An enlightened citizen

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Intizar Husain

IN our times a number of Urdu writers have been seen off upon turning to English and expressing themselves in that language. But our critics while discussing these writers hardly care to take into account those writings and make them part of their study. So the English writings of Urdu writers stand alienated in our literary tradition.

However, we have among us a scholar who has not kept his research within the limits of Urdu and Persian alone. He often crosses this limit and chooses a work in English or German for his research engagement. He is Ikram Chughtai, who has chalked out a programme of collecting and compiling strayed English writings of Urdu writers. He has already compiled the English writings of Aziz Ahmad and has brought out a volume comprising these writings.

Now he plans to collect the English writings of Daud Rahbar and present them in a series of volumes. The first volume titled, Dr Daud Rahbar — his English writings, has been brought out by the Pakistan Writers’ Co-operative Society, Lahore. Mr Chughtai has promised to us that “his very rare Urdu research papers, critical writings, poems etc and the most significant studies relating to the different aspects of Islam will soon be published in separate forthcoming volumes. Inshallah.”

The present volume includes English articles written by Rahbar and secondly the articles written about the author. So the book serves two purposes at the same time: firstly it provides us an introduction to Rahbar and secondly it is an introduction to Urdu language and literature as understood by Rahbar.

As for the first purpose, the book serves it only partly. As has been said in the preface, “his interests were widespread, including Oriental music and the culinary arts”. We have been told in particular about his involvement in music: “His love was for classical Indian music”. In one of his books he writes “Music has been my solace for the last 40 years. Without it I perhaps could not have been a friend to myself and to others. Music and poetry have made life easier for me everywhere and at every stage of my adult life.” But in the articles about him included here we don’t find any reference to his involvement in music.

As for Rahbar’s own writings included here, he appears very keen to tell his English readers about Urdu as he has understood it. After referring to the Oriental College of Lahore, he starts talking about the leading poets of Urdu such as Iqbal, Ghalib, Akbar Allahabadi, and Hafeez Jallandhari. Coming to Urdu’s prose writers he talks about Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Deputy Nazir Ahmad, Maulana Khawaja Hali and Maulvi Abdul Haq.

Under the heading ‘Urdu literature’ we find four articles. Here Rahbar is seen asserting that “the Urdu literature of the past two centuries is in some ways richer and profounder than the Persian and Arab literature of the same period. It owes its richness to the cross fertilisation that came from the interchange of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Sikh traditions in India.”

Apart from his involvement in Indian classical music and Urdu literature Rahbar is known to us as a great scholar, particularly with reference to religions. Here in this volume we find three articles from Khaled Ahmed, who has discussed him in this capacity. He has referred to his book Kalchar kai Ruhani Anasir where “he is seen tracing the spiritual elements in Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist culture”. He dismisses those who have questioned “the faith of this scholar of comparative religion”. He adds “one can however say this: that his entire career has been a defence of Islam in the face of Western Orientalist tradition, much before Edward Said popularised the theme in his book Orientalism”.

Ahmed has ably discussed him as a scholar calling him “an intellectual ‘wanderer’ who doesn’t care to be famous but wants to be understood by ‘no more than 10 people’, as he explained in a letter”. And he ends his article by saying “For me, he is more than just an extraordinary son of Islam. He is the most enlightened citizen of the world that I have personally known.”

Intizar Husain, “An enlightened citizen,” in Dawn, July 26, 2015. Accessed on July 26, 2015, at:

The item above written by Intizar Husain and published in Dawn on July 26, 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 July 26, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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