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LITERARY NOTES: Of research and Baba Fareed’s Urdu, Persian and Punjabi poetry

LITERARY NOTES: Of research and Baba Fareed’s Urdu, Persian and Punjabi poetry

CHIEFLY known as one of the foremost Sufi saints of the Chishtiya order of mystics, Hazrat Baba Fareeduddin Masood Ganjshakar was a poet, too, and he wrote poetry in Urdu, Persian and Punjabi.

Some researchers have shown their doubts over the origin and authenticity of the Urdu, Persian and Punjabi poetry attributed to Baba Fareed. They say that the only book that Baba Fareed ever compiled consisted of the dictums and sayings of his mentor Hazrat Bakhtiar Kaaki. Baba Fareed’s own dictums were compiled by his disciple Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia by the title of Rahatul quloob.

According the sceptics, Sheikh Ibrahim Fareed Sani was the actual creator of the poetry attributed to Baba Fareed. But Dr Arshad Mahmood Nashad in his new book Jaada-i-tehqeeq insists that the Punjabi, Persian and Urdu poetry attributed to Baba Fareed was written by him, though it is quite probable that with the passage of time some textual changes might have taken place as it was mainly orally disseminated in its early days.

Dr Nashad says that there is no contemporary evidence that can prove that Ibrahim Fareed Sani was a poet while there are conclusive and compelling proofs that Baba Fareed was a poet of Urdu, Punjabi and Persian and his poetry is quoted in many literary works, including Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred book of the Sikhs. Most of the works citing Baba Fareed’s poetry were penned much before Ibrahim Fareed Sani was born, adds Dr Nashad.

Having established the genuineness of Baba Fareed’s poetry, Dr Nashad quotes Baba-i-Urdu Moulvi Abdul Haq and Hafiz Mahmood Sherani, two of the most venerable researchers of Urdu, who have reproduced a few Urdu couplets attributed to Baba Fareed. The two great scholars felt it was one of the earliest known written samples of the Urdu language and poetry. But the two revered scholars and Dr Nashad have ignored the fact that the last couplet included in the verses purporting to be composed by Baba Fareed refers to him as ‘shakarganj’, a title given to him by his prot?g?s and followers.

One cannot assume that an ascetic Sufi saint like Baba Fareed would praise himself and call himself ‘shakarganj’. One can guess that while the rest of the verses were composed by Baba Fareed, the last couplet might have been added later by a prot?g? of Baba Fareed’s, expressing his admiration. On the basis of some intrinsic evidence, Dr Nashad feels that the poetry attributed to Baba Fareed was definitely written by him, though he admits that the possibility of interpolation taking place over the centuries cannot be ruled out.

Different dates have been mentioned in different sources as Baba Fareed’s birthday. According to Siyerul auliya, a well-known history of Chishtiya order of Sufis, Baba Fareed was born in the year 569 Hijri, which corresponds to 1173/74 AD. However, Tareekh-i-Farishta, the famous treatise on the history of Indo-Pak subcontinent, quotes 584 Hijri/1188 AD as the year of his birth, which seems to be convincing. Similarly, different dates have been quoted as his date of death, but researchers have reckoned that Baba Fareed passed away on 5th of Muharram, 670 Hijri or Aug 13, 1271 AD. His shrine is in Pakpattan (formerly Ajodhan), near Sahiwal, Punjab.

The book, published by Islamabad’s Poorab Academy, includes research articles on different topics but the thread that binds them all is critical perspective on the literary works of Urdu, Punjabi and Persian. Other research and critical articles included in the book are on some rare Urdu texts, teaching and research of Punjabi and Persian, critical views on Allama Iqbal’s and Hali’s poetry, prosodic evaluation of Allama Iqbal and Ahmed Faraz’s poetry and Ghalib’s Persian letters.

Among them a research article introduces Safarnama-i-Munshi Ameen Chand, a rare Urdu travelogue first published from Delhi in 1854. This makes it only the second travel account in the history of Urdu literature, the first being Ajaibaat-i-farang written by Yousuf Kambalposh and published from Delhi in 1847.

In his preface Dr Nashad says that “the history of Urdu literature is still incomplete and there are certain gaps that need to be filled. There are many manuscripts lying in the libraries of Pakistan, India, UK and other countries of the world and those manuscripts must be taken into account before writing Urdu’s literary history. Similarly, critics and writers hailing from different parts of the world have a specific and limited perspective which gives some verisimilitude but we are deprived of total truth”.

Dr Arshad Mahmood Nashad teaches Urdu at Islamabad’s Allama Iqbal Open University and has penned a number of books and research articles on assorted topics. Having done his PhD on the topic of Urdu ghazal’s prosodic and technical aspects, his forte is classical literature, Sufism and prosody. In addition to writing critical and research articles, Nashad composes poetry in Urdu and Punjabi.

Jaadaa-i-tehqeeq looks at Urdu, Punjabi and Persian literatures in a different perspective and with its authentic references it definitely tries to fill some gaps in the literary history that Dr Nashad is so wary of.

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Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2017

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