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Islamic Culture ( 26 Nov 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Lack of Social and Literary Commitment in Contemporary Urdu Literature

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

26 November 2021

Urdu Speaking Community and Urdu Organizations Need To Take Revolutionary Steps to Stem the Rot

Main Points:

1.    Committed poets and writers in Urdu are few.

2.    Editors like Gopal Mittal, Zubair Razvi, Sajid Rasheed and Shamsur Rahman Faruqi are no more.

3.    Today’s Urdu writers have not social and literary commitment.

4.    Urdu literature has lost its relevance in the contemporary social milieu.



(Representational Photo from Files)


Literature is called the mirror of the society. But the purpose of the creation of literature is not merely reflecting the society but also welfare of the society. And human society can progress only when the individuals of the society are developed intellectually, morally and spiritually. Literature not only provides intellectual entertainment to the readers but also makes covert and overt efforts to train the people both intellectually and spiritually.

The purpose of literature had begun to come to fore ever since the beginning of the 20th century and the basic problems of the society got importance in literature. Progressive movement made literature an important pillar of the social life on which the grand building of political and social and economic revolution was constructed. The freedom movement contributed to the significance and importance of literature and literature became an effective tool against slavery, exploitation and class tyranny. The writers and poets of that era were had patriots and were ready to make sacrifices for the welfare of the society. Literature, to them, was not merely a means to earn name and fame but a ran in their veins like blood. They were not merely writers and poets but also social activists and literature was a quintessential part of their activism. They not only waged a war against the power that be but also tried to create awareness about social ills. They did not hesitate to make the biggest sacrifice to achieve their social and literary goals. They did not compromise on their principles for personal gains. They led a life of penury but struggled for the economic prosperity of the people. They themselves went to jail but gifted freedom to the people of their country. They renunciated their posts and jobs but did not accept restrictions on their right to expression. Famous poet Josh Mallihabadi wrote a poem on exploitation of peasants and the Nawab of Hyderabad removed him from his job. Munshi Premchand resigned the government job because the British government wanted to censor his writings. Qazi Nazrul Islam abandoned the idea of joining the job of deputy registrar of Bardhaman because while doing government job, he would not be able to join the freedom movement against the Briitish. Hundreds of other poets and writers endured the hardships of incarceration, even accepted the noose for the good of the society.

Literature was an effective means of achieving social and communal goals for Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. If he wanted he could lead a life of luxury by being subservient to the British government. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Bismil Azimabadi, Ashfaqullah Khan Hasrat warsi, Hasrat Mohani and hundreds of other writers and poets adopted literature as a powerful means of achieving their social and political goals and became the victims of the wrath of the government.

Even after the independence, the poets and writers of Urdu had a collective sense of responsibility towards their society. They did not compromise on their principles and remained flag bearers of truth. Fiction writer, novelist and journalist Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was a communist but in the preface to Ramanand Sagar’s book “Aur Insan Mar Gaya”, he held also the communists along with the British government and religious and political organizations responsible for the post-independence riots. He was expelled from IPTA and all other communist organizations for this but he stood his ground. Sadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai invited the wrath of the fundamentalists for his depiction of the social evils and were even dragged to the court but they did not compromise on their literary ideals.


(Representational Photo from Files)


However, gradually social and literary commitment disappeared from Urdu literature. Urdu writers became sidekicks of the power that be. Poets and writers became hungry for luxuries and government amenities and privileges. Though they praised the acivements of the political parties they were associated with, they did not find the courage to speak out about their wrong policies and mistakes. As a result, their literature became hollow and worthless. It lost its relevance. He standard of research and criticism and creative literature declined drastically. Books were being written only to earn fame and to increase the number of books. Urdu periodicals and magazines, instead of trying to bring reform in literature, became the part of the same literary corruption suffered from ideological bankruptcy.

Now, editors like Zubair Razvi, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Mahmood Ayaz, Gopal Mittal, Sajid Rasheed are no more. One may disagree with their literary ideologies but their literary commitment cannot be denied.

Literature is basically the product of the creative intuition of the writer but when the number of books is made the criterion for academic jobs and the standards of research and creativity is ignored, then literature becomes merely a means of fulfilling economic needs. Under this faulty system, books are published in great numbers. Men and women who cannot write a good article become authors of books mysteriously.  Today, writing a  good article is difficult but publishing  a book is easy. A big underground market of manuscripts has come into existence. Today, Urdu books find very few readers but Urdu books are published almost daily. The ceremony of inauguration of books is held with much fanfare and old and seasoned writers attend those ceremonies and shower praises on the books of budding writers and give the impression that the publication of the book was a historical event.

Today, the writers of Urdu have no ideals or social goals. Leave aside having lofy goals like Sir Syed, Allama Iqbal, Maulana Azad, Faiz and Hasrat Mohani, the writers of Urdu are not even attached with the common problems and issues of the people. They do not have the courage to raise their voices against injustice and oppression because the government privileges have more value for them.

Before the Partition, the Bengali intellectual Mohammad Naseeruddin published a Bengali literary journal Soughat. He was a flag bearer of women’s education and was against purdah. This antagonized the religious section. He helped the first Muslim graduate woman Fazilatunnisa to go abroad for higher education. For that, the opponents of Muslim women’s education beat him up in the street.

Today’s Urdu writer can fight only for Mushairas and can use all his connections to get a government award. Problems of the society do not perturb him. He is happy in his comfort zone.

To rid Urdu literature of the mediocrity and ideological bankruptcy, Urdu speaking community need to take revolutionary steps. Quality of research work and not the number of books should be made the criterion for academic excellence. Genuine talent should be promoted and appreciated and Urdu departments of the government should take appropriate measure to clear the mess Urdu language and literature is in.


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