‘Khamsa’ by Nazeer Akbarabadi


When my poor soul opened its eyes at last
The tears were gone, the sorrow had passed

And struck was I with such awesome wonder
So emotion did leave, and reason surrender

Through my being echoed a strange, eerie sound
That my heart and soul in oblivion were drowned

The news of divine love was then revealed to me
Wherefore passion was exiled, and delusion made to flee

There was no ‘I’, no ‘you’; nothing remained
All things were void, only nothingness reigned.


Khuli jab ki chashm e dil e hazeen, to vo nam raha na teri rahi
Hui hairat aisi kuch aankh par ki asar ki be asari rahi
Pari goshe jaan mein ajab nida ki jigar na bejigari rahi
Khabare tahhayyur e ishq sun na junoon raha na pari rahi
Na to tu raha na to main raha jo rahi so bekhabari rahi



This poem is by Nazeer Akbarabadi (1735-1830), about whom I know very little. From what i can glean from the internet, he was an 18th century Urdu poet who wrote Ghazals and Nazms. He was known for his use of simple and everyday language that endeared him to the people of his time.

This particular poem is a favourite of mine, I first heard it sung as an opening in a qawalli once, and it has stayed with me since.

I love the beauty of the way in which the enlightened state is described: it distills the principals and philosophy of Sufism into a handful of lines. The opening of the soul’s eyes is a metaphor for spiritual awakening; the shedding of emotions and the oblivion represents detachment from the mundane world. This description of the enlightened state has similarities to the concepts of nirvana and moksha, which I find really interesting.

Obviously, my translation does not convey even a fraction of the simplicity, the beautiful lyrical structure, the careful interplay of words and the perfect symmetry of the poem, but I felt that I had to try and do my little bit in spreading the wisdom in this poem.

There is so much beauty and wisdom still undiscovered by the world-at-large in the poetry of the sub-continent.

I feel everyone who is able has an obligation to spread and share it.


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