Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 1, 1981 p. 98.


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REJECTION OF 'MODERNISM*

by "ZENO"

A very significant literary attitude in Pakistan today is the rejection of what is generally known as "Modernism", including in it practically everything in our intellectual development in the last one hundred years, from rationalism, the scientific method and scientific knowledge, to political and economic democracy. The publication of of the late Mohammad Hasan Askari's posthumous book "Jadidiyat"* is the culmination of this anti-modernist current of thought.

The trend has been in the air for quite some time. It began, paradoxically, in certain "modernist" literary circles with an attempt to negate the literary and social reform ideas of Sir Syed School, characterized by Hali as the necessity of "following the West". Sir Syed and his followers were regarded, until recently, except by the very strict orthodox religious scholars, as great benefactors of the nation and the leaders of a Muslim renaissance.

Some of this criticism of Sir Syed School was, indeed, well merited. But in the exuberance of youthful discovery, the anti-modern modernists refused to recognize any good at all in the entire social, educational and literary achievements of their precursors, and threw out the baby with the bath water. Often the charge of being pro-imperialist was levelled against the modernists of the 19th and early 20th century, to damn them further on political grounds. It was forgotten that even if this charge were true in certain cases, it could not do away with the contribution made by Sir Syed and his School to the regeneration of the Muslim nation. Nor is there any essential connection between rationalism, scientific education and social reform on one hand and political collaboration with the British on the other, because in the hurly-burly of 19th century India the British did not lack for friends, sympathizers and collaborators even among the pillars of Muslim orthodoxy.

Another target of the anti-modernists was the Progressive Writers movement. The new values of a humanistic culture advocated by the progressives have been the object of bitter invective by the anti-modernists, with Askari at their head. Sometimes equating progressivism with Marxism, at others with the bourgeois ideas of economic and industrial progress in the 19th century, (both equally inappropriately), they have been tilting their quixotic lances at its realistic literary mode, its anti-feudal and anti-capitalist sociology, its scientific rationalism, its desire for people's welfare, its democratic politics,

*Muhammad Hasan Askari. JadTdiyat, Ya' Ma^rrlbT GumrahlyoN KT TarTx Ka Xaka. Rawalpindi: (Private), 1979, 135 p., Rs. 22/-.

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