Sharing a commentary on the doctrine of Jihad of a major Islamic scholar, click below to read:
Friends, in my anguish over the attack on Paris, I reverted to one of Urdu language’s foremost poet Jon Elia.
In this poem, titled Shehr Ashob, he exposes the evil and falsehood propagated by the clergy in Islam, and acceptance of such by the intellectuals in all times.
It also exposes the intellectuals for bowing down to such falsehood and kings to gain personal material benefits.
And criticizes those intellectuals who raise apologia to defend the actions of clergy and its stooges.
It is in Urdu, and the above synopsis covers it for those who may not read Urdu.
Urdu readers: Click the link below;
Those who would like to listen to the audio of the same, or those who may not understand Urdu but can discern the sound, click the audio file below:
Here is a link to audio video on Vimeo:
SM Mehdi: A Life Less Ordinary – by Jawed Naqvi (Jawed Naqvi is an eminent Indian journalist and popular columnist and political analyst. He is Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi.)
(S M Mehdi, who passed away in Aligarh in January 2015, had for most of his 90-plus years dreamt his own version of unselfish dreams, hitched mostly to an embarrassingly abiding faith in the fellowship of man)
THERE can be many ways to announce the end of an era. Saeed Mirza made Naseem, for example, a delicately poignant film that turned the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya into a metaphor for the unravelling of the Nehruvian promise. Saeed staged a cinematic coup of sorts, in fact, by getting the leftist poet Kaifi Azmi to agree to essay the waning of the Indian dream. He excelled in his role as the doting grandfather of Naseem, a curious, fun-loving Muslim schoolgirl, like so many of her age from the pre-1990s Mumbai.
At the end of the story, Kaifi passes away quietly in his bed on the day of the Ayodhya outrage, leaving Naseem distraught but also equipped with his simple, unassuming insights into life, to cope with the challenges the cataclysmic day would usher.
Saeed’s schoolgirl reminded me in a way of a skit by American playwright e.e. cummings that we staged in Aligarh’s Abdullah Hall (a rare peep for any man behind the walls of the chronically gated women’s college). A girl in the one-sentence play wakes up on the bench in a park, and says: “What a beautiful day.” The sun falls down from the sky. The stage goes pitch-dark. Haven’t there been a few other occasions in history when darkness descended when it was least expected, often at the high noon of an otherwise promising day.
S.M. Mehdi, who passed away in his sleep in Aligarh last week, had for most of his 90-plus years dreamt his own version of unselfish dreams, hitched mostly to an embarrassingly abiding faith in the fellowship of man. In that quest early on he befriended Kaifi Azmi in Kanpur in the late 1930s, and drafted him into the communist party of which he was already a member.
They had a third friend, Munish Narain Saxena, a thoroughbred Lucknow Kayasth, a raconteur and a wit who possibly spoke better, easier Urdu than his two comrades. Over a stretch of time, Mehdi became known to an entire generation of young admirers as Maamujan, so much so that Doordarshan serialised his scribbled notes about his comrades recently, as Maamujan ki Diary. His comrades and alliances ranged from Faiz to Hameed Akhtar, from Ahmed Ali Khan to Sajjad Zaheer.
Let me share some memories from years of conversations with Maamujan. They describe what seems like an improbable era he belonged to, and also give hints of how Naseem’s dream could have been saved from destruction.
Munish Chaacha, as we knew Mehdi’s life-long friend from Lucknow, was a hands-on communist pamphleteer who rode a rickety old scooter with an oversized helmet for a large portion of the life he spent in Delhi. In Mumbai he edited the Hindi Blitz while having a tough time coping with a strict disciplinarian of a wife, a sister of K.A. Abbas’s wife. In Lucknow, when Mehdi’s sister had gone away to Lakhimpur Kheri for a longish stretch with her husband, the trio of Mehdi, Kaifi and Munish converted their 17 Kutchehry Road residence into a commune.
Before he became a more astute communist, Kaifi was a devotee of Hazrat Ali, and a few of his early poems about human brotherhood were culled from traditions surrounding the iconic Islamic figure. The poet became popular for his deep hypnotic voice though initially, according to Maamujan, he liked to croon his poetry in tarannum. Mehdi and Munish found it insufferable and threatened to walk out if he sang off-key once more.
“Utho dekho wo aandhi aa rahi hai,” Kaifi was immersed in his newly composed verse at Kutchehry Road one day. Sit up and watch the storm approach, would be a rough translation. It was a hot and dreary afternoon. Munish, halfway into his siesta, was in no mood to brook the grating on his ears. “Yaar, tumhari aandhi ko dekhney ke liye uthna zaroori hai?” (Is it necessary to sit up to watch the storm you are imagining, Kaifi?) His protest registered, Munish turned his back on the unmoved friend.
It was a tribute to this bonding that Munish found himself playing Shabana Azmi’s father for her school admission in Mumbai. It was a requirement that the parents be able to express themselves in English. Sultana Jafri, wife of fellow poet Sardar Jafri, played Shabana’s mother before the school principal.
On another occasion, Munish could have been an inspiration for Mother Teresa. He was the one who cleaned the festering stench from the blisters of friend and comrade Majaaz Lucknavi.
It was Munish, according to Maamujan, who took the tragic hero home, nursed him, and put the self-destructive poet back on his feet.
In 1970, Sheila Bhatia (her partner Hali Vats had been a gun-runner for the communist party) directed Mehdi’s play Jaan e Ghazal, the story of Urdu poetry in a musical format. Begum Akhtar had composed the music, the only time she did so for the stage. Madanbala Sandhu was the heroine. I have yet to come across someone who can sing and act on stage with aplomb as Madanbala did. Unfortunately, in the year of Begum Akhtar’s centenary, I have been searching with no apparent success for men and women who can help revive the magical musical.
In recent years, when Maamujan had gone totally blind, he would continue to share his thoughts with the youngsters whose attention span for history was flagging. As an Indian communist, he had a preference for the middle of the road P.C. Joshi against an implacably radical B.T. Ranadive.
His grandson had given him an Internet radio on which he could listen to the news from different sources. The news was not good of late, but he didn’t blame any villain for the chipping away of his dreams. He was too seasoned a campaigner, too good a Marxist, not to divine the passing of an era.–c. Dawn
Various videos where S M Mehdi shares important cultural historical events of India. Click each link to listen.
Abul Kalam Azad was a distinguished politician of India, and renowned scholar and intellectual of Urdu language.
During the anti Imperialist struggle he was jailed for about four years along with Pandit Nehru and others at a fort in India.
During his incarceration he wrote a series of memorable letters of high literary, historic, and scholarly value. These were not allowed to be sent out of jail and were later published as Ghubar e Khatir.
Abul Kalam Azad used to drink and enjoy tea. I share a later exclusively discussing the cultural practice of tea drinking in India , and his own, Pandit Nehru’s and others choices.
It is in Urdu and I share a PDF. Click the link:
Ghubar e Khatir By Abul Kalam Azad _ Chai
You can also read the entire Ghubar e Khatir at the following link.
I share this personal note from illustrious poetess Perveen Shakir that she wrote in my diary in 1972, when I was moving to IBA in Karachi to obtain my MBA. She was a kind and caring friend.
This is a memory I cherish, and share it to remember Perveen Shakir.
Click at the link below to read the PDF:
This essay titled Organized Hinduism: From Vedic North to Hindu Nation by Daniel Gold was published in the 1st volume, Fundamentalisms Observed, of a 6 volume set under Fundamentalist Project, A Study conducted by The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London 1991.
Daniel Gold : Associate Professor of South Religions; Cornell University
It is a useful study of various fundamentalisms prevalent and rising globally.
The essay provides an exhaustive study of Hindu Fundamentalism, and may help students interested in the subject. Click below to read:
It is shared for academic discussion under fair use.
My Urdu column published at Urdu Times, USA and Canada , can be read as a PDF file by clicking the following link;
Following is the English synopsis:
Knights of Darkness, Worshippers of Tyranny
Many readers may not remember the name of Suroor Bara Bankvi, a distinguished Urdu poet, but those who know Urdu poetry would find his lines that I translate , as heart rendering. He said that, “Knights of Darkness and Worshippers of Tyraany”, will always follow the horrible dark nights”. If you read these lines in the perspective of God gifted land of Pakistan, you may understand the reasons of why Pakistan has become an abode of pain and misery. You may also recognize the princess of darkness who have been behind it. You will also then understand the lines of another Pakistani poet, who wrote that “Night rules the courtyards of my homeland”.
If you contemplate on the history of Pakistan, you will find that since its inception it has been overtly and covertly ruled by the Knights of Darkness. You will finds that these are the people who have raided your lives and fortunes in the darkness of nights. There have also been those who have resisted this tyranny and oppression.
We must remember that in whichever country the tyrannous horde raid its people, there will always be those who courageously oppose oppression. And these resisters will be declared as traitors and forever maligned. In Pakistan such resisters include, Jalib, Hasan Nasir, Fehmida Riaz, Ghaffar Khan, Baloch activists, oppressed Pakistanis, activists of human rights, intellectuals, and writers. These are the ones who expose tyranny and snatch the veils from the faces of the tyrants. After reading these lined many will also call me, who is only a student of affairs, a traitor. Such is the practice of worshippers of darkness.
No one can deny that the land of Pakistan has remained oppressed and backward since its creation. During various decades it has been ruled by those who thrive on public hangings and flogging of activists on the streets. It is but natural to call these oppressors as heartless tyrants.
You may also add to the above the scenes of young and old men being paraded in the streets with their eyes blindfolded by their own shirts, by heavily armed security personnel, and their pictures and videos are shown on media. You can also add to these thousands who are illegally abducted. If ever a court makes any hue and cry on this, then their tortured corpses are thrown on the street. These include, Bloch, Sindhi activist, and also those who declare Urdu as their mother tongue. One can also add to this many a journalists who are killed with impunity for their reporting, and whose own media houses do not even wink an eye on their murders. Those who practice such barbarity can only be called despotic satraps.
We must remember that those despots who have directly and illegally ruled over Pakistan, include Iskanadar Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yaha Khan , Zia ul Haq, and Pervez Musharraf. All were generals of Pakistan’s security establishment. Since they raided the kismet of the nation under the cover of nights, they are the Knights of Darkness that one must remember.
One must also always recognize their facilitators and hanger-ons. These are the bureaucrats of the government.
We must also remember that these two usurpers have always bad mouthed the civilian politicians, declaring them as corrupt and incompetent and responsible for Pakistan’s wretched backwardness. These tyrants have engrained this mantra on the minds of people. This has been going on since the very first days of Pakistan. They sugar coat this accusation with such sweet poison that people will not believe any other narrative.
We must review the period during 1947 to 1956, and try to dig out the now nearly forgotten name of Malik Ghulam Mohammed, a bureaucrat who became the 3rd governor general of Pakistan. He is the classical example of Peter’s Principle under which one rises to the highest levels of incompetence. He messed up the Kashmir issue, and imposed the first Martial Law during anti-Ahmadi riots. He is the forefather of all the bureaucrats of Pakistan who work with the security establishment to rule the people. We should also not forget the name of Justice Munir, who first used the Doctrine of Necessity that continues to guide the judges of Pakistan who came after him, and have protected nearly all military revolutions that destroyed the constitutionalism in Pakistan.
People may not even realize that Ayub Khan was appointed as the first military commander of East Bengal or East Pakistan. The same East Pakistan where Pakistani army surrendered during the tenure of Yaha Khan who was the successor of Ayub Khan as Pakistan’s Commander in Chief.
We should also note that Ayub Khan became the head of Pakistan army in 1951, and forced himself as the President of Pakistan in 1958
To comprehend the symbiotic relations of Pakistan’s bureaucracy and its defence establishment, one must review the times of Iskandar Mirza, a major general of army, who became a secretary of defence, minister of interior, governor general ,and then the president of Pakistan. It was he who promulgated the first constitution in 1956, and then declared Martial Law. Once you understood this, you can deduce as to how Pakistan’s military and bureaucracy manipulated the political system.
Those who parrot the corruption of politicians in Pakistan since its inception should ask as to what kind of corruption prevailed there during 1946 and 1958. They should also inquire as to what kind of corruption Fatima Jinnah practiced that made Ayub Khan contest her in his own engineered elections. Those who call the Muhajirs (people whose mother tongue is Urdu) as criminals, should never forget the victory parade in Karachi led by Ayub Khan’s son Gohar Ayub. That was the beginning of ethnic strife that has ever tormented urban Sind.
In order to understand the misery and troubles in Pakistan, we must refresh our memories about secession of Bangla Desh, Pakistan’s participation in Afghan Jiahd, Zia ul Haq’s Islamization policies, purposely entrenched inequities, and economic demise. We must remember that Pakistan’s is ruled by a dual system of governance, one by the defence establishment and the other by its bureaucracy.
Defence expenditure is a major burden of our economy, it may be and must be debated. But we must also note that a significant portion of defence spending is allotted to the civilian budget. A recent report revealed that several billions rupees on account of military pensions was drawn from civil accounts. If the people lose their resources in this manner, should it be the politicians who must hang?
We hear a lot about the corruption of Zardari and Sharifs. Do we ever question as to who their facilitators are. Many a times, it is the bureaucrats who collude with them. How many such officers have been punished for it. Have we ever questioned as to how retired army officers are inducted in civil service, in diplomacy, and NGOs, and what kind of corruption do they undertake? Have we ever investigated as to which retired officer benefitted from Hub Power plant, or who benefitted from various defence purchases? Most recently two senior army officers were found guilty of massive embezzlement to the tune of multi billion rupees, why were they not jailed, and why their property was not confiscated?
In a country where ignorance and darkness prevails, we accuse that those whose mother tongue is Urdu exploited Pakistan’s resources for the first eleven years of its existence. What kind of injustices they committed that their generations are made to pay for it forever?
You have to find the answers for all of the above yourself. Knight of Darkness, and Worshippers of Tyranny will not help you. They will indulge into foul language, and will use the pedantic phrases that Imran Khan has spread around.
We have tried to point out the true tormentors of Pakistan, now it is up to you to pursue it.
We are content in the dream that Suroor Bara Bankvi saw, when he said, “I know the stretch of the dark night always ends in the morning” . Long Live Pakistan!
One of the major and celebrated Urdu writers Abdullah Hussein is no more, and lives in our hearts and his writings. I just scanned his Facebook Wall, and share of his posts that enlighten and educate.
I will attempt to share all or most from the same wall later.
It is in response to a friend: Edward Raj,
I just extracted some posts from Abdullah Hussein’s FB wall.
You may find some relevant comments. Some between the lines impression on criticism, a warm hearted appreciation of some good folks like Asif Aslam, and others. Also important is his note for Khalid Ashraf, where he thanks him for appreciating “Baagh”.
It may be long but I am sharing for the future generations as you said. I am actually going to cull his wall and plan to put all his posts at my own blog. That may be a good record.
“My one great friend Mustansar Hussain Tarrar has fallen ill and is hospitalized. All friends please pray for his early recovery.”
“Milo jo hum se to mil lo keh hum banok-e-giah
Misaal-e-qatra-e-shabnam rahey rahey na rahey. (May 08)”
“I have been thinking (ha ha, some might say!) that I have wasted away my life. Living in one’s ripe years a man has no time to ponder that he might have done some useful things in the past. Seeing life ebbing away, he is seized by the moment and laments, O what a waste! Some like Proust and Rimbaud stop, or want to stop living altogether in their different ways. Nearly all writers escape backwards and write about their childhoods, using it as a piece of torn cloth to hide the bits and bobs created by Life’s sleights of hand.”
“My dear Khalid Ashraf sahib, how can I forget you. I met you here in Lahore and you gave me your book (which is lost, because people borrow book and never return them). The really unforgettable memory that I have about you is that you not only wrote about all my novels but especially you said in your review that “Ba’agh” deserved to stand alongside world’s best novels. I will be eternally grateful to you for this because it is my favourite novel and it has always been underappreciated. But right now, fortunately, it is being read and talked about more and more. It is all because of your efforts because as far as I remember you were the first one to have appreciated it. I would very much like to meet with you again, but I am not keeping good health and rarely travel anywhere. If you happen to come I’d love to see you. It was a great pleasure receiving your message and I hope we continue to correspond. All my love. Abdullah
“Birthdays on August 14:
Friends , I noticed at least 8 of my friends birthdays on August 14. May they always be free in life, thought, speech, words, and action. I can vouch for nearly all of them and offer my greetings:
Abdullah Hussein Akif SyedAsif SaleemMalik KhanAjmal Siraj Arfan ChLiaquat Ali AsimShafi QureshiNaseem Chaudhary”
“Abdullah Hussein Thanks Munir. Wait for my note in my status slot in a day or two about this.”
“Asif Aslam, my estimable friend, yesterday signified the importance of birthdays in his post. Every year on my birthday (14th of August) I apologise on this page for having lived so long with so little to show for it when so many of high merit are rent asunder so early in their time. I think I owe some explanation to prevent it being taken as false modesty. I look back to that distant morning when I was a schoolboy and had been hearing constant firing all night long. At daybreak a bunch of us rode our bicycles and, instead of going to school, headed towards the railway station. A train coming from Bannu taking Hindu and Sikh refugees to India had been stopped and the passengers were being butchered by the tribals housed in our city to go to fight in Kashmir. They were joined energetically by the locals. We saw our Drawing Master, a poet and a singer whom we idealised, wrestle a fat man to the ground and repeatedly stab him with a large tailor’s scissors that he carried. Tearing open the front of the man’s kurta he cut off the pockets of the man’s cotton waistcoat, which were full of banknotes and gold ornaments, with the same scissors. Without looking back Master Sarwar took off with the loot. The platform was heaped with the dead and the dying. I was not yet sixteen.
It was not only the end of illusions but also the death of our romance with the world. Many of us later went into self exile, some never to return. But wherever we went, we were unhappy. We were an unsettled, lost generation.
Disabled and Disadvantaged in Pakistanterestingly, in the forty years from 1940 to 1980, the best of Urdu literature was created. Poets Majaz and Sahir to Firaq and Faiz; critics like Saroor and Askari, fiction writers like Krishan Chandar and Bedi and Manto and Ghulam Abbas among others, produced their best work. People usually talk of broken hearts. But writers of that generation wrote with wounded minds. We all have in us our places of exile.”
“Attn. Asif Aslam: The cannonisation of Saadat Hasan Manto has been done to the disadvantage of Ghulam Abbas. Manto wrote a handful of stories that will last; the rest were hastily written of necessity in indifferent prose, never revised and quickly sold by him to buy booze. Ghulam Abbas was neglected because he was a “Shareef man”, never went for theatrics, pedalled around town on a push-bike, lived within his means so that he didn’t have to sell his stories in haste but paid attention to his art. He wrote over forty stories and kept a uniform level of quality. Toba Tek Singh suffers in comparison with Anandi because it is based on a political event while Anandi is about human nature and will still be appreciated by people in fifty years time when the partition of India,though still remembred, will have largely gone from their concerns. It is the duty of people who manage literary opinion to restore reputations.”
عبداللہ حسین کہتے ہیں کہ جب لکھنا شروع کیا تو جو اردو رائج الوقت تھی اس میں بڑے مشکل الفاظ تھے، لچھے دار زبان مجھے نہیں آتی تھی، جو الٹی سیدھی زبان آئی اس کو لکھتا گیا، مجھے تو پتہ نہیں تھا کہ اس کو کوئی پڑھے گا یا شائع بھی کرے گا۔
اردو کے ایک معروف نقاد مظفر علی سید نے تو یہ تک کہہ دیا کہ پہلے عبداللہ حسین کو اردو سیکھنی چاہیے پھر ناول لکھنا چاہیے۔ کچھ عرصے بعد ہی عبداللہ حسین اور مظفر علی سید کا آمنا سامنا ہوا تو عبداللہ حسین کہتے ہیں کہ انھوں نے مظفر سے کہا کہ ’میں نے تو آپ کا ریویو سنا تھا پشاور کے ریڈیو سے جس میں آپ نے بڑی تنقید کی تھی، آپ نے کہا تھا کہ اس نے عجیب و غریب زبان لکھی ہے اس کو اردو سیکھنی چاہیے تھی کہ ناول لکھنے سے پہلے۔‘
دوسرا انہوں نے اس ناول میں زبان پر زور نہیں دیا بلکہ اس میں انہوں نے اظہار، جذبات پر یا جو کردار ہیں ان کی نفسیات پر زیادہ توجہ دی ہے چنانچہ وہ آسانی سے لوگوں کی سمجھ میں آجاتی ہے۔ اور آپ اس چیز کو ملکیت سمجھتے ہیں جس میں آپ اپنی جھلک دیکھتے ہیں اپنے اظہار کی یا اپنے لب و لہجے کی یا اپنے ماحول کی یا روایات کی۔مستنصر حسین تارڑ
عبداللہ حسین کے مطابق انھوں نے جواباً کہا کہ ’نہیں نہیں اور وہ تھوڑاکھسیانا ہو گیا اور ہنس پڑا کہ نہیں یہ اس وقت کی بات تھی اب تو ٹھیک ہی ہے، اب تو اردو کا مزاج بدل گیا ہے اب ٹھیک ہے۔ میں نے کہا کہ ٹھیک اس وقت بھی تھی لیکن آپ کو سمجھ اب آئی ہے۔ وہ بیچارہ جیسے پنجابی میں کہتے ہیں، زمین وچ ہی وڑ گیا۔‘
“If I have a hundred hats they are off to the Baloch Missing people marchers”
“My two innocent posts in the last two days have been faded out. Have the Facebook administrators blacklisted me?” Febrauar 13, 2014
“In the first post I said that this country is ruled by criminals masquerading as political parties. In the second I detailed my visit to KLF Karachi where the fiftieth uninterupted anniversary of “Udas Naslein” was celebrated in a session at the Festival and the special publication of a Jubilee edition of the book in a special size.”
“Abdullah Hussein Asif, it was something on these lines:
“The most astonishing thing that happened was Asif Aslam(Farrukhi) not just mentioning me in passing (which would be just about appropriate) but reading a whole page from my old story “Naddi” in his introductory speech as a co-sponsor of the Festival, before the entire august company of luminaries.
It was unprecedented and stunned me. It was like him putting his career on the line because I think he as well as I made some enemies there.
Later, I had a session moderated by Ahmad Shah in which the Jubilee edition of “Udas Naslein” was launched. There was question & answer period which went well.
But the publishers surpassed themselves by publishing the book in a special size: a milimeter or two longer and a millimeter or two wider than the usual size of an ordinary book, but just that much made all the difference by making it look quite remarkable.
Then there were private parties, most enjoyable at the home of Hanif and Nimra and HM Naqvi and Alya. All in all, I can say that “I had a goog Festival”. Just as well, as I am getting old and don’t know how many times I will be able to participate, or if at all.””