About Ghazal

A ghazal is a poem made up of couplets {Urdu: sing. sher, pl. ash’aar} – generally 5 or more couplets, such that

A. Structure

  1. All couplets are composed in the same metresee Note 1 {bah’r}
  2. All couplets have a common refrain word or phrase {radeef} at the end of the second line of each couplet; and generally both lines of the first couplet {matla}
  3. All couplets have a common rhyming word {qaafiya} immediately before the refrain {radeef}

B. Content

  1. The couplets may or may not be about the same subject or follow a flow of connected idea or ideas
  2. Each couplet of most well-known, popular ghazals is self-contained and can be read independentlysee Note 2 of the other couplets in the same ghazal. As such, the couplets are tied together only structurally through the metre {bah’r} and the refrain {radeef}
  3. Many poets include a reference to their pen name {taKhallus} in the last couplet {maqta} of the ghazal. This is done either by way of a wordplay on the pen name or by simply addressing the poet themself, typically in the third person. The poet may include a self-praising or self-deprecating note or a life lesson in this couplet, in either a humorous or sarcastic tone or a matter-of-factly way.


  1. Each ghazal uses one of the 18 prescribed metres that define the structure and length of the lines
  2. This is an important reason for the immense popularity of this poetry form, that the couplets can be read, recited or quoted independently of the full ghazal