Jigar and his peculiar version of ghazal

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A. B. Shahid

April 6 marks the 125th birthday of Jigar Muradabadi. He was born in Muradabad to a family of Moulvis who were also poets. This humble, intellectual setting endowed him with the golden values of compassion and consideration, for which he was admired by his contemporaries. My late father, who had known Jigar from the pre-partition days, often recalled instances of Jigar’s large-heartedness and exemplary compassion.

Besides these qualities, what distinguished him in the poet fraternity was the new profile his poetry gave to ghazal, which differs with its traditional version in a unique way. To Dr Farman Fatehpuri, he composed ghazals as an intense style of expressing a lover’s yearning for his beloved, and his beloved is not the traditional stone-hearted darling, as portrayed by most Urdu poets. This profile of his poetry distinguishes him from the rest.

Raha kharab-e-muhabbat hi woh jisay tu ney

Khud anpa dard-e-muhabbat dikha kay loot liya

Be sakhta aaj unkay bhi ansoo nikal aayee

Dekha na gaya hal-e-faqirana kisiska

Niaz-o-naz kay jhagray mitaye jatay hain

Hum un mein aur woh hum mein samaye jatay hain

These couplets and many more in this style, show that Jigar’s view of the beloved differs radically from that traditionally portrayed by Urdu poets. According to Jigar, the beloved too has a heart that is full of passion and feelings of love. Besides his poetic style, Jigar was blessed with a classical singer’s voice, and he had a unique style of reciting his poetry in the Mushairas. My father often used to remember the way Jigar simply mesmerised the audience when he recited his poetry in his typical style.

In 1857, after the resistance (‘mutiny’ according to the British) of India’s Muslim rulers failed to stop the British from conquering India, Urdu poetry underwent aradical change because Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, and later, Allama Iqbal focused on its nazm version for reminding the Muslims of the sub-continent of their glorious past to awaken them to the need for a political revival. As a consequence ghazal, and the romanticism it portrays, was being shunned. Jigar was the poet who revived the ghazal, and did so in his own style. Some examples thereof are the following couplets:

Zindagi mein aagaya jab koi waqt-e-imtehan

Us ne dekha hai Jigar beikhtiarana mujhey

Allah Allah yeh kamal-e-irtebat-husn-o-ishq

Faslay hon lakh, dil dil say juda hotey nahien

Portraying the pain of love became the distinguishing feature of his poetry; that’s what he acquired very early in his life when his first beloved – Waheed an – died soon after getting married to Jigar. Thereafter, expression of the pain of losing the beloved gave his poetry the glaze that is rare, but it also made him drink excessively. Yet, he remained a remarkably soft and compassionate individual. Take, for instance, the following couplets:

Muddat hui ek hadsa-e-ishq ko laykin

Abtak hai tere dil ke dharakney ki sada yad

Dil nay agar chupa bhi liya daagh-e-aarzoo

Aankhoon say to yeh raaz chupaya na jaigay

His relationship with Asghar Gondvi, another great poet of that time, greatly influenced Jigar’s life because he rescued Jigar from the pain of losing Waheedan by arranging his marriage with his sister-in-law Naseem, who brought a ray of hope into Jigar’s life. But this relationship too didn’t last long because, in spite of it, Jigar kept drinking, which eventually forced Ashgar to end this relationship. To make-up for his misjudgement in getting her married to Jigar, Asghar, who by then had become a widower, married Naseem.This tragedy revived the pain Jigar was suffering, as portrayed by the following couplets:

Dastan-e-gham-e-dil unko sunaee na gayee

Baat bigri thi to aisi ke bhulai na gayi

Keya poochtay ho halut, bemar-e-muhabbat ki

Kuchaur abhi ghariyan, baqi hain museebat ki

This was the second tragedy in Jigar’s life, which lifted his poetry to higher levels of perfection in portraying the pain of love, and made him one of the towering Urdu poets of the last century.The other remarkable quality of his poetry is its simplicity for understanding its message. He did compose complex couplets like the one below, but not too often:

Kabhi shakh-o-sabzao-barg par, kabhi guncha-o-gul-o-khaar par

Mein chaman mein chahey jahan rahoon, mera haq hai fasl-e-bahar par

While love was the subject of Jigar’s poetry, to which he did full justice throughout, he wasn’t oblivious to what went around him-politically disruptive trends of the 1940s, and a prolonged struggle that finally led to the partitioning of the Indian sub-continent at a horrendous cost in terms of loss of life and uprooting of large chunks of population. This scenario moved him to compose poetry that reflects a slide in human values. For instance,

Jehl-e-khirad nay din yeh dikhaey

Ghat gaey insane, barh gaey saaye


Hum ko mita sakey, yeh zamaney mein dum nahien

Hum se zamana khud hai, zamaney se hum nahien


Nahien jati kahan tak fikr-e-insani nahien jati

Magar apni haqeeqat aap pehchani nahien jati

But despite witnessing the human tragedies that are among the worst in human history, he did not lose his admirable poetic style and went on to compose lines as beautiful as the following that reflect the characteristic style of Jigar’s romantic poetry:

Aaj keya baat hai ke phoolon ka

Rang teri hansie se milta hai

Mil ke bhi jo kabhi nihien milta

Toot kar dil us hi se milta hai

Like Maulana Hasrat Moohani, Jigar too opted not to migrate to Pakistan. It was a considered move, as proved by subsequent events. In 1949, Delhi witnessed Hindu-Muslim riots that brought the likes of Premier Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Hasrat Moohani on the streets of Delhi to plead with the Hindu extremists to restore peace. At a public meeting in Chandni Chowk, Nehru went to the extent of saying that if the sin of the Muslims was that they were Muslims then he too will convert to Islam, and challenged the Hindu extremists to kill him – a warning only a leader like Nehru could afford to give to the Hindu extremists.

After peace was restored in Delhi, in fact the whole of India, an All India Mushaira was held in Delhi to dilute the divisive effects of the country-wide riots; Nehru, an Urdu and Persian scholar, presided over the Mushaira. In his much admired way of reciting poems Jigar recited his poem that contained the following eye-opening verses addressed to Nehru:

Dard barh kar fughan na ho jaiey

Yeh zamin aasman na ho jaiey

Dil ko lay lejiye jo layna ho

Phir yeh sauda garan na ho jaiey

Nehru not only got the message but admired the compassionate warning whereby Jigar told him to gain the confidence of India’s Muslims. The next morning, Nehru decided to award Jigar a life scholarship of Rs 500 per month – a huge sum back in 1949 – and announced his decision to do so, in the cabinet meeting held in his office that day. None except the radical Hindu nationalist Sardar Wallabhai Patel, then India’s interior minister, objected to this decision.

Based on contrived documentary evidence, Patel tried to project Jigar as a Pakistani agent. In response,an angry Nehru told Patel to learn to distinguish between patriotic Indians and foreign agents,and had that documentary evidence burnt in the PM office, and on that very day, the announcement about the award of life scholarship for Ali Sikandar Jigar Muradabadi, was made in the afternoon news bulletin broadcast by All India Radio.

Until his death on September 9, 1960 Jigar visited Lahore on several occasions to participate in Indo-Pak Mushairas. Because of our family’s long association with Jigar, each time he would send a post card to my late brother A.B.S. Jafri who was then residing in Lahore (and later served as the editor of the Pakistan Times, Kuwait Times, The Muslim, The Tribune and Pakistan Observer) informing him about his visit and my brother (whom, out of affection, he would call ‘peyare bhateejay’) looked after him throughout his stay.

To end this piece, I am reminded of a lasting reality – that an individual’s name influences his life and the legacy he/she leaves behind, is based on undeniable logic that has often been proved right. For instance, Asadullah Khan Ghalib, which means the lion of God who prevails. No wonder Ali Sikandar, which combines the names of the mighty Hazart Ali (RA) and Alexander the Great, made Jigar Muradabadi a towering figure in modern Urdu poetry.

A. B. Shahid, “Jigar and his peculiar version of ghazal,” in Business Recorder, April 5, 2015. Accessed on April 5, 2015, at: http://www.brecorder.com/weekend-magazine/0/1168709/

The item above written by A. B. Shahid and published in Business Recorder on April 5, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on April 5, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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