Ehl-e Dair-o Haram: Life Remains Incomplete

AI-generated art depicting a man meditating amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life

About the Poem

AuthorFana Nizami Kanpuri
Time PeriodLate 20th century CE
Metermutadaarik musaddas saalim
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“Ehl-e Dair-o Haram” is a melancholic ghazal written by Fana Nizami Kanpuri (1922-1988) that has been performed by several notable artists, though the poem is relatively underrated. The Pakistani singer Munni Begum released a recording of it in her 1978 album An Evening With Munni Begum. Munshi Raziuddin & Sons of the Delhi gharana, among others, have also rendered the poem in the qawwali style. 

The poet Fana’s real name was Mirza Nisar Ali Beg, and he was from Kanpur, India. He did not publish his own works in any book, but editor Ishrat Zafar collected them in Fana Nizami: Fan Aur Shakhsiyat (link below). The translation that follows is based on the version of “Ehl-e Dair-o Haram” published in that compilation. Additional verses that appear in many song recordings but not in the text are also translated at the end; these may or may not have been authored by Fana Nizami Kanpuri.

In the matla (opening couplet), the speaker of the ghazal expresses his nostalgia for a bygone era. True devotees of God are dwindling in number, whereas those who emphasize rules and rituals but lack sincerity (i.e. “the people of temples and mosques”) have become the mainstream majority. This point is echoed later in one of the supplementary couplets, where he laments that the people who should still be around (or alive) are not, leaving him in a lonely and futile existence. Times have changed for the worse.

Several couplets describe how the speaker’s life remains incomplete and unfulfilled. His aims and desires have always stayed just outside his grasp — he dies before reaching his destination; his feet stumble when he is only two steps away. While he labors as a gardener, someone else receives the benefit by picking the flowers he nurtured. On the romantic side, he serves his beloved but does not receive her affection. The poem’s speaker is unable to adorn her hair with sindoor, a red powder that is applied by a groom to his bride’s hair to represent their marriage. Metaphorically, this could also represent humanity’s inability to comprehend God or receive divine favor.

“Ehl-e Dair-o Haram” reminds us that we are in a continuous struggle towards our goals and that many of them may never be attained. Accepting this reality is similar to the Stoic realizations that the obstacle is the way and that the journey is the destination.

Featured Renditions

Recording by Munni Begum from the album An Evening With Munni Begum (1978)
Qawwali rendition by Munshi Raziuddin & Sons in 1992

Text, Transliteration, and Translation

اہلِ دیر و حرم رہ گئے

अहल-ए-दैर-ओ-हरम रह गए
ehl-e dair-o haram reh ga’e
The people of temples and mosques remain;

تیرے دیوانے کم رہ گئے

तेरे दीवाने कम रह गए
tere deevaane kam reh ga’e
But few of Your true devotees remain!

منزلیں دور ہوتی گئیں

मंज़िलें दूर होती गईं
manzileN door hoti ga’eeN
My aims continued to get further away,

فاصلے کم سے کم رہ گئے

फ़ासले कम से कम रह गए
faasle kam se kam reh ga’e
Though the distances continued to get smaller.

بےتکلّف وہ اوروں سے ہیں

बे-तकल्लुफ़ वे औरों से हैं
be-takalluf vo auroN se haiN
She is casual with other people;

ناز اُٹھانے کو ہم رہ گئے

नाज़ उठाने को हम रह गए
naaz uTHaane ko ham reh ga’e
Only I have to satisfy her every whim.

جب بھی خط لکھنے بیٹھے اُنہیں

जब भी ख़त लिखने बैठे उन्हें
jab bHi khatt likHne baiTHe unheN
Whenever I sat down to write her a letter,

صرف لے کر قلم رہ گئے

सिर्फ़ ले कर क़लम रह गए
sirf le kar qalam reh ga’e
I ended up sitting there with just my pen.

دیکھ کر تیری تصویر کو

देख कर तेरी तस्वीर को
dekH kar teri tasveer ko
Having looked at your picture,

آئنہ بن کے ہم رہ گئے

आइना बन के हम रह गए
aa’ina ban ke ham reh ga’e
I became a mirror and so remain!

میں نے ہر شے سنواری مگر

मैं ने हर शय संवारी मगर
maiN ne har shai saNvaari magar
I adorned everything I could, but

اُن کی زلفوں کے خم رہ گئے

उन की ज़ुल्फ़ों के ख़म रह गए
un ki zulfoN ke kham reh ga’e
The locks of her tresses remain.*

اے فناؔ تیری تقدیر میں

ऐ ‘फ़ना’ तेरी तक़दीर में
ai fana teri taqdeer meN
O Fana, in your fate,

ساری دنیا کے غم رہ گئے

सारी दुनिया के ग़म रह गए
saari dunya ke gham reh ga’e
All of the world’s sorrows are contained.

* The adornment of a married woman’s hair with sindoor, a red powder, is a common practice in South Asia. When a woman gets married, her husband applies sindoor to the part line in her hair. Oftentimes the woman continues to apply sindoor herself on a daily basis as an indicator of her marital status. Thus, the poet here is saying that he was unable to marry his beloved.

The following lines do not appear in the published ghazal, but exist in musical renditions:

مٹ گئے منزلوں کے نشاں

मिट गए मंज़िलों के निशां
miT ga’e manziloN ke nishaaN
The traces of my destinations have been erased.

صرف نقشِ قدم رہ گئے

सिर्फ़ नक़्श-ए-क़दम रह गए
sirf naqsh-e qadam reh ga’e
Only the footprints remain!

حق بہاروں پہ گلچیں کا ہے

हक़ बहारों पे गुलचीं का है
haqq bahaaroN pe gulcheeN ka hai
The flower-picker reaps the rewards of spring,

باغبانی کو ہم رہ گئے

बाग़बानी को हम रह गए
baaghbaani ko ham reh ga’e
While I have been relegated to gardening.

جن کو رہنا تھا وہ چل دیے

जिनको रहना था वे चल दिए
jin ko rehna tHa vo chal-diye
Those who should have stayed have departed,

ویسے رہنے کو ہم رہ گئے

वैसे रहने को हम रह गए
vaise rehne ko ham reh ga’e
And I remain here in vain, just lingering on.

جبکہ دو گام منزل رہی

जबके दो गाम मंज़िल रही
jabke do gaam manzil rahi
When my destination was only two steps away,

لڑکھڑا کے قدم رہ گئے

लड़खड़ा के क़दम रह गए
laRkHaRa ke qadam reh ga’e
My feet stumbled and staggered.

ہم سے پی کر اُِٹھا نا گیا

हम से पी कर उठा ना गया
ham se pee kar uTha na gaya
I could not get up after drinking.

لڑکھڑا کے قدم رہ گئے

लड़खड़ा के क़दम रह गए
laRkHaRa ke qadam reh ga’e
My feet stumbled and staggered.

رند جنّت میں جا بھی چکے

रिंद जन्नत में जा भी चुके
rind jannat meN ja bHi chuke
Even sinners have entered into Heaven,

واعظِ محترم رہ گئے

वाइज़-ए-मुहतरम रह गए
vaa’iz-e muhtaram reh ga’e
But the pompous preacher was kept outside!

پاس منزل کے موت آ گئی

पास मंज़िल के मौत आ गई
paas manzil ke maut aa ga’i
As I neared my destination, death came to me,

جب صرف دو قدم رہ گئے

जब सिर्फ़ दो क़दम रह गए
jab siraf do qadam reh ga’e
When only two steps were left!

Further Reading and References

  • Fana Nizami: Fan Aur Shakhsiyat, edited by Ishrat Zafar. You can find this poem on page 99 of 116. [link]
  • On Rekhta, you can read another unverified version of this ghazal, which is slightly different from the one published in Fana Nizami: Fan Aur Shakhsiyat. [link]
  • Alavi, Shams Ur Rehman. “Urdu Mushairas and Urdu Poets.” The World of Urdu Poetry, Literature & News. 12 February 2008. This blog post contains an anecdote about the poet Fana Nizami. [link]

Further Listening

  • Another recording by Munni Begum [link]
  • Najma Akhtar in a BBC program [link]
  • Version by Zafar Ali [link]
  • Live performance by Maulvi Ahmed Hassan Behranwale, apparently in 1982 [link]
  • Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad at a private gathering [link]
  • Version by Anup Jalota [link]
  • Purnima Pal version, released in 1988 [link]
  • Version by Ustad Murli Qawwal [link]
  • Recording of Fana Nizami Kanpuri reciting a different poem of his in 1972 in Delhi [link]

Suggested Citation

Shad, Hamza. “Ehl-e Dair-o Haram:  Life Remains Incomplete”. The Khusrau Project. 2 March 2023.