More is less when it comes to Faiz

Published: July 2, 2010

Faiz' poetry holds impeccable appeal for its sophistication and simplicity

The richness of Urdu language could easily be gauged from the brilliance of literature and poetry. At one time Urdu was my sole medium of expression. Then slowly and gradually, don’t know how English replaced Urdu but the sweetness of Urdu – that brings me back to it from time to time – remained unbeatable. However, there was one thing in school that always stole my peace and that was Urdu poetry. The cumbersome process of tashreeh and explanation of the poetic endeavors of the renowned poets for earning good grades in school was a tedious task. One couldn’t go beyond five lines in explanation but you had to compete with the mentality of the-MORE-you-write-the-more-you’d-get-MARKS. It was due to this fear that I stayed away from the study of poetry as leisure.

It was really late in life when I started reading and appreciating poetry beyond text books. Like a typical teenager I started off by reading Wasi Shah – kash main tere haseen haath ka kangan hota – fame. There was no looking back and I began delving deep into the ocean of poetry and realized how much I had missed.

I can’t accurately recall how I stumbled upon Faiz’ poetry; his work was not a part of Urdu syllabus because of his rebellious thoughts. As much as I remember, Q. U Shahab’s autobiography Shahabnama acted as a catapult, where he had quoted that famous couplet:

Aye kuch abr, kuch sharaab aye

Iss ke baad aye jo azab aye

Even before reading Shahabnama, Faiz’ name was quite familiar to me – thanks to PTV for transforming many of his poems into evergreen songs. The great play of yesteryears Dhoop Kinare where the protagonist (Rahat Kazmi) was shown reading and listening to Faiz’ poetry also played part in glamorizing couplets like

raat youn dil main teri khoi hui yaad aaye / jaise weerane main chpke se bahar aajaye

jaise sehraaon main holay se chale baad-i-naseem / jaise beemar ko baywajah qarar aajaye

Faiz’ poetry holds impeccable appeal for its sophistication on one hand and simplicity on the other. It boggles my mind that how easily yet in piercing manner one can convey his thoughts such as:

Ker raha tha gham-i-jahan ka hisaab

Aaj tum yaad bay hisaab aye

Faiz gave new meaning to a moonlit night:

So rahi hai ghanay darakhton per

Chandi ki thaki hui awaz

Yes, only Faiz can convey a thought like this:

Faiz zinda rahain woh hain to sahi

Kya hua gar wafa shuaar nahi

It is inevitable to associate a person’s refined tastes with reading Faiz. If someone reads and quotes him often in their conversation means that person, arguably, has a touch of elegance. It is just like when someone appreciates opera or Beethoven which is bound to go over the heads of most of the listeners but you can tell about that listener’s great taste.

Faiz was basically a revolutionary poet for he has written mostly for the poor, persecuted and, crushed junta. His poems and anthems like Bol ke lab azad hain tere and Hum daikhain gey come to life every time the winds of change blow in the motherland. The last time, his poems and songs were quoted and played with great zeal during the Lawyer’s Movement for the restoration of Chief Justice. But unfortunately the real people for whom Faiz wrote are oblivion to his existence or of his poems for that matter. You go on the streets and ask the poor vendor about him, he would fail to tell you who Faiz was. This makes one wonder whether Faiz really was an awami poet (the poet of ordinary people) or he like the great Chugtai and many others has become the favorite subject of drawing room discussion only. Faiz’ words resonate realism which makes him the favorite poet of all times and although the ordinary man on the street of Pakistan may not know him that doesn’t shake Faiz’ stature as a great contemporary poet of Pakistan’s history. That’s true the more you read Faiz, the more you yearn for his poems.


Ayesha Umar

Interested in current affairs, cultural and gender-based issues Ayesha religiously tweets @ayeshaesque. In her free time she blogs at Fifth Junction and indulges in random photography.

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

  • Gunja Farishta

    My Urdu vocabulary and reading skills are not strong enough to read and understand Urdu literature.

    Studying in these elitist “English-medium” schools all my life has rendered my Urdu language skills at an embarrassingly low level. I can’t even read the Urdu newspaper with confidence. It makes me feel ashamed of myself. 90% of my friends can’t read Urdu properly.

    I think schools in Pakistan (at least Karachi) need to overhaul their curriculum and ensure that their students are capable of at least reading and understanding their own mother tongue.

    I would love to read Manto, Ghalib, Bano Qudsia, Ashfaq Ahmad, Faiz and so on…but until the work is translated, transliterated and explained…it’s no use.

    P.S. It’s late in the night – apologies to grammar nazis.Recommend

  • faria.syed

    What a lovely post. Faiz was one of the first Urdu poets I was intruduced to. I think my mother thought that he would get me hooked on literature – and she was right!
    As you have pointed out, Faiz’ poetry did not reach the masses but the true tragedy is that it has not permeated to the urban elite.Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    i love reading faiz….his “nuskha e haye wafa” is my fav one…He was a progressive and revolutionary poet….i love his “Hum khastano se mohtasibo, kia maal manal ka poochtey ho….” and “yeh daagh daagh ujala, yeh shab gazedda sehar,,”Recommend

  • Ebby

    Read Habib Jalib if you like revolutionary poet and if you have read him i would really like you to write an article on his piece of work.

    Qateel Sheefi expressed his feelings for Habib Jalib in the following words:

    Apney sarey dard bhula kar auron ke dukh sehta tha
    Hum jub ghazlain kehtey thay wo aksar jail main rehta tha
    Aakhir kar chala hi gya wo rooth kar hum farzanon se
    Wo deewana jisko zamana Jalib Jalib kehta thaRecommend

  • NaderHamid

    great post. i appreciate you for writing such provoking post. regards Recommend