Ghalib – 14: Who Goes to Heaven?

Last week we left off with the comment that Ghalib did not have a high opinion of people who thought they would go to heaven. Here is the she’r we had in mind:

kam nahiiN jalvah-garii meN tire kuuche se bihisht
yihii naqshah hai vale is qadar aabaad nahiiN

it’s not less in splendor than your street, paradise –
the layout is the same, but it is not as flourishing

The following interpretation by Faruqi explains it best:

“Those who long for paradise, and those who enter it — the poor things are dried-out ascetics. Little do they know that paradise is present in the world itself. Only a handful of fools follow them on the road to paradise. The axis of the people is the beloved’s street.”

The underlying question is: Who goes to heaven?

Ghalib is quite consistent in voicing his opinion that those who are absolutely sure they would go to heaven and everyone else would go to hell are quite insufferable.

Is Ghalib correct in his opinion? What is it that merits the reward of paradise?

It is relevant to note here that Ghalib had no doubt that he himself would go to heaven:

kyaa hii rizvaaN se laRaaii hogii
ghar tiraa khuld meN gar yaad aayaa

what a fight there will be with Rizvan
if your house, in Paradise, would come to mind

Josh has the following interpretation:

“Two things in this verse are very praiseworthy. One is that the poet has complete confidence about going to Paradise. The second is that in Paradise he has no hope of seeing the radiance and flourishingness of the beloved’s house.”

I am reminded of the story, perhaps apocryphal, of the Inca king who was condemned to death by the Dominican friars from Spain for refusing to convert to Christianity. At the moment of death, the king was given one last chance with the consolation that he would go to heaven if changed his mind. The king refused with the following words:

“I do not wish to go to your heaven because there I would meet more people like you.”

Can your heaven be different from mine? And what if I find your heaven unattractive? Do I really wish to run into you again in paradise? You and paradise?

For another take on these issues see the discussion on Mehr-e-Niimroz.

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