Funda on Fanah

Guest Blog 4 – Anand Chandrasekharan

Just like a book on Oprah’s list suddenly sees sales go through the roof, words used in a Rahman song suddenly come find themselves in vogue. Fanah may have come into popular conversation that way, but it actually has both spiritual and philosophical meaning in Islam.

One of the early Islamic writers (Ghazzali) used Fanah in the Ihya to refer to self-actualization, in a Buddhistic Nirvana Sense. In the state of Fanah, the individual loses the person in the temporal world. This kind of writing met with opposition from some interpreters, who claimed that such a moral world had never existed except in the Quran.

The general theme of the song, that love leads to a higher plane (a la Piravi pizhai, kadhal thirutham) resonates with Ghazzali’s writings, which says that an understanding and following of the Tawhidi in daily life, leads to the state of Fanah.

There you have it! When Vairamuthu says Yakkai thiri, Kadhal Sudar (My body the wick, your love the flame!), we know nothing can follow but Fanah!… It probably also explains why, this is one of those rare occasions when it’s hard to come up with a single word in Tamil which conveys the same meaning (and hence the Urdu word is re-used in the Tamil version).

13 responses to “Funda on Fanah”

  1. Nakkal Nagarajan Avatar

    Yes Anand, you are correct. Same also goes for Dil Se & Uyire songs…though Vairamuthu lyrics were fantastic, in some of the songs, failed to catch up with Urdu equivalent…like in ‘Ae ajnabi’ song, “Mein adhoora, thu adhoori jee rahein hain” , in Tamil, it is completely different “Oyum jeevan, oyum munnay ododi vaa”.
    Urdu one says we live an imcomplete life, and says nothing about living, existence or termination, but in Tamil, it clearly says termination if not attained…
    The urdu ones leave it to listeners imagination and tends to hit their soul.


  2. be Avatar



  3. Balaji Avatar

    Gulzar’s lyrics in “saathiyaa” is superb.
    One line which i like is “Phoolen me math jaana”(it is in Sathiyaa song sung by sonu nigam), it says if u go in between the flowers, i cannot distinguish which s flower and which is u…….wow a complete knockout lyrics


  4. ripples Avatar

    Very interesting observation! And agree with Nagarajan about “Mein Adhura too adhuri”.


  5. Anand C Avatar
    Anand C

    Thanks Ripples and Natarajan. You are right about Dil Se, and Urdu’s leaning on audience interpretation of lyrics.


  6. aNTi Avatar

    What about Satrangi re… which i think was the most poetic of dil se’s numbers! Had one of Ghalib’s gems as a recurring theme. But u know what, I found this surprising comment on while refering to Dil Se – “The album features few beautiful songs but overall album is not that good what is expected with such big names. The music is good in ‘Tukdaa’s”. And I am not sure whether i agree with this statement!


  7. Maran Avatar

    I’m sure there is a word in Tamil that can substitute “Fanah”.


  8. Nakkal Nagarajan Avatar

    Mr. Anand, I am Nagarajan not Natarajan…Natarajan is a deadly word in TN Political circles, usually the word ‘Sasikala’ accompanies as a qualifier…I am yet to graduate to that level. ‘Nakkal’ is my qualifier.
    Mr. Maran, there may be substitution, but not equivalent. Not to take credit away from Vairamuthu, VM sir does write good lyrics, but the veechu in Urdu fails to come out. VM has lost his sting, now a days he is a mere ‘Kanakku vaadhyaar’ rolling out table after tables…
    You must read some of Abdul Raguman’s translations of Urdu poems. They try their maximum, but the uyirppu is so much visible in the Urdu nugget.
    ‘Fanah’ is agony and ecstasy state of mind.


  9. Anand C Avatar
    Anand C

    Oops, my bad…well, now I not only know that right, but also know where your ‘first name’ comes from 😉


  10. Manoj Avatar

    Hah,ppl coming up with so much explanations on ‘Fanah’…great,Thanx Anand for the info.

    But a layman will just hum it as yet another cacophony thrown to fill the tune space in songs…


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