaded from Since the poet will not be fulfilledin his love, he must be fulfilledby it. This situationproduces an ethos which has been well described by Ralph Russell The trials of love testthe steadfastnessof his heart,reveal to him his own spiritualstrengthand bringhim to the stage where he actually welcomes every crueltywhich his mistress inflictsupon him, includingeven death, because it enables him to prove to her and to himselfthathe has the strengthto love her to the end.
Courage, constancyand complete dedication to love are the supreme qualities whichthe Urdu ghazal exalts This has made it possible forpoets to continueto utilize both the formand the traditionalvocabulary of the classical ghazal not only when writinglove poetrybut also when addressingpolitical and social issues. The conventionsof the ghazal and its vocabulary are also freelyused in other poetical formsincludingblank verse. The link between modern Urdu poetryand its classical traditionis thus perhapsmore organicthanis thecase withmodernPersian,Turkishor Arabic poetry.
Modern Urdu poetryenjoys a vocabularyof concepts and images to which the reader responds not only in the immediate context of a poem, but which also resonate in the memory of a received corpus of conceptual, moral, emotive and aesthetic antecedents and associations. How this affects poetry on a contemporarypolitical issue such as Palestine may be seen in the followingtwo ghazals, both writtenin the wake of the Israeli invasion Alif18 37 This content downloaded from The first,by Anvar Hasan Siddiqi, is subtitled "To thePalestinians": Every momentis a desertof Madness and still the shirts have notbeen torn, In the skirtof the ocean of sorrow,how manydesertsyet remain!
That restless hand, oppression's sword; this harvest of bodies ripe, At every step the execution grounds are lit bright;and how manyradiantheads remain! The morning breeze wept tears of blood, so many mist-filleddawns have fled, In these fugitive moments, how many nights of separationyetremain! The dust-devil is twisting hot, the wailing wind is poisoned smoke, The desert's restlessfuriesmount,and thewild thornsyet remain.
Friends and strangersall alike are dumbstruckat your wounds, In thisdesert,afterall, how manyanxious flowerscan yet remain? You gathered the sorrows of the wronged in your safekeepingand set forth, How many have you made grateful and how many burdensof kindnessyetremain! Beset in theheavy heat,do notthinkyou standalone, For at every place among the sands, the armies of hope yetremain.
Everycityof Fidelityhas opened its gates to you, But where the candles of your restitutionburn, those night-chambers yetremain. Indeed, several Urdu poets who wroteon Palestineduringtheperiodunderconsideration addressedtheirpoems to Yasser Arafatwhosetremendouspopularity in Pakistanremained undiminished untilthesigningof the Oslo accords,sincewhich timehisreputationhas beenin markeddecline. NeitherthefaceofthemoonnorthefaceoftheBeloved, How is one topass a nightas darkas this?
It may be thatthe murderer's hand will, indeed,grow weary, Butwilltheeyethatweepsbloodeverbe staunched? Tell the people of injusticeto fashiona gallows and a cross, Loftyand slender,worthyof the cypress-beauty of the Beloved. This oblivion extends to Arab poets - a poet like Mahmoud Darwish was noted only in context of how his militant poem, Those who pass between fleeting words , had upset many Israelis. This syntax which hides the very significance of literature in the Muslim world, bothered Agha very deeply.
The ignorance of major poets bothered him: To have to introduce Faiz's name, a name that is mentioned in Pakistan - to quote Naomi Shihab Nye - as often as the sun is, seemed a terrible insult. It is out of this feeling of inadequate response that Agha, who had been translating Faiz for some time, brought out the Rebel's silhouette in Surprisingly, within a few years, Faiz's reputation would improve considerably, in part no doubt due to Agha's own work.
By , J. Quality of Translations While Naomi Lazard and Agha Shahid Ali are definitely superlative in their translations of Faiz, there are many other claimants and translators for Faiz. The polymath historian Victor Kiernan does a remarkable job, and his poetry has the essence of Faiz, but I feel that he is sometimes fails to be economic enought.
Shiv K. Kumar is also very effective.
However, there are too many others who are rather pedestrian e. My personal assessment is that both Naomi and Agha are reasonably faithful to the originals, though perhaps Agha takes a little more freedom than does Naomi. The Rebel's Silhouette is an epochal book. These poems have found a wide audience on the web, and I cite sources below where I could, others are found at too many sites. Enjoy these poems, but do get a copy, if nothing else, then for Agha's illuminating introduction.
Appointments 53 Two Elegies: 2.
The world then was gold, burnished with light -- and only because of you. That's what I had believed. How could one weep for sorrows other than yours? How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave? So what were these protests, these rumors of injustice? A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime.
The sky, wherever I looked, was nothing but your eyes. If You'd fall into my arms, Fate would be helpless. All this I'd thought, all this I'd believed. But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love. The rich had cast their spell on history: dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks. Bitter threads began to unravel before me as I went into alleys and in open markets saw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood. I saw them sold and bought, again and again. This too deserves attention.
I can't help but look back when I return from those alleys --what should one do? And you still are so ravishing --what should I do? There are other sorrows in this world, comforts other than love.
Umar's family does not approve of this relationship. But the young lovers finally get married after Umar's elder brother persuades them to give their consent. After Maham meets Bakhtyar she gets to know that he was the man who had been stalking her for quite a long time.
On the other hand, Durdhaana had wanted Umar to marry Shifa. To take revenge Durdaana starts hatching plots against Maham so that all the family members turn against the young bride. But never for once does Umar speaks against Durdaana even if he knows that she is wrong and is lying. Meanwhile, Bakhtyar keeps on stalking Maham and threatens her that if she informs anyone about this then he will get her into big trouble.
A year later Umar's father finally asks Umar to marry Shifa and take her as a second wife, after requests from Durdaana's side. But Umar disagrees and asserts that he may leave his entire family for Maham; after this his father suffers a heart attack and dies. Now Bakhtyar being the head of the family exercises his authority and keeps on misbehaving with Maham. Umer who blindly believes his brother is just a puppet in his hands. Neither Maham nor Rubab dare speak out. When Bakhtyar is caught red handed trying to harass Maham he succeeds in putting the entire blame on her.
Umar ends up divorcing Maham. Once she is gone the family convinces Umar to marry Shifa and he complies, even though he does not love her. Later to take revenge, Maham marries Bakhtyar.
One by one Maham avenges all her insults. Durdaana and Shifa find themselves at the receiving end. Maham even manages to convince the infatuated Bakhtyar to transfer his family home in her name.