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The Martyr Imam Hussain: An Elegy Written In ‘The Grief of The Monarch of Karbala’ By the Nineteenth Century Persian Poet Qaani

By Edward G. Browne

07 September 2020

[Excerpted from A Literary History of Persia]

One other Marthiya, or elegy on the death of the Imam Husayn, I cannot refrain from quoting, both on account of the originality of its form and the generally irreligious character of its author, the poet Qaani (died A.D. 1853), one of the greatest and the least moral of the modern poets of Persia.


‘The Evening of Ashura’ by Iranian artist Mahmoud Farshchian (1976)


The text is taken from a lithographed collection of such poems published, without title or indication of place or date, in Persia, containing 220 unnumbered pages, and comprising the work of six poets, namely Wisal, Wiqar, Muhtasham, Qaani, Sabahi and Bidil.

بارد چہ؟ خون ! کہ؟ دیدہ ، چسان ؟ روزو شب ، چرا

ارَد چہ؟ خوں! کہ؟ دیدہ! چساں؟ روز و شب! چرا؟

از غم! کدام غم؟ غمِ سلطانِ کربلا

نامش چہ بُد؟ حسین، زِ نژادِ کہ؟ از علی

مامش چہ بود؟ فاطمہ، جدش کہ؟ مصطفیٰ

چوں شد؟ شہید شد، بہ کجا؟ دشتِ ماریہ

کے؟ عاشرِ محرم، پنہاں؟ نہ برملا

شب کشتہ شد؟ نہ روز، چہ ہنگام؟ وقتِ ظہر

شد از گلو بریدہ سرش؟ نے نے از قفا

سیراب کشتہ شد؟ نہ، کس آبش نداد؟ داد

کہ؟ شمر، از چہ چشمہ؟ ز سرچشمۂ فنا

مظلوم شد شہید؟ بلے، جرم داشت؟ نہ

کارش چہ بُد؟ ہدایت، و یارش کہ بُد؟ خدا

ایں ظلم را کہ کرد؟ یزید، ایں یزید کیست؟

ز اولاد ہند، از چہ کس؟ از نطفۂ زنا

خود کرد ایں عمل؟ نہ فرستاد نامہای

نزدِ کہ؟ نزدِ زادۂ مرجانۂ دغا

ابنِ زیاد زادۂ مرجانہ بُد؟ نعم

از گفتۂ یزید تخلف نکرد؟ لا

ایں نابکار کشت حسین را بدستِ خویش؟

نہ او روانہ کرد سپہ سوئے کربلا

میرِ سپہ کہ بُد؟ عمر سعد، او برید

حلقِ عزیزِ فاطمہ؟ نہ شمرِ بے حیا

خنجر برید حنجرِ او را نکرد شرم؟

کرد، از چہ پس برید؟ نپذرفت ازو قضا

بہرِ چہ؟ بہرِ آنکہ شوَد خلق را شفیع

شرطِ شفاعتش چہ بوَد؟ نوحہ و بکا

کس کشتہ شد ہم از پسرانش؟ بلے دو تن

دیگر کہ؟ نُہ برادر، و دیگر کہ؟ اقربا

دیگر پسر نداشت؟ چرا داشت، آں کہ بود؟

سجاد، چوں بُد او؟ بہ غم و رنج مبتلا

ماند او بہ کربلائے پدر؟ نے! بہ شام رفت

با عز و احتشام؟ نہ! با ذلت و عنا

تنہا؟ نہ با زنانِ حرم، نامشاں چہ بود؟

زینب، سکینہ، فاطمہ، کلثومِ بے نوا

بر تن لباس داشت؟ بلے! گردِ رہگذار

بر سر عمامہ داشت؟ بلے! چوبِ اشقیا

بیمار بُد؟ بلے! چہ دوا داشت؟ اشکِ چشم

بعد از دوا غذاش چہ بُد؟ خونِ دل غذا

کس بود ہمرہش؟ بلے اطفالِ بے پدر

دیگر کہ بود؟ تب! کہ نمی گشت ازو جدا

از زینتِ زناں چہ بجا ماندہ بود؟ دو چیز

طوقِ ستم بہ گردن و خلخالِ غم بہ پا

گبر ایں ستم کند؟ نہ، مجوس و یہود؟ نہ

ہندو؟ نہ، بت پرست؟ نہ، فریاد ازیں جفا

قاآنی است قائلِ ایں شعر ہا؟ بلے

خواہد چہ؟ رحمت، از کہ؟ ز حق، کے؟ صفِ جزا


English Translation by Edward G. Browne

What rains down?



The eye!


Day and Night!


From grief?

What grief?

The grief of the Monarch of Karbala!

What was his name?


Of whose race?


Who was his mother?


Who was his grandsire?


How was it with him?

He fell a martyr!


In the plain of Mariya!


On the tenth of Muharram!


No, in public!

Was he slain by night?

No, by day!

At what time?

At noontide!

Was his head severed from the throat?

No, from the nape of the neck!

Was he slain unthirsting?


Did none give him to drink?

They did!

Who? Shimr!

From what source?

From the source of death!

Was he an innocent martyr?


Had he committed any fault?


What was his work?


Who was his friend?


Who wrought this wrong?


Who is this Yazid?

One of the children of Hind!

By whom?

By bastard origin!

Did he himself do this deed?


he sent a letter!

To whom?

To the false son of Marjana!

Was Ibn Ziyad the son of Marjana?


Did he not withstand the words of Yazid?


Did this wretch slay Husayn with his own hand?

No, he dispatched an army to Karbala!

Who was the chief of the army?

Umar ibn Sa’d!

Did he cut down Fatima’s dear folk?

No, shameless Shimr!

Was not the dagger ashamed to cut his throat?

It was!

Why then did it do so?

Destiny would not excuse it!


In order that he might become an intercessor for mankind!

What is the condition of his intercession?

Lamentation and weeping!

Were any of his sons also slain?

Yes, two!

Who else?

 Nine brothers!

Who else?


Had he no other son?

Yes, he had!

Who was that?

The ‘Worshipper’ (Sajjad)!

How fared he?

Overwhelmed with grief and sorrow!

Did he remain at his father’s Karbala?

No, he went to Syria!

In glory and honour?

No, abasement and distress!


No, with the women of the household!

What were their names?

Zaynab, Sakina, Fatima, and poor portionless Kulthum!

Had he garments on his body?

Yea, the dust of the road!

Had he a turban on his head?

Yea, the staves of the wicked ones!

Was he sick?


What medicine had he?

The tears of his eyes!

What was his food after medicine?

His food was heart’s blood!

Did nay bear him company?

Yes, the fatherless children!

Who else was there?

The fever which never left him!

What was left of the women’s ornaments?

Two things,

The collar of tyranny on their necks and the anklet of grief on their feet!

Would a pagan (gabr) practice such cruelty?


A Magian or a Jew?


A Hindoo?


An idolater?


Alas for this harshness!

Is Qaani capable of such verses?


What seeks he?


From whom?

From God!


In the ranks of recompense!”

[Excerpted from A Literary History of Persia, by Edward G. Browne, Part 4, Goodword Books, Delhi, 2011, p. 177 to 18]


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