Ziauddin Ahmed               Toronto             May  2011

Dr. Khalid Sohail and Ashfaq Husain’s book on Faiz is among many tributes being paid to the personality of one of the stalwarts of peace and freedom of mankind. ‘FAIZ - a poet of peace from Pakistan’; being the title of the book should not, however, restrain the brilliant thinker to within the boundaries of  a single country, because the personality transcended the limitations of borders in his own lifetime, and came to be known as a poet of freedom of expression, the inherent right of every living soul. 

Dr. Khalild Sohail starts the introduction of the book by saying, “ I never met Faiz but I still feel as if I know him’.  I too never met Faiz in any depth but only briefly on one occasion, when he was sitting with an another contemporary of his who was a cofounder of the Progressive writers movement , Professor Ahmed Ali, at the latter’s house one day. Ahmed Ali happened to be my uncle and I was fortunate to be present there at that occasion. That brief exposure and the effect of the atmosphere and the magical vibes of the moment of the interaction of two gigantic intellects was enough to captivate my attention,  the memory of which stands out vividly to this day. I was so taken in by the mannerism and the body language of the two friends that although, being both young and rather uninvolved in the subject I could not understand most of the topic of discussion, yet became an avid admirer of the situation and the moment. Most notable to me was the manner of the conversation and often times the unspoken communication of the two indomitable personalities. I could not contain my admiration of the method of exchange of ideas between the two and their mutual respect, admiration and appreciation of the other’s point of view. It was a lesson in demeanor and behavior of exalted intellects to a young novice and raw student like myself. All throughout the evening I was lost and enamored by the atmosphere of the event, and frankly did not pay much attention to what was being said but to how it was being said, both physically and emotionally. I was captivated by the flow of ideas and it left an indelible impression on me, and has surely been one of the most memorable moments in my life. It is events such as these which are normative and formative for impressionable personalities. I feel that youth should, if for nothing else then to learn mannerism, be encouraged and exposed to such encounters in their upbringing. This is education beyond the text and written word.   

Dr. Khalid hits the nail on the head when he says: 

I feel he (Faiz) had not only a humanist philosophy but also a humanist personality, which is a rare combination”. 

A friend recently remarked that one of Faiz’s greatness is his preservation of the traditionalism of the East along with the maintenance of the evolutionary trend in the literary style of the period. 

 Reflect when he says: 

Joe thakay thakay say thay howaslay
soe shabab bun kay machal gayay
Joon nazar nazar say galay malee
toe bujhay chiragh bhi jal gayay

I have translated it as :

Those that were sluggish and lifeless episodes,
Started to glow, and flow, and sway.
As one’s sight embraced the other’s view,
The blown out lamps too, began to glitter away.

Does this not reflect the inborn optimism of a positivist, yet keeping the melancholy of the East intact in the beauty of thought and expression?


In the interview of Ashfaq Husain by Dr. Khalid Sohail, one of the things that came up was the question that the eastern people in their sentimentality either raise poets and leaders to dizzying heights of reverence, or completely discard them and throw them off the pedestals of respect. It seems that this is a catch 22 situation, where the poet’s and leader’s own attitudes and projections of their ideas raise the level of both the reader and writer alike. A creative poet or leader is one who gauges the mood of the society and the inherent needs and shortcomings of it, and then highlights them and suggests and works to remedy them. Those who have the foresight and vision become leaders in their fields and show the way, but those that deal with trivialities and are unconcerned are left by the side of the road by the onward movement of civilization and its progress. Those that are not capable of either changing themselves or their environment cannot change the society,  and it in its turn passes them by. The visionaries inject new ideas in the atmosphere they breathe, and once the people inhale them, they as a consequence of it raise the standard of judgment, and the level of the entire system is moved one scale up for the next coming contestant. Faiz is revered because he helped to raise the inherent level and inborn values of the reader’s own self-esteem, by projecting its inherent values in his work and along with his own indomitable personality. He is also respected because he truly led by example. He was a front runner in the Unionist movements and took up the cause of the down trodden not only through his writings but also action, and worked hard to implement his theory and ideas.  

Continuing, in the interview, Ashfaq Husain aptly remarks that Faiz was unique in his philosophy. In my opinion his uniqueness is composed of, and reflects the subject matter of his work. Like Ghalib, who was a philosopher poet of human nature and the conflict of human values of his period, Faiz  achieved immortality through his struggle with the prevalent conditions of his time  and his remarkable way of portraying his ideas in the easy flow of his words and language. 

The book ‘Faiz – A poet of peace from Pakistan’ gives a very comprehensive identity of the personality of the poet. I feel it is actually like ‘historiography’, and is a complete analysis of the personality of Faiz Ahmed Faiz from many angles and views. Its list of topics and each chapter cover most aspects of the poet’s personality from different sides. Anyone studying Faiz for the first time will get well acquainted with most of his traits, both as a poet and a person. Its value as a book of reference in the English language is noteworthy for immigrants and their progeny, and generally for people of Western societies. The inclusion of essays from different writers gives authentication and variety to the presentation. It narrates the poet’s versatile access and influence over a varied section of people and cultures. Just by reviewing the list of the chapters and their headings one would get an idea of the conglomeration of the galaxy of writers and admirers of the personality of Faiz. 

I have not read Faiz at as great a length as many of you may have done. My main exposure to him has been through the songs of Mehdi Hasan, Iqbal Bano, Nayaria Noor, Tina Saani and others; yet the little that I managed to browse through his work impressed upon me the level of the height and  stature of the man, and the flight of his thoughts. Most enamoring is a clean and flowing language and fluency of his diction.  

I would not like to stand in the way of Faiz lovers to enjoy the book and it’s magic. I would just like to leave you with my own motivation to reading him as I was drawn in after I read these two verses, and then heard them being sung by Nayera Noor, a singer who sings him from her heart more than the melody of her voice.  

Faiz’s personal dignity and the traditions of the East are bejeweled like pearls in a necklace around the neck of an eastern lass, one who is herself  oblivious of her own beauty, its radiance and charm. Much like a young budding rose unconscious of its own rapture, and is peeping out of the tender leaves and thorns of the garden, which in their turn are protecting it from the envious eyes of the vicious bugs. Just observe the remarkable blend of sensitivity, delicacy, decency and the shyness of the East, married in the beauty of language and vocabulary and the feelings of the poet himself. This could only be conceived by a soul that is itself moved by even the soft fluttering of the morning breeze.  

Yeh shakista deed ki karwatain
bhi ujab lateef o jameel theen
Main nazar jukha kay tarap gaya
Wooh nazar bacha kay nikal gayay
These twists and turns of loss of view,
Were so enchantingly beautiful;
That I, lowered my gaze, and was dazed,
And stealthily she, from my view effaced.

How would the same sensitive soul, who could even feel the delicacy of the pinch of a rose petal, remain oblivious to the suffering of humanity, and not speak out saying?:  

Bool keh lab aazad hain tarey 

And as per the book: 

Speak, your lips are free
Speak, it is your tongue
Speak, it is your own body
Speak, your life is still yours

And so Faiz took up the pen and made it truly mightier than the sword.  When made to suffer at the hand of ruthless rulers and driven to the dungeon in an open carriage, would he not be moved at the sad state of self and its humiliation?  For he then writes, and rightly so:


Chashm e nam, jaan e showrideh kafi naheen
Tuhmut e eishq e poshida kafi naheen
Aaj bazaar main paa ba jolaan chaloo….
      Bedew'd eye, life in tumult, is not so tough,
       Blame of a secretive love, is not enough,
       Today you have to pass the market place,
       With fetters on the feet and a humble face

Both the above quoted verses may have been written in  completely different contexts or frame of mind by the poet, yet each depicts the intensity of sensitivity and the Eastern traditionalism of the personality that is narrating its  delicate observation of its own sentimentality.

In the end when I am in a pensive mood and reminisce on great minds such as these,  I am reminded of Robert Southey’s poem, which he may have written sitting in his library.

        My days among the Dead are past;

                  Around me I behold,
              Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
                  The mighty minds of old;
              My never-failing friends are they,
              With whom I converse day by day.
              With them I take delight in weal,
                  And seek relief in woe;
              And while I understand and feel
                How much to them I owe,
            My cheeks have often been bedew'd
            With tears of thoughtful gratitude.
            My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
                I live in long-past years,
            Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
                Partake their hopes and fears,
            And from their lessons seek and find
            Instruction with an humble mind. 
            My hopes are with the Dead, anon
                My place with them will be,
            And I with them shall travel on
                Through all Futurity;
            Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
            That will not perish in the dust.
Thank you.