The two Urdu poets Shah Siraj and Mah Laqa Bai Chand lived separate lives in the Deccan during the eighteenth century. In When Sun Meets Moon, they are brought together in the realm of literary imagination. Through a comparison of their work, this book illustrates complexity of gender, sexuality, and religious practice in Islamic culture.
Shah Siraj (1715–1763), whose name means "Sun," lived in Aurangabad; he was a Sunni Muslim who, after a youthful love affair, gave up sexual relationships to follow Sufi mysticism. Mah Laqa Bai Chanda (1768–1820), whose name means "Moon," lived in Hyderabad; she was a Shi'i Muslim and courtesan who combined the seduction of men with the pursuit of mystical love. Both poets specialized in the ghazal, often fusing spiritual quest with erotic imagery.
This book features Kugle's translations of Urdu and Persian poetry previously unavailable in English. Kugle argues that Shah Siraj and Mah Laqa Bai were exceptions to the gender norms common in their patriarchal society. Their poetry helps us understand the reach and the limitations of gender roles and erotic imagery in Islamic and Indian culture. This study also shows how poetry, music, and dance are integral to Islamic devotional traditions.
This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of gender studies, comparative religion, Urdu poetry and Islamic studies.
Scott Kugle is Associate Professor of South Asian and Islamic Studies at Emory University
Translation and Transliteration from Urdu and Persian
1. Celestial Bodies Seen from Deccan Soil
First Orbit—Siraj the Sun
2. Siraj’s Bewilderment
3. Siraj’s Silence
4. Eros and Spirit
5. Poetry as Music
6. Transit—When Sufis Meet ‘Shi‘is’
Second Orbit—Mah Laqa the Moon
7. Mah Laqa Bai’s Radiance
8. Mah Laqa Bai’s Men
9. Mah Laqa Bai’s Shame
10. The Performance of Gender
11. Mah Laqa Bai’s True Love
Conjunction—When Sun Meets Moon