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“Remembering Intizar Husain”

Raza Rumi remembers Intizar Husain as a colossus of letters, but also as a formative influence for himself
ishtiaq1

(L-R) Jamila Hashmi, Intizar Husain, Masood Ashar and Kishwar Naheed

I remember the languid afternoon in Lahore when I met Intizar Husain surrounded by his friends and admirers. This formal introduction happened as poet-writer Fahmida Riaz was visiting Lahore and wanted to see Intizar Sahib – as we all called him. This was nearly a decade ago and my memory of that meeting is a bit hazy. All I remember is that Intizar Sahib showed extraordinary enthusiasm when he heard my name.

Arrey I have been reading you in The Friday Times”, he said. Bewildered, I thought that he was trying to humour a young novice with literary pretensions. Noticing my maladroit attempt to hide my expression, he added in chaste, homely Urdu: “I had thought that this guy Rumi was some old man writing about the shared cultures of the subcontinent…Aap tau naujawan nikle (you turned out to be a youth).”

In those days, I was regular feature writer at TFT and had penned many a rant on the civilisational ethos of the Indian Subcontinent that has fast eroded in the past few decades. Little did I know that it would be noted by – of all the readers – Urdu’s master fiction writer and columnist, essayist and a critic!

ishtiaq2Intizar Sahib had resisted the temptations of turning into a cult figure, a pop star or a pir

This was a moment of reckoning for me. I was but a pygmy in front of this literary giant and man of all proverbial seasons. Hearing his acknowledgment was a kind of homecoming – a process that continues, distracted by the necessities of garnering jobs and nurturing pretenses of a ‘career’. Among other reasons to change direction in my life, perhaps Intizar Sahib was a major reason. His encouragement – to an utterly unimaginative person like me – acted as an elixir.

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Counter Terrorism by Urdu Literature

I partiicpated in a VOA show with Ayesha Siddiqa and Wusatullah Khan hosted by Tabinda Naeem on language, literature and current trends.


Raza Rumi on countring terrorism by […]

‘Hum Bhatak bhi Gaye au Kia Hoga’

After a long time, I attempted to write a poem. Here it is – pretty raw and unpolished. Will translate it later for readers who may not understand the language. It is entitled —
(so what […]

November 12th, 2014|Personal, Poetry, Urdu, Urdu Literature|2 Comments

Khalifa Abdul Hakim (1896-1959)

For years I had been planning to write about Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakim (1896-1959), the great philosopher and intellectual of the twentieth century. Last year, I had ventured to review his famous Urdu translation of the ancient Hindu text Bhagavad Gita. Given the range of Hakim’s thought and accomplishments, I must admit it took me years to get acquainted with his intellectual legacy. He was never taught in our schools and the education system rarely found space for his eclectic and progressive corpus of intellectual investigation. Pakistan as a country is simply ‘anti-intellectual’.

Much has been said about the low priority we accord to humanities and liberal arts and especially with respect to discourses on contemporary Islam. No point in reiterating all those tedious arguments and tragic examples. Imagine if Hakim had translated Bhagavad Gita in the twenty first century Pakistan, where militant outfits preach hatred against India and Mumtaz Qadris are celebrated, he would have been branded as an infidel for promoting the sacred texts of ‘kaafirs’. Such is the rot of our present. Given the parochial education system and the monopoly of televangalists on national television, Hakim’s message and ideas can constitute footnotes of history. This is why I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the new website that his distinguished daughter Prof Rafia Hasan has created. Internet is already changing the way we function, think and see the world. Henceforth, the portal www.khalifaabdulhakim.com will provide free access to the published works of Hakim saheb. Hopefully, this will allow young Pakistanis to read and refer to his works, especially the ones in Urdu which have been uploaded in a user-friendly format and enable effortless reading.

His book Iqbal aur Mullah

His book Iqbal aur Mullah

Hakim received his doctorate in Philosophy from Heidelberg University, Germany. A Kashmiri by origin and a native of Lahore, he spent most of his working life in Hyderabad Deccan where he was a professor and later Chairman of Department of Philosophy, Osmania University. His long career in academia started in 1918 when he was selected by Osmania University as a professor. During 1943-46, he also served on deputation as Principal Amarsingh College, Srinagar (Kashmir). In 1950, he was appointed as Director, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore and held that position till his death. Hakim was also elected as the General President for the fist session of Pakistan Philosophical Congress in 1954; and was internationally renowned for his scholarship.It is said that Hakim had advised the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore in setting up a centre for Islamic research in ShantiNiketan. His extraordinary life was devoted to scholarship and he authored more than a dozen books and translated four from English and German on subjects which represented his key passions: progressive Islam, the spiritual-poetic universe of Rumi, Hafiz, Ghalib, Iqbal and the history of philosophy.

Hakim elucidates why Iqbal was opposed to the literalism and intellectual stagnation of clerics. In fact he makes a definitive comment that had Iqbal not died he would have been at odds with Mullahism

Hakim’s major works include ‘The Metaphysics of Rumi’, ‘Islamic Ideology’, and ‘Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his Mission’. A key work in his rich legacy was “Islam and Communism” published in 1951. Hakim was an ardent proponent of “Islamic socialism” which was later politicised and used as a slogan in the 1970s. In post-war India (during the 1940s) and post-1947 Pakistan, this was an important voice. In Hakim’s worldview, inherent to Islam’s message was social justice. While the religion allowed for limited competition and private property, it also laid down a framework for setting limits […]

Taj Mahal – a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi (reposted)

Today is Sahir Ludhianvi’s death anniversary. Am reposting this poem for the readers.

Sahir Ludhianvi’s immortal poem Taj Mahal has always fascinated me. It takes a most unconventional take at this beautiful monument where the poet protests at the choice of a romantic rendezvous.

Today, I found a lovely translation of this poem. I am reproducing it below – but first a few lines from Urdu:

Yeh chaman zar yeh jamna ka kinara yeh mahal
Yeh munaqqash dar-o-deevar yeh mehrab yeh taaq
Aik shahanshah nay daulat ka sahara lay ker
Hum ghareebon kee mohabbat ka uraya hai mazaaq

Taj Mahal

The Taj, mayhap, to you may seem, a mark of love supreme
You may hold this beauteous vale in great esteem;
Yet, my love, meet me hence at some other place! […]

October 25th, 2011|Arts & Culture, Poetry, Urdu, Urdu Literature|7 Comments

Sahir Ludhianvi’s poem composed on Ghalib’s centenary celebrations

 Sahir Ludhianvi laments the way Urdu was treated by Indian nation-state as it became alien overnight.

 

Ikees baras guzray aazadi-i-kaamil ko

Tab ja kay kahi’n hum ko Ghalib ka khayaal aaya

Turbat hai kaha’n us ki, maskan tha kaha’n uska

Ab apnay sukhan-parvar zahno’n may sawaal aaya

 

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October 9th, 2011|Arts & Culture, India, Poetry, Urdu|3 Comments

The lives of others

By Raza Rumi

The first half of the 20th century witnessed a transformation in Urdu literature with the emergence of the short story as the choicest medium of literary expression, reflecting the shifting contours of Indian society. Urdu was not a communal language then. The Muslims and Hindus of pre-1947 India preferred the language for its subtlety, richness and aesthetic qualities. This was the age of Prem Chand’s realism, the romanticism of Rajinder Singh Bedi and Krishna Chandar, the irony and brutal directness of Ismat Chughtai and Manto and of course the prescient visions of Ghulam Abbas.

 

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Coffee House By Irfan Javed Sang-e-Meel Publication, Lahore, 2011 Price Rs. 400

The art of storytelling and creating ‘real’ characters was a huge shift from the idyllic, escapist and courtly expression of the 18th and 19th centuries. These new storytellers were children of Syed Ahmad Khan, Hali, Shibli and the modernists who modernized the Urdu idiom and brought it closer to the people and their evolving everyday dialect, now interpreted as Hindustani. The 20th century was also a time of ideological upheavals and movements inspired by the October 1917 revolution, leading to the creation of the first Communist state. Therefore, the realism of later writers like Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi was inspired by the literary debates on what literature ought to be doing and saying. This genre of short story gradually gave way to post-Partition traumas and the emergence of other styles that relied on symbolism and allegory, especially when Pakistan was pushed into martial rule in the 1950s. […]

July 29th, 2011|books, Published in The Friday Times, Urdu, Urdu Literature|1 Comment