Dr Shahzad Rizvi translates Muslim Saleem’s ghazal

Translation of the ghazal of Muslim Saleem by Dr. Shahzad Rizvi, English novelist and poet (website: shahzadrizvi.com, or kahany.org)

Whenever I have not been understood
It has been regarded as my own fault

(Wo mujkho samajhnay mein jo naakam raha hai
khud mujhpay hi is baat ka ilzam raha hai)
I would have fallen in the buffeting wind
Had it not been for some invisible hand holding me
(Wo tez hawa hai ke main gir jata kabhi ka
andekha koi haath mujhya thaam raha hai)
I rise and begin my day talking about you
When day ends and evening begins I talk about you
(har subh ka hota hai teray zikr say aghaaz
aur tazkira tera hai har ek shaam raha hai)
A bird is sad and misses its freedom in the cage
Though all comforts of life are there
(azadi ki yaad aati hai chidiya ko qafas mein
waise to har baat ka aaram raha hai)
Muslim Saleem has entered the battlefield
Rather than a gun, he’s holding a banner of peace in his heart and soul
(Haan jang kay maidan mein utra to ha Muslim
maqsood magar amn ka paigham raha hai)
Muslim Saleem is such a star which has appeared on firmament when Urdu language and literature needs all the light it can get. Mr. Saleem’s services to Urdu are two-prong: his creative work, his poetry and literary essays; and, his indefatigable cataloging of Urdu writers and their works. I doubt such a combined work has ever even been done by any other person in my memory.
While through his cataloging he has acknowledged and brought out into light works by other Urdu writers who, otherwise, would have remained either obscure or their writings would have remained in a disarray, Mr. Saleem has produced a respectable body of Urdu poetry which serves many purposes. One, it reflects the society, politics, and myriad vicissitudes of life which we are going through. It holds a mirror, and rather honestly, in front of our faces and tells it like it. This kind of literary honesty is hard to find. Many writers write what they think people want to hear. And doing so they are honest neither to themselves nor to their subjects.
Another thing which emerges from his poems is universalism. Each couplet in his poems which is an independent entity is loaded with a universal theme presented to us in a novel way delineates to us his fresh perspective on it. In this way what is age old, tradition, custom, a bygone era, is not chucked out of window by us, but, by the help of Muslim Saleem, we take it out from the old trunk, examine it with his eyes, and find its efficacy anew to suit our modern times.
Finally, Muslim Saleem, through his poetry, emerges as a reformer. For instance, in the last couplet of the poem I translated he gives the messages of peace. He clearly says that I’m entering the battlefield, I will wage war (struggle – sangharsh) for peace. He is against violence and terrorism, he is against communalism, and, above all, he is against bigotry and all the evils which permeate humanity.
I truly believe that Muslim is one of the great poets of our time.

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