Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 7, 1990 p. 1.


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Tariq Rahrnan

BOY-LOVE IN THE URDU GHAZAL

Shibli Nomani, an Indian scholar, has given detailed attention to the development of the theme of boy-love in Persian poetry. He refers to Abu Hilal Askari's book KitSb-al-Awa *il to support his assertion that the Arabs were uninitiated in pederasty till they conquered Iran and handsome beardless youths became their prisoners.1 The Arab soldiers fell in love with them because they were away from women and amrad parastV which I have translated as boy-love,3 started. After this simplistic explanation Nomani goes on to add that Turkish boys were captured later and were much in demand for their beauty. Thus it is that the word turk is used for the beloved, whether a boy or a woman, in both Urdu and Persian poetry. He also explains the military imagery of the ghazal on the theory that these youths were soldiers and actually carried swords, bows and arrows, and fought in real battles.4 After providing this information Shibli Nomani fulminates ex cathedra against pederasty and amorous and erotic references to boys in Persian literature.

Abdul Halim Sharar, another critic of Urdu literature, explains the emergence of the theme of boy-love as follows:

In those days there were numerous cathedrals of the Christians in Syria, Asia Minor, Iraq and Armenia, with large monastries attached to them. Here lived, along with the monks, handsome youths.... ...Before long these youths began to figure as the beloveds of the poets...

Shibli Nomani, Shi'r-al-'Ajam. Vol. 4 (1912; Islamabad: National Book Foundation, 1970) pp. 155-160. First published 1912.

2 Amrad is defined as a beardless boy; parastT literally means worshipping. The term refers to men's aesthetic, emotional, or erotic response towards adolescent boys who have not yet developed manly physical features.

^t could also be translated as ephebophilia since the boys who are referred to as beloveds in the prose accounts and verse are not pre-pubescent children but adolescents and young men who still retain boyish beauty. However, since the ghazal does mention younger boys and makes no distinction between adolescents and pre-pubescent boys I have used the term boy-love throughout. For details about the term ephebophilia see my article "Ephebophilia: the Case for the Use of a New Word", forum For Modem Language Studies, XXTV:2 (April,1988), pp. 126-141.

'Nomani, p. 160. Annual of Urdu Studies, #7 1


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