I published this article originally on my blog on Thursday, 14th August 2014. However, I am republishing it here with additions and changes to the original article, as an updated version.

This article is about one of the greatest Poet-Philosopher of the Pashto language- Khan Abdul Ghani Khan (1914-1996). However, this article will not shed light on his life and times but rather focus will be on his message and philosophy that he revealed through his works, which is a treasure of wisdom for the true knowledge seeker. While his works have been translated yet I, being a true admirer of his works, would like to expand on his philosophy to the extent possible through this article. However, I will remain concentrated on one poem and try to expand the meaning of the philosophy contained within it and not any of his other works in order to keep this article from going beyond the length that it already has. 

Link for the original article: https://theorthodox.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/why-did-you-give-me-the-power-of-why/


I have recently read another gem by the great philosopher-poet, writer, painter and sculptor of the Khyber who happened to have matured his writing, both poetry and prose, due to the hardships and events that befell him in his life. He is widely considered as the best Pashto poet of the 20th century. He has written on social philosophy and the philosophies of beauty and love in his genius writing style, which is by far, unmatched and unique in its own mannerisms; throughout Pashto poetry.  

I am convinced that there are some events and some incidence in a man’s life that make him whatever he becomes and hence we are all but prisoners of our destiny. We must then learn from everything and anything that comes before us and try to gain at least something, which might be either joyous or miserable for joy and misery alike are in turn teachers of life.

Such events and happenstance, shape up a writer, mature his pen, for it is not possible for one to write about life and its atrocities without having gone through them oneself. Wisdom ripens with age. While one can learn from merely thinking and imagination yet it requires observation (from both a personal and a general world view) and experience to confirm such learning and this, in actuality, preserves within it a comprehensive embodiment of knowledge and its repeated occurrence ripens with age and maturity resulting in wisdom. This, in fact, is the short story of life and a philosophy I have discovered. So this being something that cannot be appreciated otherwise- there is only one way to learn it- and that is the hard way.

I personally believe that Ghani Khan’s poetry, paintings and sculptures depict life as it befell him, through the goggle of hardship, perhaps physical as well as psychological, that he had to undergo. Atrocities by the state, plight of the Pashtoons, being jailed for his ideas for years, the death of his mother when he was 6 years old and the agony of the death of his son gave his poetry a philosophical colour which became a hallmark of his literary persona. A peasant killed Ghani’s son Fareedon Khan. Though the incident shook him greatly, he pardoned his son’s killer even though he was in a position of a fair revenge and this I personally believe reveals a lot about his personality as well as his thoughts and philosophy.

After this little introduction I will reproduce one of his great poems 'O Lord, Why!' hereunder with an English translation followed by my commentary on its philosophy in my humble effort to raise awareness about Ghani Khan and his poetry. He surely was a true legendary poet-philosopher of the Pashto language who belonged to the Utmanzai village of Hashtnagar now called Charsadda district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan.

Khydaya Walle- O Lord Why

Wa Khudaya Aqal che o, zra de walle rake? 

Pa yao mulk ke dwa khud-sarey Badshahan?

O Lord, why give me a heart when I had mind (wisdom)?

(Its like) Two selfish Kings in a singular kingdom.

Badshahi ao faqeeri de walle yao kra?

da Jwandoon pa hara saa ke marg pinhaan?

Why have you made Kingship and Beggary the same?

In every breath of life, death awaits.

Walle gham laka asmaan pa jahaan khor de?

Wa Khudaya walle khushali de kra nayaba?

Why sorrow looms over the world like the sky?

Why have You made happiness so rare?

Walle jor de kral nangi da gul da panro?

Khudaya walle nasha ye bya ye da sharaba?

 Why have you made (my beloved’s) cheeks out of flower petals

Lord why then her intoxication like wine

Walle rung ao Khaish de dwanra wror ao khor kra?

Walle walle de jahaan kro dak pa rung…?

Why have you made colour and beauty siblings?

Why-o-why did you fill the world with colour?

Walle kunr de walle za pa jahaan na kram?

Khudya walle de awaz kro post da chang?

Why was I not born deaf to the world?

Lord why is the voice of 'chang' so sweet?

Walle de mata de ata kro fikr-o-khyal?

Walle walle pa ranra wrazey khobuna?

Why have you granted me thinking and imagination?

Why o why then all the day dreaming?

Khudaya walle de zwani har cha la warka?

Khudaya walle de paida kral Umeedona?

O Lord, why did you give youth to everyone?

O Lord, why did you create hope?

Walle jor de da yar stargo ke jannat?

Walle trikh de kro beltoon ao khog visaal?

Why did you place heaven in my beloved’s eyes?

Why have you made separation bitter and union sweet?

Khudaya walle de spogmay la ranra warkra?

Che zangayi me da mastey pa maheen taal?

O Lord, why have you given the moon its shine?

It rocks me a delicate swing of ecstasy.

Walle jor de kra azghi da gul pa khwa ke?

Walle zra me paak o, jism me na, walle?

Why have you created thornes near the flower?

Why my heart was pure by not my body, why?

Walle ma la de da “Walle” taaqat rakro?

Khudaya walle? Khudaya walle, Khudaya walle?

Why have you given me the power of ‘Why’?

O Lord Why, O Lord Why, O Lord Why?

In this poem Ghani is trying to put a metaphysical question before God and is asking Him as to why did he give humans the power to ask Why? If that would not have been the case, life might have been a simpler business. There might have not been any thinking and thinkers and the world would have moved according to His wishes without people questioning anything. He contests that all that is done in this world is through the power to question why. However, he being one of the great thinkers is not trying to prove that the power to question why is a bad thing yet he is using this as a metaphor to enable the readers in understanding that the power to question WHY is the biggest gift given to mankind by God. We learn things because we question, we understand things because we ask why. There might not have been any evolution in this world if man could not question why whatever happened, happened.

The opening of the poem is worthy of a discussion here given that he tells God that if He had given humans the mind then why did he give the humans the heart. If we had the mind, it was enough, there was no need for the heart. Since these two opposites always create trouble and are like two kings in a singular kingdom of the human self. The mind uses logic and reason in understanding things and taking actions that are rational and logically stable, however, the heart on the other hand, uses emotion, love and a force beyond logic and reason for taking action. Therefore, he contests that these two opposites are enclosed in the human body or self and create a diversified opposition within man to the way he sees things around him and takes actions in his lifetime.

He continues to question God and says why did you make happiness and misery and even if you did, why is it that the man’s life is full of misery and happiness is for but a few moments only. Here he indicates that the days of happiness in life are numbered whereas the tragedy looms over him like the sky over us. And I personally think he is very right for if we think on it a bit, we find out that we easily forget the happy days but it takes a lifetime to forget misery. Hence happiness is limited and misery is in abundance. He then questions why did God give man thinking and imagination and if He did, why did He create day dreaming meaning that if thinking and imagination is there, it will cause people to dream and man will create an ideal world around him but then the realities of the world shatter his dreams, at times, and he comes to know the real world; which is unlike his imaginary and thought out world. Hence this is, like the war of the mind and heart, a complete opposite to reality too. Asking things like creating thrones near flowers he again signifies the hardships of life within its pleasures. 

He says that if he were born deaf to the world he would not have seen its beauty and heard its sweet sounds and that it would have been easier for him to accept its atrocities and anguish. Hence he questions God on the creation of opposites, which on the other hand, is the very thing that enables us in understanding the world around us.

I mean, we know light through darkness. If there was no darkness we might never have understood light. Similarly, we understand happiness because of misery. If there was no tragedy, what joy would have been there in happiness and how would happiness have been defined. Similarly, beauty and love need their opposites to comprehend their actuality and value. Hence if the absence of one that makes us realize the presence of another- opposites are essential to life. Love could not have been understood in the absence of anger. He is trying to enable us to fathom that all the things are essential to life, the opposites that he is questioning is done for the sake of realizing their importance to life. Similarly, the creation of thrones near flowers and having a pure heart and body not pure ,carry the same philosophical value.

Another thing that he questions also shows the misery of his life as well as a reality when he asks that why did You create youth in life and why did you create hope.  Had that not been there, he would not have known what youth is in his old age, and may not have had dreams or hope and might never have seen them getting shattered. This again revolves around the point discussed above that we understand youth due to old age and dreams can only be comprehended by them getting shattered for fulfilled dreams become achievements. 

In the end, he puts the biggest question of them all, which truly puts perspective on the metaphysical reality of existence as he asks rather pleads God by asking why did you give me the power of 'Why'. If that was not there, I might not have been a thinker and the one who ponders and might have led an easy, simple, fulfilling life.

Published by Q. M. Sidd