“Blink, and there he was…”

This school year, I’ve been taking Persian to fulfill my college’s language requirement, and (unsurprisingly) it’s been my favorite class all year! I’m working on a longer post on the connections I’ve made and some of the mini-revelations I’ve had while learning Persian, but for now I just want to share some verses of Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) rendered as a qawwali by the legendary brothers, Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad (who have been featured on this blog before). To my surprise, with just a few months of learning Persian I can recognize quite a few words and make sense of some of the sentences, even though they were composed around eight centuries ago! The video description informed me that “Ayyaar” means “vagabond” in Persian, and love is often described in this idiom in Persian Sufi poetry.

Here are a few verses with translation (please correct me if I made any mistakes). Enjoy!

هر لحظه به شكلي بت عيار بر آمد, دل برد و نهان شد
هر دم به لباس دگر آن يار بر آمد , گه پير و جوان شد

Har lehza ba shakal-aan but-e-ayyaar bar-aamad, dil burd-o-nihaan shud
Har dam ba libaas-e digar-aan yaar bar-aamad, geh peer-o-javaan shud

Blink, and there he was in a different form – that sly Beloved! He stole the hearts of the people, and hid from view.
Every time he came out in a different garb. Sometimes he was young, and sometimes he was old.

خود کوزہ و خود کوزہ گر و خود گلِ کوزہ, خود رندِ سبو کش
خود بر سرِ آں کوزہ خریدار برآمد, بشکست رواں شد

Khud kuza-o, khud kuzagar-o khud gil-e-kuza, khud rind-e-subu kash
Khud bar sar-e-aan kuza kharidaar bar-aamad, ba shikast o ravaan shud

He is the wine flask, he is its maker, and he is the clay used to make it.
He was the drunk who bought that flask. He himself drained it, broke it, and moved on.

A qawwali group sings about Krishna

From Wikipedia: “Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular throughout North India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It is a musical tradition that stretches back for more than 700 years. Delhi’s Sufi saint Amir Khusro Dehlavi of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today in the late 13th century in India.

The word Sama is often still used in Central Asia and Turkey to refer to forms very similar to Qawwali, and in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is Mehfil-e-Sama. The poetry is implicitly understood to be spiritual in its meaning, even though the lyrics can sometimes sound wildly secular, or outright hedonistic. The central themes of qawwali are love, devotion and longing (of man for the Divine).”


Although qawwali is seen as a fundamentally Muslim musical tradition, the history of Sufism in South Asia is defined by its syncretism and interaction with Indian traditions. Even today, qawwali is just as popular with Hindus as it is with Muslims.

The song I want to highlight in this post is sung by Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad’s amazing qawwali group from Karachi, Pakistan. I had the opportunity to see them perform in Seattle last September the day before I left for Chicago, and it was an unforgettable experience.

Interestingly, this Hindi bhajan is addressed to the Hindu god Krishna, who is also called Kanhaiya. “The last verse evokes the Sufi idea of the stages of descent of God into form, the movement from One to many. The poetic image has the woman saying ruefully that she was better off single, instead of suffering the pain of separation from Krishna, now that they are ‘two.'” It may have been composed by Nawab Sadiq Jung Hilm of Hyderabad.

Continue reading “A qawwali group sings about Krishna”