Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Mystics Expressed Their Experience of Islam Mostly Through Verses


By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam

27 August 2020

Kashmir has been a bastion of mystics. As usual mystics expressed their experience of Islam mostly through verses. The poetry of most of these local mystics is available in vernacular Kashmiri language. With each passing day the scope and readership of vernacular languages is dwindling. The state cultural academy and other literary groups are helping preserve this treasure trove, but their efforts have yielded very few positive results. New generation of readers are not interested in reading mystical poetry. It is pertinent to mention that government has introduced Kashmiri language as a subject to be taught compulsorily in the schools.


Verses of Wahab Khar (Translated Version)

Poet: Wahab Khar

Translated by Mushtaque B Barq

Publisher: Jay Kay Books, Srinagar, Kashmir

Pages: 127

Price: Rs 595


To bridge this divide, versatile writer, translator and poet Mushtaque B Barq, has come out with the translation of selected verses of Wahab Khar, a very famous local mystic. Wahab Khar’s mystical poems have been sung by many local singers and his shrine in Shaar area is thronged by thousands of people every year. In his Foreword Ayaz Rasool Nazki comments on the relationship of poetry and mystic experience as follows, “Poetry in general is the effort at externalizing an internal experience and language is the best available tool to express. Mystic experience is a complicated affair and mystics live in another world of consciousness which has its own day and night cycles, its own seasons and its own ways of life. Extrapolating that world to our world of sensibilities is a very difficult task.” (P-12)

While commenting on the beauty of Barq’s translation, Nazki observes, “The beauty of the Mushtaque Barq translations is its simple approach. He doesn’t take recourse to verbosity and tries his best to remain around the basic tenant of the verse. He has employed common day to day words to make the understanding of the meanings very easy. The translations are provided with an exhaustive glossary and that makes it much easier to comprehend the meanings of alien words.” (P-13)

The metaphor of flames and raging fire is usually used to describe the origin and experience of Love. It is essential to maintain here that when mystics talk about love and beloved, they are mentioning Allah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) or their Rahbar (Mentor or Guide). Rahbar is the spiritual guide who inducts the disciple in the sufi order. 

“O my valued friend!

You put me on flames

Do seek out Wahab Khar

All seven origins are my occupancy.” (P-27)

The influence of Islam on mysticism is quite clear that is depicted from the following verses of Wahab Khar

“The one who admire four caliphs

Shall be escort by Him

Pursue the way skilfully

O! Infancy abide here

What attempt Iblis did execute

A word led him astray

His pride put him to flames

O! Infancy abide here.” (P-33)

The immortal symbols of Love, Mansur Hallaj, Farhad are used frequently

“Do drink knowledge O lover

Came into bloom my gardens then Oh! Love

Fond of Thee is Mansoor

His ashes glowed brightly.” (P-35)

The inspiration from Quran and Shariah is quite visible too

“Draped in veils

(He) is not born from anything

He has no offspring

Ascertain Lo Lo

Paradise is Sharia

Garden is Tareeqat

All in attendance, Haqiqat

Ascertain Lo Lo” (P-53)

Also, mysticism remains shrouded in mystery, so Wahab Khar cautions Sufi mystics not to reveal everything that they have experienced

“O The friend of Wahab Khar!

Do come in the open, in the open

Being open is but forbidden

Whom to tell how adorable, adorable!” (P-79)

The story of Adam and Satan is recounted in the verses too, so is the fact about the Light of Muhammad (pbuh).

“The Light of Mohammad (saw) is the reflection of Lord

From that Light the worlds emerged

From that Light messengers become known

All and sundry rely on you.” (P-91)

The spiritual journey of Meraj holds a strong attraction for the mystics, as is evident from these verses

“Message to Nabi from above came

Came then to public with code of conduct

Behind the veil, unhook them

See the cheerful in person

Zaat came to view

Being in total isolation

Then walk around our Nabi (saw)” (P-101)

The tussle between reason and emotion, head and heart and which among them has the prominence is a theme that has been engaged by most mystics over the centuries. The debate still seems unresolved.

“Sharia, Tareeqat, Haqiqat and Ma’rifat

My mentor put in plain words all

All four are revealed by Wahab Khar

Oh! friend convey it to Beloved.” (P-105)

The translation of the selected verses is indeed very apt and insightful. Barq has done what our academies and university professors have failed to accomplish. It is true that translating the complete works of Wahab Khar will need more time, energy and resources; still this attempt is no small feat. However, many words are missing in the Glossary. Instead of Glossary the difficult terms could have been mentioned as footnotes. Khrew or Shar are names of places but Barq has not mentioned them (P-93) thus confusing the reader, Hazrat e Sultan (P-95) refers to Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom and Four companions (P-97) are the four Caliphs. If they would have been explained, certainly it would have added to the merit of the work. I hope in the next edition such issues will not be overlooked.

Both the translator and publisher need to be complimented and congratulated for making the mystic voices of Kashmir available to the general readers. The cheaper paperback edition of the book needs to be brought out so that the work gains a wider readership. 


M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir.


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