Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans, by H.G. Raverty, , at sacred-texts.com
MĪRZĀ KHĀN, ANṢĀRĪ, was a descendant, probably a grandson, of Pīr Roshān, the founder of the Roshānīān sect, which made a great noise among the Afghāns, about the year 1542-3 of our Era. He appears to have commenced writing poetry in the year a.h. 1040; and these effusions were afterwards brought together in the form of a Dīwān or Collection of Odes, bearing his name. Some parties contend that his real name was Fat´ḥ Khān, and that he was of the Yūsufzī tribe of the Afghāns, and that the term Mīrzā is an assumed name, usually taken by Oriental poets. Mīṛzā, however, is a Persian word, signifying a prince or a nobleman, and also a secretary or writer, and would never be assumed by an Afghān, it being a distinctive appellation applied to persons of Persian descent, by the Afghāns. This statement, however, is also fully disproved, from the fact, that several old copies of his poems, which I have examined or have in my possession, end in these words: "Here ends the Dīwān of Mīṛzā Khān, Anṣārī."
Ḳāsim Æalī, Afrīdī, an Afghān poet of Hindūstān, in one of his odes, states, that Mīrzā Khān was of the family of Bāyazīd, or Bāzīd, Anṣārī, who assumed the name of Pīr Roshān, or Saint of Light, as already mentioned. Bāzīd himself (of whom it will be necessary to give a brief account, as Mīṛzā's subsequent misfortunes were chiefly owing to his being a descendant of that impostor) was, altogether, a remarkable man; and the Anṣārī tribe, to which he belonged, is an offshoot of an Arab tribe of Madīnah, mentioned in the Ḳur’ān, which received the prophet Muḥammad
after his flight from Makkah; and hence the name Anṣārī, from the Arabic word anṣār, signifying aiders, or assistants. People of this tribe are to be found, even now, scattered over Afghānistān, the Panjāb, and some parts of India.
Bāzīd's religion, which he instituted in the year a.d. 1542-3, spread rapidly amongst the Bar Pushtūn, or Eastern Afghāns, till, at length, he was able to assemble armies, and oppose the Mughal government. He held the same tenets as the Ṣūfis (of whose mysticisms some account has been given in the Introductory Remarks), but having been a disciple, for some time, of the notorious Mullā Sulīmān—known in the East as Jālandharī Sulīmān, from the town of Jālandhar, in the Panjāb, where he dwelt—Bāzīd became initiated in the tenets of the Jogīs, a sect among the Hindūs, and became a fast convert to the creed of the Metempsychosis, or Pythagorean system of the transmigration of souls. On these doctrines, however, he engrafted some of his own, the most remarkable of which was, that the most complete manifestations of the Divinity were made in the persons of holy men. * The great opponent of Bāzīd was Akhūnd Darwezah, the greatest and most venerated of all the saints of Afghānistān, who, in derision of the title of Pīr Roshān, or Apostle of Light, which Bāzīd had himself assumed, conferred on him the name of Pīr Tārik, or Apostle of Darkness, by which name he is now chiefly known.
Mīrzā, was a great traveller, and was well known from Herāt to Agra, throughout the Afghān country, and also in India; for he himself had numerous disciples in the mountainous parts of Afghānistān—from Suwāt and Bājawrr, north of Peshāwar, as far as Ḳandahār and Herāt. He dwelt for a long period in the Rājpūt state of Rājwārrā or Rājpūtānah, in Hindūstān, the Rājā of which country, although a Hindū, ever treated him with great
veneration and liberality. The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, also, in whose reign Mīrzā flourished, allowed him a regular stipend. The Emperor, however, was a great bigot, and, as is well known, was entirely in the hands of the priesthood; and, consequently, on more than one occasion, at the instigation of some of them more ignorant and bigoted than others, Mīrzā was summoned by the monarch, to answer accusations of heresy and blasphemy, preferred against him at their instigation. The Emperor, with all his bigotry, appears, however, to have had some scruples of conscience; and, generally, had some plausible excuse to save Mīrzā from their clutches, and himself from a bad name. The only reply the Mulls, or priests, could draw from the monarch, who is famous for personally administering justice, was, that they should enter into disputation with the accused, and if anything contrary to the
lip orthodox laws of Muḥammad could be drawn from him, he would then consent to punish Mīrzā, but not otherwise. Notwithstanding Mīrzā's enemies were thirsting for his blood, still they could not succeed in drawing him into the snare they had spread for him; and the poet, very prudently, retired from the scene, fearing lest, at some time or other, they might be more successful in their machinations, and bring him to destruction; for, according to the well known Oriental proverb—"Kings and rulers have neither eyes nor ears; and between truth and falsehood they are incapable of discerning; for the words of a few designing men being sufficient to make the innocent guilty, the unfortunates are plunged into the calamity of destruction." Mira, on this account, generally confined himself, when in India, to the territories of the independent or tributary Hindū princes, by whom he was honoured and respected.
The poems of Mīrzā contain many Arabic and Persian words, which most Oriental poets freely use; but his Pushto is very ancient, particularly in words used amongst the hill tribes of
[paragraph continues] Eastern Afghānistān, in his day, and which are not generally understood by the people of the present time, together with some words purely Sanskrit; but these latter usually occur in the last words of a line, when at a loss for a rhyme, in which very great licence is taken and allowed, by poets, in all Oriental countries, without such words being common to the language, or used in conversation by the people. Some of the philosophers of the present day, in their blind rage for comparative philology—the hobby they ride for the time being—based merely on their own superficially theoretical, and not practical knowledge of Oriental languages and subjects—would probably consider this use of some pure Sanskrit words as conclusive and undeniable evidence to prove the Pushto or Afghān language, of the Sanskrit family of tongues. They seem to forget that all those parts of Central Asia, now called Afghānistān, from Kabūl eastward, were, even in the days of Alexander, peopled by a Hindū race, remnants of whom, existing even at the present day, lived as Helots among the Greeks, to their various Muḥammadan conquerors, of whom the Afghāns are the most recent, the Afghān tribes of the Peshāwar district, and its northern vicinity more particularly, having arrived in those parts as recently as the beginning of the sixteenth century. They, as will also be seen from the languages of many other conquering tribes, adopted, for convenience sake, some few words of the people they conquered. However, the Sanskrit in Mīrzā's poems may be accounted for, from the fact of his long residence amongst Hindū people.
The poetry of Mīrzā is deeply tinged with the mysticisms of the Ṣūfis, and, to some extent, with the religious tenets of his ancestor Pīr Roshān. His effusions are, certainly, more difficult than that of any other poet, from the fact of their being (as I think will be allowed) more sublime, and grander in conception.
It is said that Mīrzā, in the latter years of his life, married and
settled in the Tī-rāh district, lying immediately to the south of the famous Khaibar Pass, and ignored the Roshānīān faith, which in his more youthful days he had adopted, and manifested great repentance for every thing he had written or said, contrary to the sharæ, or orthodox canons of the Muḥammadan creed. On this account, he soon became great with the ecclesiastics of Peshāwar—a city, in those days, as famous as Bokhārā itself for theological learning—and thenceforth was held in high estimation by them. His descendants, on this account, are still greatly respected by the Muḥammadans of those parts, whether Afghāns or others.
Nothing is known, for certain, regarding the death of Mīrzā; for he passed a great portion of his life in Hindūstān, and must have ended his days in that country. * His descendants still dwell in the Tī-rāh district, amongst the clan of Mī-ān Khel, and have the repute of being quiet and well behaved. There is generally one of the family who follows the life of an ascetic; and is allowed, by the simple people, to have the power of working miracles.
52:* Elphinstone: Caubul.
55:* A person named Mīrzā, son of Nūr-ud-Dīn, one of the sons of Pīr Roshān, lived in Shāh Jahān's reign, and was killed at the battle of Dawlatābād.