Difference between Ghazal and Nazm by Irfan Ahmed

Literature is aesthetic, and poetry is aesthetic literature. It utilizes the rhythmic qualities of language to enhance the meaning of prose. Poetry has a long history, probably as long as history itself.

There is probably no language in the world in which poetry has not been composed. However, Urdu poetry holds a special place among them all. The popularity of Urdu poetry may be partly attributed to the number of people who can understand Urdu in the world (even if they cannot read or write it), and partly to the fact that Urdu poetry is a part of life among these people, irrespective of class or educational level.

However, the main reason for the popularity of Urdu poetry is its rhythmic nature, and inherent beauty. Prose expressed in poetic form elevates it to a whole new level. Another big reason for the popularity of Urdu poetry is its proponents. There is a colossal list of iconic Urdu poets, whose works simply refuse to fade away.

Urdu poetry is found in a number of forms. These forms or classifications include ghazal, hamd, manqabat, marsiya, nazm, qaseeda, na’at, etc. The two most popular forms (currently) of Urdu poetry are ghazal and nazm.

The basic building block of a ghazal is a verse or couplet, called as sher. Each ghazal must have at least four to five verses. In the case of a ghazal, each verse is independent, has its own theme, and is complete individually. The verses in a ghazal may or may not be related to each other. However, the verses must rhyme with each other, and must have a common refrain.

Ghazal writing has some restrictions, or a set of rules. Each verse of the ghazal should have the same meter (meter is the length and tuning pattern of the ghazal, called as wazn), which ensure that both the lines of a sher must have the same number of huroof (Urdu alphabets). The first two lines (or the first verse) of the ghazal is called the matla. The matla decides the radeef and qaafiya of the ghazal, which has to be maintained throughout. The poet may add his/her takhallus (pen name) in any verse of the ghazal, in which case that verse is called as maqta.

As an example, consider the ghazal ‘Ek Lafz Mohabbat ka Masoom Fasana Hai’, by Okasha Momin, published in the Poetry section of The Beam Magazine.

Ek Lafz Mohabbat ka Masoom Fasana Hai by Okasha Momin

The first two lines of this ghazal are:

Ek lafz Mohabbat ka masoom fasana hai

Masoom se do dil hain, zalim yeh zamana hai.

The above two lines constitute a sher (couplet), wherein each line of the sher is called a misraa. These two lines are the matla of the ghazal. They have decided the qaafiya of the ghazal (fasana, zamana) as well as the radeef (hai). Note that the qaafiya and radeef have been maintained throughout the ghazal. Each verse of the ghazal has a penultimate word that rhymes with the qaafiya (manana, fasana, suhana,…); whereas the final word in each verse is same as the radeef (hai).

The last two lines of the ghazal are:

Aye ‘ankabut’ bas kar lafzon ki sahar kaari

Dunya ko hai khabar tu Urdu ka diwana hai.

This is the maqta of the ghazal, in which the poet has added his takhallusankabut’. The maqta also maintains the qaafiya and radeef  established in the matla.

A nazm on the other hand is like a rhythmic story. It has the same theme throughout. There is a central idea or concept, and each verse of the nazm logically builds up that concept. There are no rules or restrictions with respect to the rhyming scheme; nor are there any restrictions on the meter. A nazm would definitely be better if consideration is given to the meter and rhyming scheme, but there is no restriction as such. There is also no compulsion to add maqta and matla.

The inherent format of the ghazal makes it convenient to be expressed as a song; whereas it is difficult to sing out a nazm, it is typically read out or recited. When writing these down, the verses of a ghazal are separated by introducing space between them; whereas no spaces are introduced among the verses in a nazm. Nazm has many different formats of writing scheme; it can be written as line by line, or it can be written in the form of a ghazal, or it can be written in a bunch of 4-5 lines called as band.

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