‘Jesus Was A Pure Spirit’: Celebrating Christmas With Sahir Ludhianvi’s Poem
Jesus Christ could not celebrate his birthday because he had no birthday.
In the year 354, the Christians of Rome decided that he had been born on December 25, today.
That was the day the pagans of the north of the world celebrated the passing of the longest night of the year and the arrival of the sun god, who came to end the darkness.
The sun god came to Rome from Persia.
He had been called Mitra.
Then he was called Jesus.
Be that it may, Urdu poetry at least has had its fair share of commemorations and celebrations of Jesus Christ. From the icons of Urdu poetry like Ghalib and Iqbal to modern Progressive greats of the 20th century like Kaifi Azmi and Mustafa Zaidi, the sense of ownership and appropriation of Christ is remarkable.
However, perhaps the greatest sense of ownership comes from the great progressive poet and film lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. In his poem Maseeh Paak Rooh The (Jesus Was A Pure Spirit), he invokes Jesus’s spirit to remark that Jesus died for the sins of humanity; and that humanity, mired in sin does not deserve this kind of redemption from Christ. Sahir says in the opening stanza:
‘Maseeh be-gunaah the
Magar unhen bhi kia mila.
Yahi ke apne vaaste saleeb khud utha ke lao
Aur apne qaatilon ki khvaahish-e-sitam ke kaam aao
Aur jo hum gunaah chor den, hamen milega kya batao
Ke hum Maseeh bhi nahi.
Sahir’s poem was published after his untimely death in 1980 by his sister Sarwar Shafi in a book of her brother’s unpublished poetry in November 1998. My humble original translation of the full poem is given below. It is not only a timely commemoration of Jesus Christ on the festive occasion of Christmas today but offers a new insight into the oeuvre of Sahir, just three months away from his birth centenary next March.
Jesus was innocent
But even then what did he get.
Just that go bear your cross yourself
And honour his murderers’ desire for injustice
Should we leave sin, what will we get, tell
That we are not even Jesus.
In Paradise neither Adam nor Eve could remain pure
The angels left them on this earth
What is our life indeed? Punishment for their crime
It began with a sin, ended with a sin
There the sin was passion, here it is helplessness
For a short life’s sake
Here there are merely two ways to take
One is the way of sin, the other is suicide
Which itself is a sin.
People surrounding us are all sinners
They are all evildoers.
We belong to their race
Not to God’s race
So what if we sinned?
For we are not even Jesus.
Jesus was a pure spirit
Jesus was innocent.
The writer, is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic, and an award-winning translator based in Lahore. He is currently the President of the Progressive Writers Association in Lahore. He can be reached at: [email protected]