Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Faiz in Seven Valleys of Attar (1)

The Seven Valleys in Sheikh Fariduddin Attar’s masterpiece Mantaq al Tayr are the course on which not only those birds which were seeking there King had to journey through but each one of us takes that route in our lives while we are seeking our own Simroghs.

This is the first part of a seven part study of the seven poetic works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz(1911-1984) which I believe is a movement in those seven valleys seeking Simrogh.

The First Valley- The Valley of Quest: طلب وادیِ

According to the classic of Attar, in the first, in the journey the seeker reaches a stage wherein he sees all created things wandering distracted in search of the Friend. How many a Jacob will he see, hunting after his Joseph; he will behold many a lover, hasting to seek the Beloved, he will witness a world of desiring ones searching after the One Desired. At every moment he finds a weighty matter, in every hour he becomes aware of a mystery; for he has taken his heart away from both worlds, and set out for the Beloved. At every step, aid from the Invisible Realm will attend him and the heat of his search will grow. The quest in this valley above, below, in every sphere each atom is a Jacob fervently searching for Joseph through eternity.

Faiz first poetic work is نقشِ فریادی Naqsh-e-Faryadi .(1943) and we see in all major poems of this small volume a search, a quest for a beloved, and even when the beloved is found the quest takes another dimension specially when the it comes to
the poem مجھ سے پہلی سی محبت میری محبوب نہ مانگ

The book starts with the famous couplet of Faiz longing for that beloved:
رات یوں دل میں تری کھوئی ھوئی یاد آئی
جیسے ویرانے میں چپکے سے بہار آ جائے
Then we see a poem سرودِ شبانہ in which the poet is simply immersed in the thoughts of the beloved whom he is seeking and I personally have no doubt that this beloved is no other than the ultimate Reality, although few eye brows may rise as Faiz and his poetry is never seen in this light but the historical and cultural perspective which Faiz’s poetry brings very subtly brings this out:
اے کہ تو رنگ و بو کا طوفاں ھے
اے کہ تو جلوہ گر بہار میں ھے
زندگی تیرے اختیار میں ھے

Then we move to a poem اک رہگزار پر where the beloved and the beauty of that beloved takes reader to the diverse reality of the beloved, who is here, there and everywhere and still is not accessible:
وہ جس کی دید میں لاکھوں مسرتیں پنہاں
وہ حسن جس کی تمنا میں جنتیں پنہاں

Then comes a startling ghazal of this volume, which is so amazing that it can be considered as the poem of this valley of quest and it shows the intensity of the quest :
کئی بار اس کا دامن بھر دیا حسنِ دو عالم سے
       مگر دل ھے کہ اس کی خانہ ویرانی نہیں   جاتی

کئی بار اس کی خاطر ذرے ذرے کا جگر چیرا
مگر یہ چشمِ حیراں جس کی حیرانی نہیں جاتی

مری چشمِ تن آساں کو بصیرت مل گئی جب سے
بہت جانی ھوئی صورت بھی پہچانی نہیں جاتی

بجز دیوانگی واں اور چارہ ہی کہو کیا ھے
جہاں عقل و خرد کی ایک بھی مانی نہیں جاتی

The vocabulary, the diction and the undertones expressed in this volume are expressively and expansively seeking a path, a person and a way of life that is not possible without the Beloved.


  1. Attar's seven valleys in fact is a journey which everyone experiences and can observe within and without, the progression of the Human life, generally and specifically, individually and collectively, moving towards a destiny, the destiny that lies ahead and starts with the search and desire for Beloved.

    This is an interesting comparison with an overview of Faiz's first Poetic work, a thought provoking and startling post. Simply Amazing....

  2. I cant say that Faiz may be described in the light of Attar but surely a few would have read and understood him in this context, his universal poetry needs more understanding and acclaim.

  3. Thanks Urooj for such a kind comment.

  4. Akhtar Sahib, I have been waiting for this since you first mentioned that you were writing this series.

    As you can expect, my query would be that in Attar's epic, the birds start out together Before the journey could begin, there is a long discussion and debate among the birds. The Hoopoe, who is the leader, invites the birds to set out in search of Simorgh but the birds are reluctant. So, the Hoopoe patiently argues with the, negotiates, and waits patiently until everybody is on board. Then they take off, and reach the first valley.

    Do you think that this process of negotiation, and above all, the willingness to submit to the collective decision of the society even if that decision is against one's own judgement, is present in the milieu of Faiz? And if not, then do you think that it may affect the paradigm of valleys, and how? :)

  5. Akhtar Sahib, I wrote a long comment just now but it seems to have disappeared. Kindly let me know if you can see it, otherwise I shall post it again.


  6. SM definitely Faiz needs to be understood in his universal context.

  7. Khurram Sahib, thanks for a very vital one, the narrative of seven valleys in Attar’s epic is through Hoopoe, hence its only the experience of a single bird that reaches us through the narrative. The other birds which subsequently travel through these valleys separately do not narrate their individual experiences, hence it is not known but the fear, the reluctance, the peril and the apprehension each bird shows to Hoopoe evidently tells us that the experience of each bird would have been similar and distinct.

    Faiz’s voice is of an individual who is in search of a Simorgh-the beloved Motherland(the ideal), and this search is from a platform called Pakistan(the real) and I feel that the consensus lies in this realization by Faiz that :
    گر اج تجھ سے جدا ہیں تو کل بہم ھوں گے
    یہ رات بھر کی جدائی تو کوئی بات نہیں

    I think even with our distinct voices we can travel in the valleys without altering the paradigms of these valleys. The valleys are nothing but seven classifications of love and each individual that travels through these leaves his/her own footprint in it hence making it an individual and at the same time a collective journey. The consensus is in traveling but each journey is basically a voyage in oneself and hence unique.

  8. This last paragraph you just wrote in response to Shafique Shahib is so eloquent and clear.

    I have for several days been considering how variation like sea shells, nations, cultures and historical periods appear to be often far apart. Yet similar patterns, bridges, connections emerge all along the somewhat solitary journeys. (At least I find so in places and shadows -- upon reflection and ever deeper/closer examination.)

    Thus, trusting the wholeness which others and the Other know even before we do may also be a part of our individual journeys. Perhaps this is a paradox requiring developing our "muscles" of faith, listening within and without, letting go...waiting.

  9. Everything, every sound and every movement just moves in only one direction and that is towards Him and that makes everything lovable and sacred, the paths, the landscapes and roads on which we dwell are numerous but the quest and the journey is one although the names, the labels and roadmaps are spelled differently. Connie thanks for your useful contributions as you always do.

  10. I love the faith and clarity which comes through your response to me, Dar Sahib:

    Only one direction: towards Him -- making EVERYTHING lovable and sacred...

    What a sane view of the meaning of life, history and of our many apparently disconnected places.

    Always, you help me to find my way back to truest community out of solitude.


  11. A very insightful and useful comparison. An original idea presented with amazing clarity. Great post! Out of curiosity, can you tell me if you found parallels of Faiz's works with all the other valleys of Attar?


  12. @Qurat ul Ain
    Thanks for your gracious comments. I was sure to find the parallels in Faiz with all Attar's valleys and incredibly I did found them which I will come up with in next 6 parts.