Urdu

Khalifa Abdul Hakim (1896-1959)

27 February 2012

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 (more…)

Taj Mahal – a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi (reposted)

25 October 2011

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! (more…)

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

9 October 2011

 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

 

(more…)

The lives of others

29 July 2011

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. (more…)

The tragic story of Urdu

29 July 2011

By Raza Rumi

What makes translating Urdu literature a rare indulgence has also kept it closeted from global appreciation.

Ralph Russell, the legendary British scholar of Urdu literature, whose tireless efforts to explore the Byzantine layers of Urdu will always serve as a reference point for global Urdu-walas, once summed up the eternal dilemma of achieving a perfect translation of Urdu literature into English. He pointed out that the work of Indian and Pakistani translators suffered from a lack of command in either language. “The English-knowing products of what in India and Pakistan are generally called ‘convent schools’ have acquired their nearly (but not quite) perfect English at the cost of losing full command of their mother tongue,” he wrote in 1996.

This is not to say that translations of Urdu literature have not been accomplished. In fact, there are many 20th century writers whose works have been translated by competent men and women. Key examples are the translations of the short stories of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai. Their poignant and non-conformist writings have found a wide readership in predominantly English-reading Indian middle classes and western readers attempting to understand the nuances of South Asia’s literary output. The contribution of The Annual of Urdu Studies – edited by Muhammad Umar Memon and published every year from the US – has been immense in this regard. Some writers and poets whose works have been translated include Abdullah Hussein, Patras Bukhari, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Ghulam Abbas, Hajra Masroor, Premchand, Qudratullah Shahab, Intizar whose contribution and devotion to the translation of Urdu literature remains unparalleled and who has provided fine examples of literary translations, leaving out no major contemporary Urdu writer. His academic journal, The Annual of Urdu Studies, continues to publish translated works from Urdu every year.

Literary magazines are a great introduction to young and fresh voices in Urdu. One can observe a constant process of experimentation in language and expression. Short story writer Ali Akbar Natiq, one of Urdu’s most important new voices, and Mohammad Khalid Toor, who is critical newly- rediscovered voice, have been introduced to readers by Urdu literary magazines. (more…)

Waiting for the Tomorrow’s Happy Dawn – Ali Sardar Jafri

24 August 2010

I had posted Ali Sardar Jafri’s lovely poem and now a reader Farah Aziz directed me to this blog where a beautiful translation of the poem has been shared.

The setting imperial sun
broke into two parts
On this very Border, yesterday.
The dawn of freedom was wounded
On this very Border, yesterday.
This is the Border of blood,
Tears, sights, and sparks,
Where we had sown hatred
And reaped a harvest of swords.
Here, stars struggled
In the eyes of dear ones.
Here, beloved faces
Flickered in streams of tears.
Here, a mother lost her sons,
A brother, his sister.
This border thrives on blood,
Breathes flames of despise
She slithers like a snake
On the bosom of our land.
She comes to the battlefield
Crested with all her weapons .

I stand on this Border
Waiting for the Tomorrow’s  Happy Dawn.

Manmohan Singh’s ignorance

18 August 2010

Manmohan Singh whom I have always held in high regard, disappointed millions in South Asia with his distastefully ill-timed hard talk during his Independence day address. As if Pakistan’s current misery was a time to blow India’s trumpet. He surely was also unaware of what his patriotic Indian poet, Ali Sardar Jafri had written years ago -Dialogue Souldn’t Cease. Here is an Urdu version with a full translation. Perhaps, someone should pass a copy of this poem to the exalted Prime Minister of India.

GUFTGOO BAnD NA HO
BAAT SE BAAT CHALEY
SUBH TAK SHAAM-E-MULAAQAAT CHALEY
HUM PE HAnSTI HUEE
YE TAAROn BHARI RAAT CHALEY (more…)

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