Saturday, March 08, 2008

Literature - Love Poem by Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Love Poem by Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Ghazal by Pakistan's great Urdu poet.

[translation by Shaheen Sultan Dhanji; picture by Abro]

Widely acclaimed as the leading twentieth-century Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-84) was born in Sialkot, Punjab. His varied career as a teacher, army officer, journalist, political leader, trade unionist and as a brilliant poet won him a wide audience.

Faiz was a prodigious poet and was a member of the PWA (Progressive Writers Association). Imprisoned more than once by the Pakistani government for his political stance, he spent a period of exile with the Palestinians in Beirut. He returned to Pakistan in 1984, where he died in Lahore. Faiz Ahmad Faiz recieved many literary wards, notably the Lenin Prize.

This is one of my very favourite ghazals of Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The English translation below is mine.

Mujh Se Pehali Se Mohabbat

Mujh se pahalii sii mohabbat merii mahebuub na maa.Ng

mai.n ne samajhaa thaa ki tuu hai to daraKhshaa.N hai hayaat
teraa Gam hai to Gam-e-dahar kaa jhaga.Daa kyaa hai
terii suurat se hai aalam me.n bahaaro.n ko sabaat
terii aa.Nkho.n ke sivaa duniyaa me.n rakkhaa kyaa hai
tuu jo mil jaaye to taqadiir niguu.N ho jaaye
yuu.N na thaa mai.n ne faqat chaahaa thaa yuu.N ho jaaye
aur bhii dukh hai.n zamaane me.n mohabbat ke sivaa
raahate.n aur bhii hai.n vasl kii raahat ke sivaa

mujh se pahalii sii mohabbat merii mahabuub na maa.Ng

anaginat sadiyo.n ke taariik bahimaanaa talism
resham-o-atalas-o-kam_Khvaab me.n bunavaaye huye
jaa-ba-jaa bikate huye kuuchaa-o-baazaar me.n jism
Khaak me.n litha.De huye Khuun me.n nahalaaye huye
jism nikale huye amaraaz ke tannuuro.n se
piip bahatii hu_ii galate huye naasuuro.n se
lauT jaatii hai udhar ko bhii nazar kyaa kiije
ab bhii dil_kash hai teraa husn maGar kyaa kiije
aur bhii dukh hai.n zamaane me.n mohabbat ke sivaa
raahate.n aur bhii hai.n vasl kii raahat ke sivaa

mujh se pahalii sii mohabbat merii mahabuub na maa.Ng

English translation:

Do not ask of me, my love,
that love I once had for you.

There was a time when
life was bright, and young and blooming,
and your sorrow was much more than
any other pain.
Your beauty gave the Spring everlasting youth;
your eyes, yes your eyes were everything,
all else was vain.

While you were with me, I thought, the world was mine.
Though now I know that it was an illusion
that's the way I imagined it to be;
for there are other sorrows in the world than love,
and other pleasures, too.

Do not ask of me, my love,
that love I once had for you!

Woven in silk and satin and brocade,
those dark and brutal curses of countless centuries:
bodies bathes in blood, smeared with dust,
sold from market-place to market-place,
bodies risen from the cauldron of diseases
pus dripping from their festering sores -
my eyes must also turn to these.
You're beautiful still, my love
but I'm helpless too;
for there are other sorrows in the world than love,
and other pleasures too.

Do not ask of me, my love,
that love I once had for you!


Anonymous said...

Wah Madam Shaheen. If you were a man, I would've chased you for your romantic soul! (mazaaq). It's really touched my heart and I've always liked this ghazal and sung by Malka Taranum Noorjahan. I came across this from The Delhiwalla. Very talented woman!

P.S is this the same Shaheen from Jahane Rumi's site? If so, I've left her a comment there.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Faiz actually gifted NoorJehan this particular ghazal, he was impressed at the way she performed it. My father was good friends with Faiz.

The translation is at par; the only slight correction I would make is instead of saying 'illusion', it sounds better if it is 'reality'.

Mayank, I like the photos you have posted on your site. Haven't been to Pakistan in years, seeing those pictures reminded me of home.

Keep up!


Anonymous said...

Great translation. Great blog!

Anonymous said...

The short introduction of Faiz is poor and what does "wards" mean in the intro part, you mean "awards"? Should have done a longer piece on Faiz and not just a few sentences. Do you know who Faiz was? The translition is not bad but I don't speak Urdu but Hindi. Found my way through the Bombayboy.
Abhimanyu in Atlanta USA

Anonymous said...

Superb Shaheen! Like to see some of her own poetry. Have read some of her literary work and it's great.

Abhimanyu bhai, she has not written a piece on Faiz but has translated the poem, a big intro is not needed for translation purposes. And am sure we all know who Faiz is if not this translation would not have taken place.

Mayank, nice pix of Pakistan.

N. Hashwani

Anonymous said...

i like the ghazal but didn't know the whole of meaning before, now i can listen and understand better. it's true there's more sorrows outside then love. i think shaheen baaji must have experinced tragedy to understand this ghazal. all the best.


Anonymous said...

Nice articles on your blog. May I suggest if you have a seperate section for poetry on your blog? This will surely be a great space to read up sometimes. Am an old retired professor, I read literature and poetry happens to be my top interest, that's the salvation left for an 83 year old man!

Good stuff. Be proud.
Dr. Wasi Ubaidullah

Mayank Austen Soofi said...

Dr. Ubaidullah,
I will certainly try to put in more poetries here. But the best website on South Asian prose is this:
Jahane Rumi


Anonymous said...

Good work Shaheen,It will certainly get Faiz closer to a generation that is far away from Urdu and know very little about the tremendous work done by people like Faiz.
This particular Ghazal got popular because of Noorjehan and the wide reach she enjoyed among Music lovers,Faiz admitted it and used to jokingly say that I have gifted this to Noorjehan.
I hope you will dig into the work of Faiz and find more of his Poetry reachable to this generation.His work is a Goldmine of Classic creations by a genius who will be remembered for a long long time to come.I cant remember who said it but try to translate this too.

Is ko bemehreay alam ka sila kehte hain
mar gaye hum to zamane ne bahut yaad kiya.

Regards Sohail Wahab

Anonymous said...

I am no great urdu translator,but i am sure Faiz would have approved.

Rajnish said...

The best way to know pakistan is thru Faiz.Now this site is complete.I do not understand urdu andfaiz is really difficult one but thanks to hindi translations available thru Rajkamal we "hindiwalas "are enriched .Professor sahib is right that this site can have a link on poetry.Probably ur generation will be benefitted.Think Soofi.....

Anonymous said...

A lovely translation, and I've read more than a few. This was a significant poem for Faiz, marking the transition between his more traditional style of love poetry and bringing him into the realm of social concern and protest.

I was interested to read that one commentator's father knew Faiz. If he or anyone has any memories of Faiz or Alys we'd be interested to hear. We are writing a book about Faiz and Alys, his wife. Please email and we be pleased to consider inclusion in the book. Salima Hashmi, his daughter, is contributing, as are other members and friends.
Best wishes
Zafar & Teresa

Anonymous said...

Have read some of Shaheen's articles and from my view it seems she is a strong socialist, wasn't surprised to find her translating poetry of Faiz. He was a socialist and communist. I'm not a big fan of Faiz but the translation is good.

Id it is said...

What amazing lyrics!
Where/ How can I listen to this poem?

Anonymous said...

Person above,
This ghazal is sung mostly by Noorjahan but other singers have also sung. You can find it in any Ghazal cd of Noorjahan but here is the link to listen online.

(On this page you can pick the song "mujh se pahali si mohabbat" and click play). Or if the page doesn't work, go to Dishant site. Then go to "ghazal" section. Look for Noorjahan's 'favourite list'. This should work.

Za'eem Shujaat

Anonymous said...

Mr.Soofi, it's good to see this blog. The poetry of Faiz is always mindblowing and I really like this poem. English version is very good and it's not easy to transfer Urdu to English but the words chosen by Shaheen ji is just great. Has she translated any other Faiz work? I've met Shaheen once in Montreal and think she's very intellectual and charming.

Anonymous said...

Hey this is a good translation. I'm happy to discover the blog and will revisit near future.
Pakistan Paindabad!



Anonymous said...

Hi all! This is a great site but wish there was more poetry.

Shaheen ji, I liked your translation very much. Are you from Islamabad?



Anonymous said...

Hi this is Karim and want to say good work on translating Faiz. I know Shaheen Sultan Dhanji very well but I think she's forgotten me & I'm happy to read this ghazal. Googled her name and found this blog.

Mr. Soofi, you're blog is great. Are you a Sufi? Best wishes from Karim

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,

Thank you very much for the comments, and appreciating the translation. I agree, it was Noorjehan who popularised the ghazal by her beautiful voice, and the exposure of this particular poem became a great interest to many. Translating from any language to English, one chances upon the poem losing its 'life'.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a profound poet, and his works shall always be felt intensely in the heart. The dialogue of conserving culture, literature and heritage can open by these types of avenues offering perspective that looks at culture as an asset that can transform communities. Share..awareness...strengthen the desire to look at history and its people who have made siginificant contributions...Thus, the reason I attempted to translate Faiz.

Wishing Pakistan Paindabad a great success for its lovely site! Mayank, The articles and reviews are thrilling!


Anonymous said...

Beautifully translated.

I agree with Dr.Obaidullah's request to have additional poetry section. Good site.

Neha: The poem touches my heart too! ;)

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Subhanallah very good translation.

I know Shaheen. There is a strong resemblence of Salma Agha and Shaheen Sultan in terms of look and intense eyes.

Mayank, keep up the Pakistan Paindabad. Allah bless.


Anonymous said...

i love this ghazal and my mother used to sing it. the translation is very very good. it would be nice for younger generation to keep some treasures.

nazir sahab, they have similar eyes but shaheen is far articulate and holds a sophistication salma agha has lost. who am i to say anything, i've met them both.
mayank austen soofi, your interest in pakistan is wonderful. Do visit us once more.


Anonymous said...

Super & listening to the ghazal now. thanks for posting the ghazal and translation.

Karim, Shaheen's forgotten me too bhai. I met her at ecomonic forum, she was presenting and she was awesome. Guess everyone is busy, and she's forgiven in case she reads this. :)

Love the blog dost. Peace.

Abeer Rahman

Josephus P. Franks said...

I liked your translation of this poem, which a friend translated for me and I immediately fell in love with, and which still touches me today. I think it is interesting how she translated one bit differently - "that old love" v. the love I had for you, i.e., an objective sort of love v. a very personal love. I am very curious whether Faiz had intended it to be one or the other or a little of both. I think a little of both; that is, he's talking about the most common form of love, the one he and all people have had, the loves of people who for whatever reason are blind to the immense suffering in the world. Once one's eyes are opened, however, it is impossible to simply live for the love of one's beloved, unaffected by the brutality and pain that daily make a mockery of love.

Anyway, here is my friend's translation:

Don't ask, my love, for that old love..

I had thought that it was you who made my life was radiant
I did not complain of worldly woes, for what of them, compared to this agony of love?
It was your face that brought an eternal youth upon spring itself
And there is nothing anything, but your eyes.
I thought, if only you were mine, Destiny would kiss my feet...

- It was not so, but I had wished it could be.

For, there is suffering in this world, besides that wrought by love
And there is relief, besides the relief brought by union

For innumerable centuries, they have woven dark, awful spells
into their rich silks, satins and brocade.
Look where you will - there are bodies being sold in each street and bazaar -
Bodies covered with dust, bathed in blood;
Bodies baked in the ovens of disease
with pus flowing from rotting, never-healing wounds...

I can't help but look at these other sights, though
your beauty tugs at my heart still; I can't help it if

there is suffering in the world, besides that wrought by love
and there is relief, besides the relief brought by union..
Dont ask me, my love, for that old love!

- Faiz Ahmad Faiz 'Mujhse pelhi si mohabbat, mere mahboob, na maang'

Anonymous said...

Shaheen Sultan Dhanji, it's wonderful translation! Didn't know you also were into Urdu poetry, have read some of your English stuff & political articles.

Soofi, you rock! Just found your site

Atef Siddiqui

Anonymous said...

Sorry Joseph, your friend's translation is not at par. For example:

And there is nothing anything, but your eyes.
I thought, if only you were mine, Destiny would kiss my feet...
(nowhere does Faiz mention "feet" and "nothing anything" is improper English. And "bodies baked in oven", where is that in Urdu ghazal of Mujhse pehali si mohabbat? Please check with your friend for her version. Let's not add or distort the ghazal.

Shaheen's translations is at par verbatim. Sorry just my view!

Josephus P. Franks said...

Neha, no need to apologize for your view. Granted it isn't perfect as mine is, but that isn't your fault! J/K ;)

I think my friend's translation is different stylistically, and I like both. For instance, the two passages you mentioned:

(SSD for Shaheen Sultan Dhanji, MF for My Friend)

SSD:your eyes, yes your eyes were everything,
all else was vain.
MF: And there is nothing anything, but your eyes.

"nothing anything" may be incorrect English, but this is poetry. "nothing, anything" would be grammatically correct. The meanings are the same, while the styles are different. I like both, as they both express in equally powerful ways the urgency and all-encompassing-ness of romantic love.

SSD: While you were with me, I thought, the world was mine.
MF: I thought, if only you were mine, Destiny would kiss my feet

Stylistically, I prefer the second, as it expresses the same thought but in more evocative prose: 'destiny would kiss my feet' v. 'the world was mine'. Here's another difference in meaning that I'm interested about - was Faiz writing about a conditional ('if you were mine') or the past ('while you were with me')?

SSD: "bodies risen from the cauldron of diseases"
MF: "Bodies baked in the ovens of disease"

Again, this is largely stylistic. Translating poetry is art, not science. The second translation focuses on the act of suffering, while the first suggests deliverance from suffering as bodies rise - escape from - a place of suffering: in one, a cauldron, in the other, an oven.

Neha, can you tell me if Faiz wrote about an objective, universal "that old love" or a very personal, subjective "the love I had for you"?

Anonymous said...

Neha & Josephus neither of you wrote the translations, others did. Let's get their views on WHAT THEY THOUGHT in their translations. Waise bhi Faiz is long gone and you both wondering what HE thought is really irrelevant, unless you both are opening academy of FAIZ then great.

I personally don't lime the "kissing your feet" image, it is so fake. I also don't like the "oven" thing, sounds like love is baking or baked or totally burnt.

If you both must persist, write YOUR OWN translations to compare. LOL ;) Josephus, doesn't your friend have a name? Shouldn't there be a refernce of who is translating the ghazal?

Josephus P. Franks said...

Atef, I didn't get permission from my friend, so I figured I'd just keep her anonymous. And the reason why I'm asking what Faiz intended is not because I presume that anyone here has a connection to the netherworld and can communicate with him there, but because I don't speak or write Urdu - and I'm assuming/hoping most of the rest of the people here do? So couldn't y'all look at the original in Urdu and make a determination? Well, I guess it probably is not that simple, which is why there's a discrepancy between the two translations in the first place.

And dude, "love" isn't being baked in an oven - "bodies" are. Love is baked in an oven only in Betty Crocker's universe. And the reason I prefer "destiny would kiss my feet" is because "the world was mine" sounds like something Scarface would say, to these Unitedstatesian ears at least.

(by the way, I'm being playfully sarcastic, not antagonistic - I hope that comes through, but intentions like these are hard to communicate via text over the internet)

Anonymous said...

Josephus,Shaheen's trans. is correct. In Urdu,it doesn't make sense that bodies are in the oven, doesn't go with the Urdu. Secondly, I appreciate your interest in Faiz, you should look further into that and maybe learn some Urdu - it;s a beautiful language.
Since you didn't get permission from your friend to publish the translation, you ought to not go on publishing then trying to defend a totally improper translation. it's not a contest.

Faiz was a Socialist, therefore, a lot of hisworks dealt with struggles of humanity at large. This ghazal is shadowed by the struggles of society and how love had to take a second seating in his life. I don't think any one of us here is an expert on Faiz, someone translated the poem and thats that. Sort of hard to explain someone who doesn't know Urdu, what it relays in English. the trans further up is correct. Why must there be digging and digging to everything? If you feel your friend has it right, great. Its not a contest.

Za'eem Shujaat

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is the same Shaheen from Delhi walla article? I'm impressed. Socialist, indeed. I'm not a big Faiz fan, his poetry couldnt have lived up to the times but the translation is good. Za'eem is right dude, it aint no contest as how the Americanos would say. I live in Hyderabad India and Urdu is my language, this is great and don't get me wrong, Faiz wrote the best in Urdu literature. My best one is Bahadur Shah Zafar.
Oh Nazir, I've always liked Salma Agha so Shaheen msut be quite the looker. No offence to women, I'm just being funny friendly.

Anonymous said...

Vah ! Well translated.


Anonymous said...

Shaheen Sultan Dhanji is hot
The poem is hot
This site is hot
Mayank Soofi is hot

Anything wrong in Mayank & Shaheen being hot? Yes I'm into both ;) ;)

Are they both single??? LOL. kidding.


Anonymous said...

Shaheen was lovely at the concert last night. I like her personality and she is a great role model for the rest of us women.


Anonymous said...

Good translations. Shaheen Sultan Dhanji is an awesome person with a great personality. Always concerned about the poverty existing in communities. This poem fits in wth her personality. Her commitment is inspiring, so are her writings. May God bless her always.

This is my first time on this site and I think it's great. Keep up.


Anonymous said...

Way to go Shaheen. Googled her name and found yet another lovely site. Here is a woman who is awesome and am so happy to have met her. Bunch of talent!

Thanks for the poetry and the at par translation. Woo Hoo!

Shaista Rahman

Anonymous said...

Oh Preetam - LOL. Methinks Shaheen is committed, me saw a diamond rock on the lefty ring finger!! Oh yeah definately in a relationship. Now, I don't know about Soofi. His snap is quite cute! ;)


Anonymous said...

A heartbreaker. Thats what she is! Celebrity quo. Pour a drink like pour your heart, it aint enough.
Still, has courage to face the world on her terms.

Good poem. She should write her own.

Jamil Amlani

Anonymous said...

Great trans. I like this particular ghazal of Faiz.


Anonymous said...

Faiz was a legend of Pakistan. the translation to English is superb.

The comments above made me laugh between Joseph and the rest. Joseph i suggest you familiarize Faiz first.

Sorry Jamil, SSD is known to have powerful friendships/ relations with the high society. Good artist, tho'.

Mayank Soofi, liking your blog.

Anonymous said...

After breaking hearts, so she translates ghazals. interesting. It ain't enough, just ain't. Still she goes on with life. And I left with pouring drinks. Still, Good poem. Still, looking for her.


Anonymous said...

Good translation. Salma Agha sang it really nicely.
Shaheen, keep up. so, you and Salma Agha look alike. Good. hopefully you won't have 3 marriages and wont meet same fate. Media is a corrupt world guard from bewafaa types. but it looks like you're heartbroken why then you're translating sad ghazals. Naseeb ki baat ho.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nadir, this ghazal was sung by Noorjehan and NOT Salma Agha. As for this notion of Shaheen being heart broken, it is totally nonsense. I know her and it is always so good to label people, maybe you all ought to re-read the poetry above and undertand the true meaning of love and life. But there are shallows minds lurking everywhere and it's not anyone fault if Jamil has such low standards and writes useless comments. Get over Dude, she didn't like you, get over it!

Nadir, you shouldn't judge someone's "naseeb", take control of your own brother. As far as I know, Shaheen is far from the "fate" as of Salma. And Salma has her own reasoning, you must really mind your own business. This translation doesn't deserve low shots.

Za'eem Shujaat

Anonymous said...

Za'eem, looks like you're in it for a heartbreak too. Good look friend.

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

The comments made me laugh. Noorjehan has sung best of this ghazal and thanks Shaheen for translating. I just met Shaheen and a very lovely woman she is.

Jamil, take it easy a bit okay. YAM

Good site.

Nargis B

Anonymous said...

good job, shaheen! nice meeting you @ art gallery last night. this is a good poem, my father loved faiz and we grew up listening to noorjahan.
cool blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi,where to write to Ms. Shaheen Sultan.

This is excellent trans. I met her today but forgot to ask her of email address.

Irfan R

SOHAM said...



Jeevan Grewal said...

hey this is a good blog about pakistani poet. my wife likes faiz poetry and we were searching for his works. madamji wrote good trans.

the comments are interesting.

soham jee, read "shaista's" comment, lookslike you're in love with a girl who's not available. sorry yaar.

mr.austen soofi, it's interesting you've blogged on pakistan and good blog too.

peace & happiness

Jeevan Grewal

Toblerone Choco said...

Shayad yehi hai pyar Jamil? face it buddy, you've got the lovebug and ranting on here isn't goin' to help you. Koi tau baat hau.

Soofi Austen, why don't you make this blog as exciting as The Delhi Walla?

Nice poem.

Toblerone Choco

Motaz Askari said...

great site.

the commentators are funny! i think people forgot about the original poem translation and carried on about the woman. now i go search her out on the net, maybe i can start competing with the rest of the boys. soham's comment is very weird. off i go now to do my bit of web surfing hope to find the shark. ;) :p

my father likes faiz poetry. this mr.soofi, is he pakistani or what? he writes good.

yawn am tired. watched the cricket match last night now my mom's on my case to do things.

hey what would faiz do if he was alive at the recent issues in pakistan? write more poems?

Motaz Askari
Clifton Karchi, Pakistan

Motaz Askari said...

hey btw what does "Nargis B" mean by YAM? What does that mean? just curious.

Motaz Askari

Sahar Magdy said...

Thank you for sharing.

Although I speak Arabic, I enjoyed learning about this poem in Urdu. I was just going through some of Shaheen Sultan Dhanji's articles online and saw this site.

One day I will visit Pakistan. Sir, thank you.

Wish you best of luck, Shaheen. I love your passion to make this a better world. Palestine is with you in all your effort.

We love you.

Sahar Magdy
Ramallah, Palestine

Sana Aamir said...

Very well done, Shaheen Sultan Dhanji. Nice and kind person.
Good blog too.

Sana Aamir

Sonia said...

Well done, Shaheen! What are you upto these days? Thinking of you. Long time since you kept in touch.

Nice blog.


Ayesha Khan said...

Amazing trans. Why don't you post your poems, Shaheen? I liked the one on Burma, you know that.
I miss Pakistan and the rich culture. :( Faiz Ahmad Faiz was my father's good friend and they had spent some time in London. I love all his poems. Have you read his poem, "Subah-e-Aazadi? Something you would love.

Thanks for publishing this piece.

Jeete raho.

Your friend,
Ayesha Khan

Tanveer Khan said...

I really like this poem.

Way to go, Shaheen ji. She is really a wonderful person.

Tanveer Khan
Toronto, Canada