Tag Archives: Poetry

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). Continue reading

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

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

‘To describe the Rubaiyat’s quatrains as the epigrams of an epicurean is to misunderstand Khayyam’ explains Dr Reeza Hameed.

As rendered by Fitzgerald, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has remained an enduring favourite among poetry lovers all over the world. Khayyam is a poet for all seasons. Khayyam was undoubtedly one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers to come out of the Islamic world of the middle ages. He was a contemporary of Ali ibn Sina, known to the West as Avicenna. Khayyam was a polymath in an era which produced polymaths by the dozens, many of whom are known to the West only by their Latinised names, but Khayyam’s name survives in the Arabic original. Khayyam had mastered many disciplines. In addition to mathematics and astronomy, he was fluent in philosophy, medicine, geography, physics, and music. Ibn Sina taught him philosophy for many years. He also learnt medicine and physics from that great man. Another contemporary was Al-Zamakshari, well-known for his commentary of the Quran. Since Khayyam was one of the greatest astronomers of the Middle Ages, in recognition of his contributions a crater on the Moon was named after him. 

In mathematics, he virtually invented the field of geometric algebra. His treatise on Algebra was used in Europe as a standard text even as late as the nineteenth century. He was not known for his poetry, until he was reborn as a poet in the second half of the nineteenth century in Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of his Rubaiyat, which catapulted him to poetic stardom. Had it not been for Fitzgerald, Khayyam’s fame might have rested on his contributions to astronomy, mathematics or the development of the Jalali calendar to replace the Julian calendar. He alludes to his involvement in the calendar in one of his verses.

 Ah, by my Computations, People say,
Reduce the Year to better reckoning?

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Filed under Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Iran, Islam, The Middle East

Dr Mehr Afshan Farooqi: Ghalib and Rampur: Present and Past Contexts

Rampur, in the eyes of the discerning, is the city Where the eight paradises have come together Rampur is an example of one vast garden, that is Alluring, fresh, verdant, immense and blissful Like clouds sprinkling rain in the month of savan The generous benefactor’s bounty flows like a river Ghalib: Qitah in praise of Nawab Kalbe Ali Khan

My recent sojourn to Rampur this past December to examine some rare manuscripts of Ghalib’s divan at the Raza Library prompted me to scrutinise Ghalib’s association with the Rampur Nawabs, with a view to assess the importance of Rampur in the larger picture of Ghalib’s life and work. Rampur holds a special place in the area of Ghalib studies because of the path-breaking work of Maulana Imtiaz Ali Khan Arshi (1904-81), who joined the Raza library in 1932, and produced a stream of authoritative works on Ghalib from there.

Maulana Arshi painstakingly collated and published what is still considered the most definitive edition of Ghalib’s divan (1958): he strove to put together an impressive archive of published and unpublished materials. During my visit I examined the artistically decorated 1857 manuscript that Ghalib had got specially calligraphed for Nawab Yousuf Ali Khan. I also saw the 1866 intikhab that Ghalib had put together at Nawab Kalbe Ali Khan’s request. The 1866 intikhab has both Persian and Urdu selections. There are visible corrections in Ghalib’s hand throughout the manuscript and notes on the flyleaf in Maulana Arshi’s meticulous handwriting. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, India, Kalam, Pakistan Horizon

Faiz Ahmed Faiz: The Romantic Rebel

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is an icon of Urdu poetry and belongs to that galaxy of poets which counts among others Ghalib and Allama Muhammad Iqbal as its shining stars.

Faiz was born in Sialkot, also the birth place of Iqbal. Both belong to Punjab, ‘that green patch between mountain and desert’. Faiz wrote romantic poetry infused with a revolutionary zeal. Victor Kiernan, who translated the works of Iqbal and Faiz and introduced them to the English speaking world, said: ‘Iqbal was a prophet of a newly incandescent Islam, Faiz a freethinker feeling his way towards Marxism’.

Biographies of Faiz mention that he was born into an academic and literary family. In fact, Faiz was from a poor family. His father was a self-made scholar.

Faiz had his early schooling in a traditional madrassa. He became academically proficient both in Arabic and English, and secured post-graduate degrees in both disciplines. Interestingly he secured his honours degree in Arabic under the tutelage of Syed Mir Hassan who had also tutored Iqbal.

At some point in his life, Faiz got drawn into Marxism and became a committed communist and joined the Progressive Writers movement which boasted as its members the likes of Sajjad Zaheer. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon