The Complaint (Shikwa)
Why should I choose the loser’s role?
Forbear to seek what gain I may?
Nor think of what the morrow holds,
But brood o’er woes of yesterday?
Why should my ears enraptured hear
The plaintive notes of Philomel?
Fellow ‐ bard! a rose am I
To lose me in sweet music’s swell?
For I too have the gift of song
Which gives me courage to complain,
But ah! ‘tis none but God Himself
Whom I, in sorrow, must arraign!
I grant that we have earned repute
As ever reconciled to Fate,
But to Thee still a tale of pain
I can no longer help narrate.
Though we may seem like voiceless
Within, imprisoned anguish cries;
Its urge compels, and I obey,
Framing these plaintive melodies.
Hear Thou, O God! these sad complaints
From those of proven fealty;
Beneath proud spires in Western lands,
And made that magic melody
Thrill over Afric’s burning sands.
The pageantries of mighty kings
To us were shows that mattered not,
Beneath the shade of blades unsheathed
In Kalima we glory sought.
Our only life was then to face
The perils 0f Thy holy wars;
To glorify Thy name we died,
Adorned with hallowed battle scars.
Not lust for power for our own sakes
Our drawn ‐ sword’s playfulness
Nor roamed we hand ‐ in ‐ glove with
For worldly riches we desired.
Our people, had they set their hearts
On this world’s riches or its gold,
Not idol ‐ breaking would have gone
But idols would have bought and sold.
We stood our ground like rocks when once
The foe had met our phalanx dread;
Before our might the bravest quailed
And, vanquished, from the battle fled.
And those who offered Thee affront
Our swift, relentless fury faced,
Their mightiest arms we set at nought,
Their insolence and pride abased.
On all men’s minds we set Thy seal,
Thy tawhid’s firm and sure impress—
The selfsame message preached our lips
When swords danced high in battle’s
Declare Thou whose fierce valour once
Did Khyber’s barriers overthrow?
Or whose resistless might once laid
Famed Caesar’s proudest cities low?
Who smashed to dust man’s hand ‐
Those things of straw and earth and
And who did unbelieving hosts
To spread Thy name and glory slay?
And who was it that quenched and cooled
The fiery urns of fair Iran ?
Thy holy Ka ʹ ba ’ s hallowed shrine,
Whose bosoms reverently held
Thy great and glorious Book Divine—
If our meed still the obloquy
That we have shirked the Faithful’s part,
How then canst Thou make claim to be
The kindly faith ‐ compelling heart?
For there are those of other faiths
Among whom many sinners ,
Some humble, others puffed with pride,
Drunken in their effrontery;
If some have vision, thousands are
Of little worth, neglectful, worse;
And millions upon millions live
From Thy dear, glorious name averse.
Yet see how still Thy bounties rain
On roofs 0f unbelieving clans,
While strikes Thy thunder ‐ bolt the homes
Of all ‐ forbearing Mussalmans!
In idol ‐ houses, hark! they say,
“Behold, the Muslim star sinks low!
How glad they are that now at last
Thy Ka ʹ ba ’ s brave protectors go!
They say, “The world is well rid now
Of hymn ‐ reciting camel ‐ men,
Their Quran folded in their arms,
At last they hie them from our ken!
Thus they rejoice who own Thee not;
Yet still unmindful seemest Thou
Of Thine own One ‐ ness, Thy tawhid—
Art Thou so unregarding now?
That ignorant men who lack the grace
To ope their lips in conclave high
Should have their coffers treasure ‐ filled,
Is not the burden of our sigh;
But O, that this world’s best should fall
To unbelievers from Thy hand
While we on promises are fed
Of pleasures in a shadowy land!
Where are those favours which Thou once
Upon our grateful hearts didst pour ?
Why cherishest Thou not, O Lord,
The Faithful as in days of yore?
Why from the bounties of this life
The Faithful now no profit gain
Though still Almighty Thou remainest
Did we forswear our faith to Thee?
To Thy dear Prophet cease to cling?
Of idol ‐ breaking did we tire?
Or take to idol ‐ worshipping?
Or did we weary of Thy Love,
Or Thy Love’s rapture ever shun?
Or turned we from the path which trod
Qaran’s Owais and Salman?
Thy Takbeer’s unextinguished flame
Within our hearts we cherish yet:
Aethiop Belal’s life, the star
By which our own lives’ course we set!
But even if a change hath been,
And we in Love are less adept,
Or out of resignation’s path
Our erring wayward feet have stept;
If, unlike trusted compasses,
Our souls respond not now to you,
And if to laws of faithfulness
Our roving hearts are now less true ;
Must Thou too play the fickle flirt
With us, with others, day by day,
We cannot help the sinful thought
Which shame forbids our lips to say.
Upon the peak of Mount Faran
Thy glorious Faith Thou didst perfect—
With one Divinest gesture drew
A host of fervid first ‐ elect;
Thy flaming Beauty filled the world
And set a myriad hearts on fire;
Then blew the quintessence of Love
In Man to passion’s wild desire.
Ah, why within our deadened hearts
That holy flame today leaps not?
Though still those burnt ‐ out victims we
Which once we were, hast Thou forgot?
Upon the dale of Nejd is stilled
The clanging of the captive’s chains;
To glimpse the camel ‐ litter, Qais
No longer with his madness strains
The yearnings of the heart are dead,
The heart itself is cold; so we;
And desolation fills our house
For shines not there the Light of Thee.
O blessed day when Thou shalt come,
A thousand graces in Thy train
But yet there uncompanioned sits
A lonely bulbul, all day long;
Its throat a ‐ throb with music still
And pouring out its heart in song.
The darkening cypress sways no more;
From shadowy nests its doves have fled;
The withered blossoms droop and die,
And all around their petals shed;
Those memoried, old garden walks
Of all their former pride lie shorn,
Despoiled of raiment green, each
In nakedness now stands forlorn;
Unmoved by passing seasons’ change,
The songster sits and sings alone:
Would there were in this garden some
Could feel the burden of its moan!
This life no more its joy retains,
Nor even death can bring relief;
‘Tis sweet to sit alone and sigh
And eat a sad heart out in grief.
Out from the mirror of my soul ‘
What gems of thought now strive to
What visions splendid, dreams
Arise within this breast of mine!
But in this garden lives not one
To see and hear, to feel and know:
No tulip with its streak of pain,
To sense my heart ‐ blood’s smarting flow.
May this sad bulbuls lonely song
To grief each listening soul awake;
The clangour of these rousing bells
Make drowsy hearts their sleep forsake!
Let Faithful hearts re ‐ plight their troth,
And forge afresh their bond Divine;
Let in the long ‐ parched breast of each
The old thirst wake for sweet old wine!
The blood of sweet Arabian vine
O’erflows this wine ‐ jar Ajamy,
Although the singer sings in Ind,
Of Hijaz is his melody
translation : Altaf Husain