Remembering Ashfaq Ahmed: Through his stories, he will live forever in our hearts

Published: September 7, 2013

Ashfaq Ahmed; writer, playwright, broadcaster, intellectual and spiritualist. PHOTO: FILES/TMN

On September 7, 2004, while sitting in my office and doing my routine work, I received a call from a close friend. Without the usual ‘Salam dua’ he exclaimed,

“Ashfaq sahib is no more; just got the news.”

It was a short sentence, but it had many aspects attached to it. The feeling of a great loss, sweet memories of so many stories, dramas and plays, of colourful travelogues, funny incidents, thought-provoking quotes of Sufis and other baabay (mystics); nostalgic recollections of a life well spent, and fully lived. So much came to mind and passed like a breeze, leaving me numb and motionless for some time.

How do you react to such news?

Ashfaq Ahmed was not my relative. I did not know him on a personal level. I had never even met him and yet the feeling of great loss and mind-numbing pain seeped into my soul on hearing about his demise. I did not know why I felt like this, but like many other Pakistani Urdu writers, his words were my link to his soul – his personality. The characters he had created through his works were as real to me as they must have been to him, and through this abstract connection, Ashfaq sahib and I were no longer strangers.

While reading his dramas and books, one question always came to my mind; they say that every good writer creates characters as a reflection of himself, and so I always wondered which of his characters were reflections of his own self. Was it Talqeen Shah, one of the most famous radio programme characters in Pakistan? Or was it the Mohammed Hussain Dakia from the spiritual classic Manchalay Ka Sauda? Or was he simply the ‘greatest husband in the world’ as Bano Qudsia said so many times? Towards his end, I believe he could also have been the famous “Baba” he used to refer to so dearly in almost all his conversations, especially in Baithak and Zavia.

I used to phone him from Dubai, especially after reading certain books of his, to tell him how each and every word used by him had a profound and deep impact on my mind. There would always be a sense of embarrassment in me at the end of these calls because he would talk as if it’s the most natural thing to do – receiving calls from fans, making them feel special and interesting. Once, during such a call, I told him:

“Sir, your book Manchalay ka Sauda and the drama made on it is just too good to be true.”

And he replied,

“That book came before its time. You would see in near future InshaAllah (God willing) that people will benefit from this for generations to come.”

Today when I see Manchalay ka Sauda, his words come to my mind as I really do believe that this drama came much before its time; and those who have seen it would know what I am talking about.

As Mumtaz Mufti sahib once said,

“There are people who are alive, and then there are some people who are too alive! So much so that even when they are no more, we still consider them alive, for it is unimaginable to come to terms with this reality that they are no longer physically present among us.”

Ashfaq sahib was definitely one such personality who, even after having departed from this world nine years ago, will always be “too alive” in our hearts, minds and memories.

May Allah (SWT) bless his soul.

Samir Tariq

Samir Tariq

A Strategy and Business Transformation Manager for one of the leading banks in the Middle-East. He lives and works in Dubai. A literature lover and a writer by hobby he mostly writes fiction inspired by true life events.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Azeem Aslam

    A nice piece of work to inform the new generation regarding their forefathers. Obviously they are our “ASLAF”Recommend

  • Mahmood

    Great article on Ashfaq Ahmed. His books gave all of us vision and goals beyond the material things. Personaly, I learned a lot about human nature after reading his books. May Allah reward his efforts in hereafter. AmeenRecommend

  • Khalid Shafiq

    Ashfaq Ahmed played a vital role in” Drama World”.Was pure and delivered purity through his work. Recommend

  • Khalid Shafiq

    Well done sameer, , it’s present to Ashfaq saab from u. Recommend

  • samir tariq

    Thanks a lot azeem and mehmood…he was truly a gem of a person and a great artist who found spiritualism in its true form…Recommend

  • Fizza Rafique

    Finally got to read something about this legendary man. I’m yet a teenager and I haven’t read any book of him. Yet his personality has inspired me a great deal. I’m never tired of watching Zavya over and over again. Such kind of people truly need to be appreciated. And the number of comments on this blog are clearly giving us the idea how much ‘inspired’ we are from him, and how much we truly honor this diamond of ours. We people have forgotten our Aslaf as mentioned above. And that’s the tragic truth!Recommend

  • Samir Tariq

    Thanks a lot Fizza and Khalid: he truly was one of the “national treasures” when it comes to literature and services for media. Apart from that the other side of his personality which pointed towards “teesri simt” (third dimension) a term Mumtaz Mufti mentioned so many times , became more and more important and in his last 10-15 years, scores of people benifited from his wisdom. Ashfaq sahab had the skill and essentially the art of saying the simplest things in the most interesting manner.Recommend

  • SHAGY

    Dear Writer!
    I was too young (or immature) when Ashfaq Ahmed used to come on TV and I have heard a lot about him and am even more intrigued now to read him. Please guide me on his available books online and if you don’t mind please share your email address. Thanx!Recommend

  • Samir Tariq

    @SHAGY:
    Dear Shagy, im glad you feel like reading his work. I would suggest start reading Zavya first. It used to be a TV show where he would simply be sitting with group of students and professionals answering their questions with most intriguing stories, analogies and “hikayaats”…His point of reference in most cases were several Mystics and Sufis he came across in a span of 30-40 years, mostly starting from his initial interactions and friendship with Qudratullah Shahab and later with Saeen Noor wala Dera…

    Secondly you can find DVD of “Manchalay ka Sauda”….that was one of his iconic dramas. It came during General Zia’s time and due to its reference and theme of Sufism and Metaphysics, it was taken off-air midway. Very few people actually watched or liked that drama at the time it was released but later it turned into a cult classic and even to this day , several students of Sufism and Tasawuff read and watch that drama in order to understand the core of Sufism and the journey of “saalik” (the student of sufism)..

    Thirdly, you can also enjoy his “ek mohabbat sau afsanay” and “ek mohabbat sau dramay” in books as well as CDs of dramas….they are fascinating …My email is already given on this blog. if you click “Email Me” option i will get your mail directly.
    Best of LuckRecommend

  • Sane

    Ashfaque Ahmed is not a just literary legend, but a motivator and reformer as well. In our society where Urdu reading is scarce, people do not know much about him. His work like Baba Saheba and many of such has great source of inspiration.

    I know there will be very few comments posted for the reasons I already mentioned.Recommend

  • Samir Tariq

    So true Sane…he was really an inspiration figure. i would not worry about number of comments though…i really do believe that they are enough people out there who remember him through his words and work….and like Wasif Ali Wasif Sahab, even Ashfaq Ahmed Sahab’s wisdom and literature will be a guiding light for scores of people forever.Recommend

  • I am

    Sadden to see very less comments it this blog. Where r those, how spend a lot of time discussing Fazool topics. I am sure these people does not read great literary legends.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    @I am:
    Ashfaq sahib´s radio programme Talqeen Shah made him very popular in Lahore especially his famous dialogue…………….Hadayat-ullah teeN bawarchi da bawarchi hi rehna.Recommend

  • Samir Tariq

    @goggi (Lahore):
    Lol…so true…Talqeen Shah was one of the iconic characters created by him….Recommend

  • http://outlook Falcon Eyes

    @ I AM:
    it is because that article is about work of a positive and good personality.,of an optimist,,u can say!!! Who has beautiful wisdom to answer little,tangled problems of common man in a convincing manner.!!!
    Would it be an article judging ‘who it better India or Pak????’,,, the comment number will climb as fast as a squirrel !!!! lolx but true!!!! Recommend

  • http://outlook Falcon Eyes

    @samir tariq:
    Sir.. are the conversations and stories of Baabys(old men) told by Ashfaq Ahmed were fictious???? But my mom used to quote many of these saying they are real!!! confused..!!!!! :(Recommend

  • Abdul Rafay

    Ashfaq Ahmad is physically not present but through his books as a writer and a character is still live in us bcz the words which have been written show the presence when ever and any where read,tell and daramaised.
    unfortunetly now their a gap b/w that time and now. Ashfaq ahmed is an legend and his service sepcialy for every pakistani via book and media shows not more alive
    our youth deprived from such shows debts and power thinking. our media which can play a vital role to re-born such legend by darams and show
    now a days in home every one is interested in western cultured and tradition darams and forget theri own beautiful tradition culture and value and those legend who severs usRecommend

  • Samir Tariq

    @Falcon Eyes:
    i believe all of those stories were true…its up to individual beliefs and people are free to chose their own beliefs but i guess the moral of those stories were always positive and even if someone does not believe in Sufism and spiritualism. they cant deny the fact that they all talked about the “good” in every human…Recommend