Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 5, 1985 p. 23.


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Faruq Hassan

"BEYOND BLASPHEMY AND PRAYERS": THE CONCEPT OF GOD IN RASHED'S POETRY

We re working side by side for something that unites us—beyond blasphemy and prayers And it f> the only thing that matters -Albert Camus, The Plague

N M Rashed earned considerable posthumous notoriety by asking for his body to be cremated He was born a Muslim in a Muslim household, but the last rites he chose for himself were more appropriate to the Hindu tradition Apparently he had left instructions—there was no written will and last testament—with his wife and son to have his dead body cremated instructions which the two of them carried out to the letter despite vehement protests by friends relatives acquaintances and men of letters in England where he died and in Pakistan 1 The report of his cremation generated a furore in Pakistan which took the form of a public condemnation of his wife who, being a Christian was suspected of having concocted the story of Rashed's wish for cremation in order to rob the poet of his religion (n some circles there was resentment against Rashed himself for having spurned his religion and that of his forefathers, and for having shown little concern for the religious sentiments of his friends and readers With the report of his cremation slogan-mongers like Shonsh Kashmin—the editor of Catan (Lahore)—had a field day They had always suspected Rashed of being a heretic now they had the evidence with which to damn him as a godless person and an infidel For a number of years after his death his poetry suffered critical neglect because of the persistent memory of his last wish

In his biographical essay on Rashed Saqi Farooqi has claimed that Rashed was a rational man and that there is no need of God in a rational man s mind 2 Rashed s partiality for rational behavior was quite well- known especially when he was confronted with people who tried to persuade him to take their side through their irrational beliefs or faith All through his life he opted for a rational and logical approach to problems and for practical solutions based on commonsense and sound pragmatic considerations (Even his wish to be cremated may have been a practical solution to the problem of dying in a foreign land ) His relationships with his children parents and publishers testify to that, his letters to friends (especially to Zia Jalandhan) 3 and peers (eg Dr S M Abdullah)4 stress the need for clear unfuzzy thinking and accurate, logical exegeses of literary and historical issues To the extent of Rashed s rationality, Saqi s view is accurate However one cannot be certain of the veracity and universal applicability of Saqi s view about the need of God in a rational man s mind If his comment is to be accepted at face value

' Saqi Farooq Hasan Kuza-gar in A/aya Daur (Karachi) nos 71 "2 (1978) pp 17 40 Specially pages 18 to 22 '" Saqi Farooqi p 2"

) Nay'§ Daur (Kartell ) os "1 "2 (19^8) op 192 94 He even advised Zia Jalandhan to read Clouded Thinking by Susan Steboing in order to learn to avoid log (al fallacies n thinking ) 4 Ibid pp 194 99

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