The most wonderful thing that poetry can do is take us to a place where all the things that we feel in smoky abstractness, become actualised and exist in the poem all at once. In this way a poem can pull together years of our lived experiences; the places we have been, the interactions we have had with people and the impressions they have left on us, into lines that span only a few pages.
This is how Tere Dar Par, the new salām (devotional eulogy) in praise of Maulatona Fatema, AS captures the essence of our time, a time when women’s issues are at the fore of our consciousness. In every age, women face the challenge of finding both their power and their femininity, their image and their expression and Muminaat are in the thick of it today. Where are these answers to be found except in the example of Maulatona Fatema AS? The eulogy gives us a glimpse into her exemplary fulfilment of the many roles of a woman; a daughter, wife, mother, sister and a homemaker par excellence.
Among the many forms of poetry, elegy is considered among the most profound because unlike love poetry, which is a longing for the loved one, the elegy deals with death and attempts to come to terms with the inevitable end of all life.
Love poetry entreats and even in heartbreak, seeks to reunite in life. Elegy mourns the loss of one equally beloved and attempts to find consolation in parting. Where love poetry entreats, elegy laments. Both idealise the beloved; but love poetry has hope and elegy can only offer consolation at best.
In the ritha (elegy) tradition , those who mourn the Ahl al-Bait AS engage in both expressions of love as well as appreciations of what it means to perish and depart the physical realm. Therefore, the ritha not only allows us to recollect the wondrous traits of the Ahl al-Bait AS,but through that mourning allows us a declaration of love, an affirmation of faith, a catharsis and a redemption.
Tere Dar Par, which consists of 17 stanzas, takes us on that journey in such a way that it includes our whole experience of faith. It begins with an invocation of Maulatona Fatema AS as daughter of Rasul Allah SAW, wife of Amirul Mumineen AS and mother of Aimmat Fatimiyyin AS, thereafter shrouding her in the cloak of purity (kisa al-tathīr) to signify that all her actions, no matter how seemingly mundane, hold otherworldly significance and depth. Throughout the elegy there is a juxtaposition of the radiant Sayyida’s loftiest qualities and the simplicity of her temporal existence.
Her name is derived from one of the names of Allah on the one hand and on the other she spent her nights collecting tears for the salvation of Amirul Mumineen’s AS believers. Through her remembrance one remembers Allah and gains proximity to Him on the one hand and on the other she lives a humble life, her head always lowered in obedience. At each point, the poet strives to reach her Sayyida but is brought back to her own human pain. It is in this entreaty that the elegy finds its soul; ‘O radiant Fatema AS,’ free us of the hardships that envelope us in every aspect of our terrestrial existence.
I found Tere Dar Par to reach transcendence when it speaks of Burhanuddin MaulaRA and Aali Qadr Maula TUS. With her head lowered in grief at Maulatona Fatema’s AS doorstep, the poet finds peace in the Eden of Maula’s TUS care. She has nothing to give but love and love is the answer to all her prayers. The final verses combine the remembrance of Maulatona Fatema AS with the past memories of Syedna Burhanuddin RA and the presence of Syedna Saifuddin TUS defying distance, space and time.
The poem ends with the recollection of Maula’s TUS gentle gaze and his merciful tears which compel us all to weep upon Maulatona Fatema AS and her beloved son Imam Husain AS. In so doing, we find respite from the pain, suffering and hardship of this earthly existence and a deliverance that is both temporal and eternal.
In composing its melody and in the delivery, Janah al Tarannum has not missed the scope and beauty of the verses. Its delivery is not a formal reading of the verses set to music but, in the tradition of the Romantic poets, breaks with classicism to honour the emotions of the poet. Words can be dropped softly into our laps or ring with conviction and the music also does its part; it stops and has us hold our breath, then starts up again for the rest of the message. We are held in its spell.
A piece spanning such a length is prone to losing its hold on the listener as it progresses. But this kalaam consists of variations in tune that harmonise with its meanings and keep the listener engaged. Moreover, the powerful recitation shows versatility, showcasing the details of classical genre with an exquisite control over voice and expressions. There’s something new to hear in every verse with how the tune keeps changing. One wants to keep listening to it over and over and it is really pleasing to listen to.