Remembering Noon Meem Rashid: Abstractionist Par Excellence

Rashid is a dream maker and dream seller. Many critics over time have tried to contend with his abstractedness. His universalism is a panacea to the ills from which humanity has been suffering from since the creation of time. He grapples with the themes of God and Man, life and death …

The evolution of thought in philosophical poetry surfaces frequently, infrequently and unexpectedly in the lives of individuals. Yet in the case of Nazar Muhammad Rashid alias Noon Meem Rashid, it was continuous with no sign of intermittence by filling all his mental voids. A pioneer of free Urdu poetic verses (Azad Nazm), Rashid has remained an enduring favourite among Urdu poetry lovers all over the world. The manner in which he hued his poetry with modern Persian vocabulary is a manifestation of his flawless mastery over Urdu and Persian and this vocabulary appears in post-modern classical usages which are hitherto unobserved. Noon Meem Rashid is a very difficult poet to understand. Indeed, he avails himself of the language that is rich and adventurous. While delving into his poetry, one finds oneself in a stormy night. Rashid comes pouring down on the reader and soaks him in a blizzard of complex ideas. Rashid was born in Alipur Chattha, Gujranwala (then Akal Garh) in Punjab, British India on 1 August 1910.

He got his elementary education from Alipur Chatha. Later on, he got his masters degree from Government College, Lahore in Economics. After completing his education, he served for a short time in the Royal Indian Army during the Second World War, attaining the rank of Captain. He worked with All India Radio before Independence. After Independence, he worked with Radio of Pakistan in Peshawar till 1953. Later on, he worked with United Nations and retired Director of Press and Information Department in 1973. He died on 9 October 1975 in London due to cardiac arrest. Just bring into mind the titles of Rashid’s four collections: ماورا (The Beyond), لا= انسان (x= Human Being) and گماں کا ممکن (Possibility Inhering in Supposition) are mercilessly abstract with the exception of one; اجنبی ایران میں  (Stranger in Iran).

These titles seem to lift up in some kind of platonic world of ideas, beyond the annals of history and transcending sub-lunar realm of coming to-be and passing away progressively. What type of physical being inherently lies in these titles? Are they a mirage? Are they manifested through what turmoil and agonizing pains Rashid has been going through? His verses embody dream making and dream selling. His dreams cost not even a single penny and are available to everyone on earth irrespective of creed, colour, caste, religion and race. He dreams and speaks of humanity.

Rashid more or less grapples with universal themes in his poetry such as God and Man, life and death, here and hereafter, mortality and eternity, and fate and freewill. Most of his critics portray him as an agnostic. Rashid, in his poem, Mere Bi Hain Kuch Khawab, addresses the element; God and Man in his convoluted and non-linear style:

O’ fervent love of Ever Prescient and Ever Luminous

O’ Sage of Wisdom, the brightest Pearl of Universe

It is You who taught us revelation of every dream

It is You who made us understand how to overcome vexation of heart

It is only because of You that we are free from fear,

O’ fervent love of Ever Prescient and Ever Luminous, I too have some dreams

I too have some dreams!


Rashid is a dream maker and dream seller. Many critics over time have tried to contend with his abstractedness. Yet, no one is able to gauge his maze of sounds. Rashid is a گر صوت (Sound Maker) in his یگر خواب (dream origination). For example, in his illustrious poem یکباڑ اندھا (Blind Auctioneer), his complex musicality may easily be judged on rational account. All verses are scalable metrically in this poem. An extract describing the element; fate and freewill from the poem follows:

“Be Careful”, He asks for “nothing in return”,

there may be a dreadful cheating involved?

there may be a gimmickry by such a cunning fellow?

May these dreams give away or be brittle as soon as destination nears?

May these dreams be full of sorcery or empty from inside?

So, why to pursue these dreams?

Dreams of such a miserable fellow

Dreams of such a blind auctioneer!”

Second Stanza

Noon Meem Rashid was sometimes declared a mirage holder in the disguise of dream origination. Merciless persecution at the hands of critics, Rashid never let down his ‘standards’. His poetry rebelled against time and the eternal decree of fate. He viewed an egalitarian society in which all would be holding eternal moral standards in an undivided humanity.

He dreamt of a society where no one will be subjugated by oppression, segregation and discrimination. Every human being, a central figure in the universe, will uphold universal values and will never let down his commitment to the universal credentials of love and equality. This was Rashid’s dream, which was then pursued by him. It is pursuable still. Rashid’s poetic complications are, in fact, dominating notes in a symphony.

These dominating notes are simultaneously a wakeup call for those who are in deep slumber and a signal to oppressors. His abstraction is universalist. Rashid’s universalism is a panacea to the ills from which humanity has been suffering from since the creation of time.

The author, Muhammad Amir Shehzad, is currently working as a Research Assistant at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

Note: This blog is written in remembrance of Noon Meem Rashid. It was his 42nd death anniversary on 9 October 2017. Prosody of Rashid’s poetry and complex metaphors of Persian language explained by Shams-ul-Rehman Faruqi in his works has helped me a lot to write this blog.

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Filed under Discussion, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Partition, Urdu

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