The Face of Your Lord, translated by Lucas Omar Ali-Hassan

We shall see, oh yes, we shall see,
That promised day, which will be seen by us.
Which has been etched into the tablet of eternity.
When the enormous mountains of tyranny
Will be blown away just as a cotton wool is;
When we, the oppressed,
Will have our feet crushed on this endlessly beat-beating earth;
When the heads of our rulers
Will have the thunderclap-clapping lightning on them;
When from the Lord’s seat on earth every idol
Will be eliminated;
When we, the pure of heart, rejected from the sanctuary,
Will be reinstated on the rightful throne.
Every crown will be lifted.
Every throne will be brought down.
Only God’s name will continue;
Both who is unseen and is also present;
Both who is the view and is also the viewer;
When that ‘I am the Truth’ call will rise
That which is me and that which is you too.
And the king will rule the Lord’s creation
That which is me and that which is you too.

 

Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s powerful poem was brought to the world’s attention by Iqbal Bano, who referred to it in a speech with regards to its message of resistance and defiance. In order to develop a translation which best captured the poet’s intent, I had to consider his use of onomatopoeia and repetition, as well as the religious context. Verbs are duplicated, which aside from altering their meaning allows for onomatopoeia and emphasis. As such, I have translated one example of this as ‘beat-beating earth’. This technique allows for an emotive quality, which serves to rally the audience to fight their oppressors. In addition to this the poet emphasises the importance of the struggle by emphasising its religious nature, employing images which reflect important concepts in Islamic eschatology. The reference to ‘that promised day’ conveys the idea that the cause will succeed and bring upon God’s perfection in the world. ‘The tablet of eternity’ refers to the eternal slate on which the destiny of the whole universe from start to finish has been recorded. I chose this translation because it presents the concept in terms which are understandable for an English-speaking audience. The line about God’s seat on earth refers to the Kaaba, the geographical point which unites all Muslims. The poet creates a sense of contrast by comparing the suffering of the present to the better times to come. This is achieved by the use of numerous temporal clauses, featuring such changes as the reinstation of the rejected. Verbs in the future tense are found at the end of each, as is natural in Urdu, and by changing the lineation such that the words ‘when’ and ‘will’ alternately open each line, I allowed for this sense of patterned contrast to transfer over into my translation.

 

Original poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz