Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 2, 1982 p. 53.

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Saleem Ahmad


Translated by John A. Hanson

People say that affliction strikes the weakest part of the body, but in the case of the last hundred years of the history of Urdu poetry, it has struck the principal part—that is, the ghazal. After suffering a beating from the British in the turmoil of the Revolt of 1857, the thing which enlightened Muslims found most distasteful was this notorious literary genre. By "enlightened Muslims", I mean those venerable men who were later to feel ashamed of the fact that their religion permitted four marriages. Among them, Muhammad Hasan Askari's "muffler-wrapped" Maulana Hali was most prominent.1 Please forgive me, for I have no less regard and respect for Maulana Hali in my heart than you. After all, I also have inherited the Maulana*s sSrwanI.** But the question here concerns the analysis of a particular trend. And the responsibility for this analysis is so great that Maulana Hali himself, despite his dignity and good manners, did not hesitate in the least in stripping away the garments of convention which covered his predecessors. We also must fulfill this responsibility. The essential demand of the Maulana's greatness is this, that we do not hesitate in the least to unbutton his s^rwani. This will be truly following his example.

Since the subject of Maulana Hali's displeasure with the ghazal has been raised, one point should be made clear. Maulana Hali was certainly displeased with the ghazal, but the cause of his displeasure was not its imperfect form, over which our Mr. Kaleemuddin has become so inflamed.2 Nor did he object to the ghazal on the grounds that in it words, rather than emotion and imagination, direct the path of poetry. This objection, however it may be, is that of Mr. Josh .J

In the same way, Hali does not, like Azmatullah Khan, complain of the lack of "realism" in the ghazal, which, according to Mr. Khan is the soul of true poetry, and which he has depicted in his piquant verses.4

Whether these objections be correct or incorrect, shallow or profound, we are not concerned with them here. At any rate, they are not Maulana Hali's objections. Otherwise he would not

* "Gazal Maflar aur Hindustan." From Nal Naz^m aur Pura Adml (Karachi: Adabi Academy, 1962), pp. 82-112. "The notes at the end have been added by the editor.

** A traditional, long coat-like outer garment of the Indian Muslims,


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