Our Struggle- Urdu For All

Urdu Hey Jis Ka Naam Hamee Jante Hain Daagh
Saray Jahan Mein Dhoom Hamari Zuban Ki Hey
[What Urdu is, only I know Daagh, in all the world it is immensely popular]

Language has never been anybody’s hereditament or individual possession. It has always been the essence of its native speakers, learners and its custodians. Language and literature can only survive if they are considerately preserved as otherwise; they perish from society with the passage of time. Regarding this, Australia’s Indigenous languages and local dialects can be referenced. Prior to British colonisation, there were approximately seven hundred languages. Due to inattentiveness, only a handful survived and many of these are now endangered languages.

It is widely accepted that the historians, writers, poets and critics of a language play a significant role in promoting and enhancing that language. In juxtaposition, the everyday speakers sustain the language for communication and in different forms of literature. The collective efforts of all excel the language to new heights. The clandestine of survival and durability of a language is not only dependant on its outreach to the masses but its continual enrichment is as equally significant. It is also a fact that language always represents a unique civilisation and it expands under exceptional circumstances. Moreover, language itself possesses a quality of expansion and enrichment akin to the roots of a plant that are in a precise location within the soil yet the fragrance of the flower that blooms cannot be trapped since the air sets the direction of its propagation. Likewise, language propels from one place to another and from one person to another. As a prominent poet says:

Par Nahin Taaqat-e-Parwaaz Magar Rakhti Hay
[When passion streaming from the heart turns human lips to lyres, Some magic wings man’s music then, his song with soul inspires]

The history of Urdu language and literature in Indo-Pak subcontinent encompasses over seven centuries. Since its origination, it went through several ups and downs and was known by different names [Rekhta, Rekhti, Urdu-e-Moallah etc.] but during the last days of the Mughal Empire, it developed rapidly. This language that is known as Urdu nowadays is not only the national language of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but is also widely spoken and understood in India as well as across the Middle East – including over 180 million native speakers.

The first book in Urdu (prose) is known to be Sabras, written by Mullah Asadullah Wajhi and Quli Qutab Shah’s Dewan is the first book of poetry in Urdu. Nevertheless, the services of Amir Khusrao to promote Urdu cannot be overlooked. Researchers have a consensus on Quli Qutab Shah as the first Sahib-e-Dewan (Poetry involving the use of every Urdu letter for individual sets of poems) poet. After this, another prominent poet Wali Dakhni formulated a more accomplished Dewan. For example, he says:

Tujh Lab Ki Sifat Laal-e-Badakhshan SooN Kahoon Ga
Jaadu Hain Teray Nain Ghazalaan SooN Kahoon Ga
[The beauty of your lips I’ll tell the rubies of Badakhshan (And) I’ll tell Gazelle you have got magical eyes]

The evolutionary story of the Urdu language is very long. It saw many ups and downs in the period of its evolution and then it spread all over in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Mirza Rafi Sauda began to write Qaseedas [a kind of poetry] whereas Mir Dard and Mir Taqi Mir solidified the foundation of classic poetry. Thus, Mir Taqi Mir was awarded with the title of King of Ghazal.

The prose and poetry continued to improve and enhance across generations. Subsequently, it entered into the stage when the poetry of Bahadar Shah Zafar, Hakeem Moman Khan Moman, Ibrahim Za’uq and Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was equally popular across the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Ghalib not only made the Urdu poetry vast in terms of philosophical poetry but he also laid the foundation for the modern prose writing. On one hand Ghalib modernised the language and on the other, Mir Amman made it well-reputed by writing Bagh-o-Bahar in the field of Dastan (epic stories). Before Mir Amman, Rajab Ali Baig Saroor wrote Fasana-e Ajaib and Ratan Naath Sarshaar wrote Fasana-e-Azaad and thus, they played a critical role in the development of Novel from Dastaan. Further, Mir Hasan’s Mathnvi (a kind of poetry) Sehr-ul-Biyan became a milestone in Urdu poetry as he laid the foundation of short story writing in poetry. Whereas, Nazir Akbarabadi created layman’s poems and thus he got the title of a public poet.

In the twentieth century, the literature and in particular Urdu poetry took a new shape due to the rapid change in political, social and overall circumstances. Under these circumstances, Muhammad Husain Azaad played a revolutionary role in the development of ideas in Urdu and this was further progressed by Haali. Another renowned name who did extraordinary work in the field of Urdu prose was Abu-ul-Kalam Azaad. His eloquence excelled above all Urdu writers of his time and his legacy was cemented by his surmounting work on Ghubaar-e-Khater.

The inception of Safernama (travel journal in prose form) in Urdu began with the Safernama Ajaib-e-Farang of Yousaf Kambel Poosh and was refined by Mustanser Hussain Tarar in his Safernama. Alongside safernama, autobiographies were also written in Urdu. For instance, Maulana Abdul Majid Dryaabadi’s autobiography became very famous. Other prominent autobiographies include Jaush Maleehabadi’sYadoon ki Baraat, Ahsan Danish’s Jehan-e-Danish, Qudrat Ullah Shuhaab’s Shuhaab Nama and Mushtaq Ahmad Yousafi’s Sirguzashat – these serve as preliminary works to their literary profile.

Akbar Allahabadi used his irony as remedy to cure the divide in society whereas Daagh Dehlvi, alongside his poetry took the responsibility to augment the language. Meanwhile the rising star on the skies of Urdu poetry rejuvenated the dead bodies of the East with fresh blood. This shining star is well known as Allama Iqbal; the one who purified the soul of Urdu poetry through his revolutionary Doctrine of Self (Khudi). After him, Faraaq Gorakhpuri, Akhtar Sherani, Noon Meem Rashid, Ahsan Danish, Jaush Maleehabadi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Hafeez Jalandhri, Nasir Kazmi, Majeed Amjad, Syed Zameer Jaafri, Munir Niazi, Ahmad Faraz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Amjad Islam Amjad, Paveen Shakir, Habib Jalib, Kaifi Azami, Kishwer Naheed, Anwar Masood and Ata-ul-Haque Qasmi also significantly contributed to modern poems and Ghazals. It is an undeniable fact that Faiz broadened the scope of Ghazal beyond the praise one’s beloved to the extent of issues and themes such as employment. During this period, Hafeez not only composed songs but he also received the honour of creating the national anthem of Pakistan and Majeed Amjad is well known for his structural experimentations of Urdu poetry.

Naat is that special branch of Arabic, Urdu and Persian poetry through which the poet/ poetess expresses his/her deep, pure, pious passion and feelings in the praise, love and respect of the Holy Prophet (May peace be upon him). In this kind of poem, the following are renowned for their work: Imam Ahmad Raza Khan Brailvi, Allama Iqbal, Amir Meenai, Mohsin Kakoorvi, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Saba Akbarabadi, Mahir-ul-Qadri, Maulana Altaf Hussain Haali and Hafeez Taib, etc.

Haali was the first in Urdu poetry who worked in the field of criticism when he published his Maqadma Shair-o-Shairee. Further, Nazir Ahmad laid the foundation of the Urdu Novels and Abdul-Haleem Sharer fulfilled the technicality of the novel writing in relation English literature through his masterpiece Fardaus-e-Bareen. In short story, Munshi Prem Chand proved himself as the founder of this genre. Further, Sajjad Haider Yaldram and Kirishan Chander popularized it.

The drama in Urdu began with Indher Sabha by Amanat Lakhnavi. Imtiaz Ali Taaj known as the creator of Anar Kali and Agha Hashar Kashmiri, the writer of Rustam-o-Sohrab cemented their everlasting place in the history of Urdu literature through these works. There were several others who were distinguished for their works in this genre including Sharer, Azad, Zafar, Saadat Hassan Manto, Mirza Adeeb, Kanhyya Lal Kapoor, Ashfaq Ahmad, Bano Qudsia, Hajra Masroor, Haseena Moeen, Younas Javed, Munno Bhai and Anwar Maqsood.

Humour has also been part of the Urdu literature since its origin. Farhat Ullah Baig, Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui, Ahmad Shah Pitras Bukhari, Shaukat Siddiqui, Colonel Muhammad Khan, Shafiq-ur-Rehman and Ibn-e-Insha produced outstanding humourous works. Furthermore, the modern contemporaries including Mushtaq Yousafi and Younas Butt have created masterpieces in irony and humour.

The role of journalism in the promotion of Urdu cannot be ignored. Urdu journalism began in the year 1822 with the publication of Jahan Nama by Hari Harditta. By the last days of the Mughal Empire, there were several magazines and newspapers in publication. After the war of independence in 1857, several were prohibited but few new publications began to rise. For instance, Sir Syed issued his Scientific Society in 1866 and Tahzaab-ul-Akhlaq in 1871. Also Munshi Sajjad Hussain published his Owadpunch in 1877 and Mahboob Alam published Paisa Akhbar in 1888.

In the twentieth century, several famous newspapers were published and among those were Zamaindar by the father of Urdu journalism Maulan Zafar Ali Khan, Hamdard by Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar and Al-Halal by Abu-ul-Kalam Azad. All of these publications formed a significant role in the promotion of political awareness across the Indo-Pak subcontinent. The works of the above journalists as well as Maulana Hasrat Mohani contributed to modern journalism but the drastic change is credited to Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman and Hameed Nizami who published Daily Jang in 1939 and Nawa-i-Waqt in 1940 respectively. Lastly, this discussion is incomplete without mentioning the father of Urdu language, Maulvi Abdul Haq as his services are innumerable.

As the founders of Pakistan-Australia Literary Forum Inc, we have taken the responsibility to introduce our language in this country and especially in this city. Pakistan-Australia Literary Forum Inc, serves as a platform for those children, youth and adults who want to learn this illustrious language. We are determined, committed and driven to fulfil this purpose of connecting our culture and language. This is exemplified by the notion that language always comes from culture and therefore, culture and language are bound to one another as the mirror of the society they belong to. We invite you to come and observe yourself in this mirror. Know that if this mirror was to become hazy then you would not be able to see yourself clearly. We are utmost optimistic in promoting this pure language from the land of the pure, Pakistan. Once again, we wholeheartedly invite you to join Pakistan-Australia Literary Forum Inc. and this journey through the history of Urdu language is concluded with the words of Majrooh Sultanpuri:

Main Akela hi Chala tha Janib-i-Manzil Mager
Log Saath Atey Gaye Aur Karavan Banta Gaya
[I started all alone towards the goal (but] people kept joining and it began to turn into a caravan]

Written by:
S.F. Gilani
Senior Vice President
Pakistan-Australia Literary Forum Inc.