Poems and Ghazals of Asrar-Ul Haq ‘Majâz’

Translated from the Urdu by Arjumand Ara

            The Broken Lute

When she asked me, ‘Do sing for me!
My heart’s expanse is cold, you light a fire for me.’
What beauty in her expression, what a soothing tone!
Full of desire and longing, full of command and claim.

Murmuring in ecstasy, I picked up the lute.
Striking a chord, I began the song of my devotion to her.
But the smoke of despair arose from each exhausted tune,
And a cry of pain emerged from the broken lute.

            The Traveller

Go on singing carefree, O traveller!
Singing for people on your way, go on.

Your life is the pain and delight of love;
Making people laugh and cry, go on.

Your songs are both cool and warm,
They light the fire, douse it also, but go on.

Let one try to stop and check you many a time
Put your steps forward, go on.

You will find many a beauty on your way;
Don’t meet their gaze, just smile and go on.

The maps of love, the sketches of desire,
Making and erasing them go on.

Narrow-mindedness will put restrictions,
Razing the bases of conservatism, go on.

I put you under oath of your passion, and restlessness
Singing new tunes all the while, go on.

Once you have taken up the flag of revolt;
Hoisting it beyond the skies’ limit go on.

            To the Young Lady

Better, you would have lifted your mischievous veil.
Better, you could make instead, your beauty your veil.

Your downcast gaze is the guard of your modesty.
Better, you could test the sharpness of this lancet.

The frown on your brow is itself a punishment, in nature’s law.
Better, you could use this sword to punish your guilty.

Your pale countenance, dry lips, this fear and anxiety,
Better, you could clear these clouds away from your head.

What use of giving more wounds to a wounded heart,
Better, having wiped your tears you could smile for a while.

Whether you have a home, palace, fortress or something else under your  control;
I say it’s nothing — better, you could rule this earth and sky.

What use of it, if you hold your head high while you are alone;
Better, you could come to a gathering, even if with a bowed-down head.

The tika on your forehead is the star of man’s destiny;
Better, if you could now play the music of awareness for him.
The blood-stains of the enemy can be seen on the dagger;
Better, if you could compare them with the blush of cheeks.

The scarf covering your head looks very pretty;
Better, you could make a flag out of this.

The rebellious young fighters have drawn up their daggers;
Better, you could be ready to tend the wounded.

            Veil And Modesty

That, that does not reveal itself, can’t be elegance;
That, that remains hidden, can’t be the truth.
As this is against Nature, against Destiny.
            This can be anything, but modesty.
Breeze — but away from the garden?
Charming voice — but heard by none?
Splendid face — but not glowing at all!
            This can be anything, but modesty.
To walk stealthily on the roadside,
To slay your emotions by your own hands;
To live with the veil and to die in the veil—
            This can be anything, but modesty.
Lost always in endless thoughts,
Doubts clouding your delicate heart,
Faded smile on lips, and reserved speech—
            This can be anything, but modesty.
A bitter craving every moment in your heart,
A mounting anxiety from morn till night,
That surging storm in your heart—
            This can be anything, but modesty.
To trample the invites from loving eyes,
To suppress your taste for tenderness,
To ignore a command of nature—
            This can be anything, but modesty.
I swear by the night-star’s relish for travelling,
I swear by the freshness of morning breeze,
I swear by the suns and moons of the skies—
            This can be anything, but modesty.
I swear by the playful love of Sanjogita1
I swear by the trying resolve of Joan2
I swear by Tahira3, I swear by Khalida4
            This can be anything, but modesty.

1. Princess of Kannauj, Sanjogita fell in love with the ruler of Rajasthan, Prithviraj Chauhan in 12th century. Their love story is chronicled by Chand Bardai, the court poet of Rajasthan, in his famous epic Prathavi Raj Raso.
2. Joan of Arc.
3. Qurratul Ain Tahira, a 19th century Iranian poetess who was persecuted by the then ruler of Iran, Nasiruddin Shah, for her unconventional beliefs, i.e., her Bahai faith.
4. Halide Edip Edivar (1883-1964), novelist and pioneer in the emancipation of women in Turkey. Majâz wrote a poem dedicated to her when she visited Aligarh Muslim University in 1936. He recited his poem in a function organised to felicitate her in the Strachey Hall of AMU.

                        The Wanderer

There, this city-night, I roam about grief-stricken and failed—
On the streets dazzling awake with light, I wander like a tramp.
This is an unfamiliar city, till when should I roam about — door to door.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

Street-lights are twinkling on my way in a chain,
The night holds in its hand the day, as if a beautiful picture,
But my heart feels like a hot dagger is put into my bosom;
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

What a silvery shadow, what a netting of stars on the sky!
Like the imagination of a sufi, or the thoughts of a lover.
But who can by herself know, or understand the state of my heart;
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

A meteor shoots from the sky, a firework illuminates,
Who knows into whose lap this string of beads comes.
A deep sigh emerged from my chest, my heart is hurt;
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

The night laughs and cajoles me to go to a tavern,
Or to the abode of some tulip-cheeked beauty,
If not possible, O friend, then come to some desolate place.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

I see colours and beauties everywhere,
On every step, pleasures are stretching on.
But disgrace is coming towards me with open arms;
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

I am not the one to stop mid-way and rest a while,
I could not have got nature to stop and go back.
And it is not my destiny to find a friend to sing with me.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

A raging storm is waiting for me,
There are many a door open for me,
But my vow of allegiance becomes a trouble for me.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

My heart feels, I should break my vow,
And shatter my hope to get her someday.
Yes, it would be fine if I break this chain of breath.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

From behind a palace, look, the yellow moon rises
It looks like the turban of a mullah, or a shopkeeper’s book;
Or, the youth of a pauper, or the prime of a widow.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

A flame is flaring up in my heart, what should I eventually do?
My cup is full to the brim, what should I finally do?
The wound of my heart is fresh again, what should I at last do?
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

I feel like tearing at these dead moon and stars,
I tear at them from this edge to that edge of sky,
Not to mention one or two, but tear at all of them.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

There is stark destitution, and I have these scenes before my eyes!
I see hundreds of despotic emperors before my eyes,
And hundreds of Changez and Nâdir1 I have before my eyes;
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

I wish I could snatch away, and break the dagger of Changez.
The stone that shines on his crown, I could smash.
Others do or not do, I should take a lead and smash it—
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

Stepping forward I wish to set ablaze the wealth of this Indra Sabha2,
I wish to burn down the garden of one, and the seraglio of the other,
What to say about the emperor’s throne, I wish to blast the whole fort.
O my heartache what should I do! O my heart’s solitude what should I do!

1. Genghis Khan, ruler of Mongolia between 1206-1227, and Nadir Shah, emperor of Iran between 1736-47. Both are known for military prowess and cruelty.
2. The Court of Indra, the king of Hindu Gods. Indra’s court is known for its splendour and wealth.



My heart burns, and the tongue is speechless,
How should I tell you, what is capitalism?
            This is a storm that targets the nest of the poor,
            This is the lightening aiming at the crop of the peasant.
She holds in her hand the lamp of civilisation,
Yet sucks the blood from the worker’s body.
            This man-made demon consumes human blood,
            She is more fatal than plague, more horrific than death.
She didn’t see the right, didn’t assess the wrong;
She just strangled people, clutching their necks.
            She is a merciless devil, her ways are weird
            As she burns even the ruined homes, when in rage.
Her glances are exquisite, her tyranny breath-taking;
Her steps crush always the chests of the poor.
            She writes on the book of wealth with blood-ink,
            Elsewhere she builds a palace of bones of dead.
Having drunk the sacred blood of the poor she swings,
And dances in palaces, sways in the ballrooms.
            Apparently, she gave a few Pharaohs abundant wealth,         
            But turned the whole world into an inferno.
Beasts bow their heads, accepting her supremacy;
She has got a cruel look, and a more loathsome breath.
            Wherever she goes, devastation accompanies her,
            Curse travels with her, and Satans go together.
Robbing frequently the innocent on their way,
She sings songs of God hiding in monasteries.
            She snatches away spears from the hands of the brave,
            She is a demon who grabs children from their mother’s lap. 
She steals away one’s sense of honour,
She robs humans of their humane nature.
            She is death’s tumult, she is mischief of Sikandar1 and Dara2;
            She is the gracing-mistress of the Gods on Earth.
Drinking blood, she rides the chariot of bones,
The World howls, on her side as she turns.
            Roaring and echoing though she enters the field today,
            Yet, a drunkard as she is, she staggers on each stride.
Congratulations to you friends! Her cup is filled;
Raise a storm, the shoulder of her base is weak.

1. Alexander, the Great
2. Dara, was a biblical descendant of Judah known for his wisdom.


               The Red Flag

We are lions, and like them move on roaring,
We hover around as clouds do float;
Singing the ragini of life,
            We bear the red-flag in our hands!

True, we are puzzled by our hunger,
But don’t think that we are lifeless.
Even in this bad situation, we are a storm.
            We bear the red-flag in our hands!

We are the ones who don’t behave rudely,
We are the ones who aren’t afraid of death;
We are the ones who live on even after death.
            We bear the red-flag in our hands!

We don’t live in palaces with comfort,
We don’t swim in the Ganga of luxury.
We don’t open our secrets to our enemies,
            We bear the red-flag in our hands!
We know that an army would come,
That would threaten us with its cannons.
But this flag will keep on waving,
            We bear the red-flag in our hands!

Even facing threats we are not afraid!
We speak what is there in our hearts.
The sky quakes when we start our song,
            We bear the red-flag in our hands!

Even facing lakhs of armies, we are not shaken.
We open up only during the storms of battle,
And embrace our death laughingly,
We bear the red-flag in our hands!

            Dreaming of the Dawn

The sun over the skies for ages has shone,
But the night has sat over the man’s brains.
Darkness made its home in the field of wisdom,
And hearts remained dark, heads full of darkness.

Failed efforts were made by one or other religion.
People came with hearts having the rain of revelation.
From heavens above angels came descending,
And good people did God’s bidding.

There came the Son of Mariam;1 Musa, the son of Imran2
Also there arose Ram and Gautam;3 Pharaoh and Haman.4
People sporting swords arose, people with books did come.
Thus, people of fame and import came and went.

Idols also ruled over people’s hearts for centuries,
Islam too, like a generous cloud, loomed over the world.
In mosques, maulvis used to deliver their khutbas5,
And in the temples, brahmins chanted their shlokas.
Men begged for the blessings of the enlightened,
But a cure for human-pain they couldn’t find.

People rubbed their pining-forehead on this or that threshold,
And humanity went on suffering in the windmill of oppression.
Guidance continued, spreading of God’s message went on,
Behind the curtain of religion, the battle for wealth went on.

The virtuous gave warmth to people’s hearts by their knowledge,
Still, black shadows of ignorance went on spreading.
These unending troubles, these assails, and mass-murders!
How long the man will remain a slave of false notions.

In this darkness of superstitions,
In this dreaded stormy black night,
Human Wisdom has at least dreamt of the Dawn—
Has at least set eyes on a way, it had never seen before.

1. Christ, the son of Mary
2. Moses, the son of Joachim
3. Hindu God, Lord Ram and the Buddha
4. Haman was the vizier of Pharaoh, during the times of Moses.
5. Sermons

            A Petty Complaint

I do not complain of those Venus-like-beauties,
Who did not welcome my scandalised passion.
            I do not complain of those pure-soul critics,
            Whose miraculous lips poured fire-rain over me.
I do not complain of those guardians of culture,
Who did not allow the nature’s own poet to blossom.
            I do not complain of the temple and the mosque,       
            Upon whose thresholds I bowed my head for ages.
I do not complain of those pleasure seekers,  
Who often used to laugh at my afflictions.
            I do not complain of those having status and wealth, 
            Who did not share a single coin with me.
I do complain against the rotten system of the age.
I do complain against the antique laws, outmoded constitution.

            Beauty and Love

Don’t ask me, ‘What there lies in my beauty!’
You have raised the curtain of darkness with your eyes.
I have my world that is a hell because of my sorrow,
And it’s you who turned the world into a paradise.

Don’t ask me, ‘What there lies is your love!’
I am concealing my pain behind the curtain of music.
I have that soul-racking flame hidden in my heart,
That illuminates the world of my imagination.

       (On the Death of Gandhiji)

One, who was the remedy of all the pain and anguish of life, has gone.
One who was the Khidr1 of his times, a Christ of his epoch, has gone.

One that has gone, was neither a Hindu, nor a Muslim
He was a man in quest of the man, has now gone.

He neither enjoyed dancing, nor indulged in singing.
One who was immersed in passion, fervour and pain, has gone.
The tresses of infidelity are irate, the head of fidelity is bowed;
For, the pride of infidels and conceit of the faithful has gone.

Who will console with kindness an all-ailing life?
The expert of diseases, curer of the sick, has gone.

The ecstatic, joy of heart and mind is no more.
A devotee of the unseen truth has gone.

Stones, bricks, dirt and pebbles got now eminence,
While the sparkling ruby of motherland’s crown is gone.

Now the blood-dripping sword is in the hands of Ahriman2,
Who is happy that the strength of Yazdan,3 has gone.

The battle with the Spirit of Evil may be hard to fight,
But it is not so that the strength of the fighters has gone.

Is the fire, burning the hearts of rebels, put out?
Is it so, the hidden passion of the insurgents has gone?

Has the passion and zeal of rousing died off?
Has that youth with a tumult in its trail, has gone?

If Evil is happy on casting its net on the Good,
We challenge it, we would tear out its heart from its bosom. 


1. Khidr/Khizr, the Immortal Guide, who set out with Alexander in search of Âb-e Hayât, the Fountain of Life. He succeeded in having the water and become immortal.
2. The evil equivalent of the deity Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism.
3.Yazdan, the Supreme Being.

Two Ghazals


O my love’s eye! Don’t be kind to me; let me be an addict of my sorrows;
I am destined not to be successful, let me be unsuccessful.

What does it mean if you blame an innocent of infidelity?
O futile love! Don’t talk of these dreadful things.

Let there be in my heart the tumult of a maddening desire
Let there be in my head, for now, the vain madness of love.

Let there be, for some days, the joy of music, the ecstasy of wine;
Let there be, before me, this source of music, this cup of wine.

Till when the beauty will take the favour of toleration?
If the love itself forgets the difference between ordinary and special.

Because of his drinking habit, Majâz is the poet of workers and peasants,
If he is infamous in cities, let him remain so.



Maddening desire has not yet waned.
But she is not angry even today.

It is very difficult to tidy-up the world;
After all, these are not the curls of your tresses.

There is many a thing on this earth,
This world is not filled with sorrow alone.
Why shouldn’t I ask for more O my cup-bearer!
Who is not concerned here with evermore or less?

There, she suspects my truthfulness,
Here too, distrust is not lesser.

Why should I expect you to grieve, when I too do not do so
Over my ruin, O my companions!

Why should I take leave from this gathering of mirth?
My eye is not yet wet with tears.

Despite this ocean of sorrow and the sea of mishaps,
It is my head that refuses to bow down.

They say that Majâz is a drunkard, which he in fact is;
But not of the stature, that we had heard of him.

Translations of poems and ghazals from the collection of Majâz, Âhang/Melody

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