Kalam-e-Faiz Ba-Khat-e-Faiz : Iftikhar Arif’s Wonderful Tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz
By Dr A. Khan
Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984) was one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. Today in the 21 st century, his poetry continues to provide relaxation to the minds of millions around the globe. Faiz remains a truly universal poet who provides solace to the millions of techno-stressed beings around the world, who long for love and peace.
In the post-Faiz poetic world, Iftikhar Arif has emerged as the most prominent poet of modern Urdu literature . As Urdu literature gets translated into other languages, the beauty of his poetic message has started to shine all over the globe. Besides poetry, Iftikhar Arif also writes exquisite prose. He is an intellectual par excellence, and a noble man. For his friends sometimes it becomes difficult to decide whether his “Nastalleq poetry” is superior to his “Nafees personality” or vice versa.
Iftikhar Arif hails from Dabistan-e-Lucknow and presently is the leading poet of Dabistan-e-Pakistan. In the mid-1960s after migrating from Lucknow to Karachi, he lived across the famous Darussalam (the house where Musharraf family lived after migration to Pakistan), where he made many friends in Nazimabad, Karachi. In the evening he used to sit with friends on the Pulli’yah across Darussalam and recite his poetry and share his aspirations. Then he got discovered and became a legend through the Quiz program Kasauti on Pakistan Television. During the course of his professional activities in Karachi and London he befriended Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Their four-decade long friendship ended in 1984 with the demise of Faiz.
To honor and pay tribute to his friend and mentor, Iftikhar Arif has written two books on Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Faiz Banam Iftikhar and Kalam-e-Faiz Ba Khat-e- Faiz were launched in 2011 to celebrate the 100 th year of Faiz’s birth. Faiz Banam Iftikhar is a collection of 38 letters Faiz wrote to Iftikhar Arif. In Kalam-e-Faiz Ba-Khat-e-Faiz (Sang-e-Meel Publications) , Iftikhar Arif reminisces his interaction and friendship with Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The book has two parts: the first part is a collection of thirteen short narratives of Iftikhar Arif on Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and the second part is an album of Faiz’s poetry in his own script. Iftikhar Arif has dedicated the book to Alys Faiz (1914-2003), the dedicated wife who always stood by Faiz during his never ending trials and tribulations.
In the narrative titled Meray dil meray musafir (my heart my traveler), Iftikhar Arif describes how he got this manuscript and how it got published. On his travel to Moscow from Beirut, Faiz sahib stayed in London and gave Iftikhar Arif the script of Meray dil meray musafir and asked him to review and mail it to Lahore for publication. Reflecting on Faiz’s request Iftikhar Arif writes, “I was touched by his kind act and request and I became very emotional and touched his feet and requested him that my educational and literary standing is not of that caliber to judge and review your work.” After the publication of Meray dil meray musafir, when Faiz and Alys came to London, Iftikhar Arif requested Alys if he could keep the original manuscript of the book. Alys agreed. Later Iftikhar Arif gave the manuscript to Faiz Foundation .
Iftikhar Arif remembers celebrating Faiz’s 70 th birthday in London’s Commonwealth Institute. The meeting was presided over by prominent Urdu scholar Ralph Russell , while Zia Moheyuddin read Faiz’s poems, and when Zehra Nigar in her touching voice recited Faiz’s poetry, Faiz’s eyes became wet.
In exile Faiz has written remarkable poems. Iftikhar Arif writes about Faiz’s interview conducted by the BBC. Faiz was asked what advice he would offer to young people about poetry. He said, “Regarding poetry there are three pieces of advice, first whatever one writes it must come from the heart. Do not write on the advice of others. Do not write under pressure. Do not write for reward. Do not write for the sake of politics. Whatever comes from the heart just write that. Second piece of advice is that man in reality is very miniscule; what can one produce from within; whatever is inside, comes from outside; so the point to ponder is that what is outside? So outside has three spheres, a sphere of one’s own self; what one has experienced and by virtue of this experience how people and the nation have been impacted. In light of this, one should analyze the circumstance. So these are the three spheres one should ponder over. Moreover, one should keep an eye on the past, present and future. One should ponder: what was our link to the past? What are we doing in the present? And in future, what paths do we need to pursue? After all this is contemplated, it is possible to create high level poetry which can serve society.”
In another narrative “Faiz Lucknow main,” Iftikhar Arif writes about Faiz’s visit to Lucknow. When Faiz returned to London after visiting Lucknow, he told Iftikhar Arif, “I visited your city; there was a majestic gathering which was presided over by your teacher professor Syed Shabi-ul-Hasan Nonahervi. The professor said that centuries ago when Mir Taqi Mir visited Lucknow, it was a historic occasion. Today Faiz has visited Lucknow; it is the second significant historic occasion."
In the same narrative Iftikhar Arif also mentions the fact that Faiz wanted a friendly relationship between Pakistan and India. Moreover, Iftikhar Arif observes that he had attended a number of Mushiarahs with Faiz sahib, and he never heard him saying anything against Pakistan.
Iftikhar Arif recalls another BBC interview of Faiz in which he asked Faiz: “Do you have any regrets in your life?” Faiz replied, “One regret is that when I was in school it was my ambition to become a star cricketer. I used to dream that I have become a test cricketer and was playing in big matches. But I could not become a star cricketer; I regret it very much….another thing is that when I was five, six or seven years old, I started to memorize the Qur’an . The services of a Hafiz sahib were acquired, and I memorized three parts. But then my eyes got sore, so that is another regret that I could not continue to memorize additional parts of Qur’an.”
In the narrative titled Allama Iqbal, Iftikhar Arif mentions a conversation that took place between Faiz Ahmed Faiz and politician Jam Sadiq Ali at the Urdu Markaz, London. Jam Sadiq Ali talking to Faiz sahib said, “SaiN you are our greatest poet.” Then gazing at the people present in the room Jam Sadiq said, “I consider Faiz a superior poet than Iqbal.” Faiz sahib said, “No that is not true. Mir was the greatest poet of the eighteenth century; the nineteenth century belonged to Ghalib and the twentieth century belonged to Iqbal. Considering this, I am just a B plus poet.”
Iftikhar Arif observes that Faiz was a very open-minded person; he firmly believed in his ideology yet he respected others’ beliefs and emotions. This unique trait of his personality led others to adore him. Faiz sahib never said anything bad about people who used to criticize him. He believed that one should avoid conflict; in conflict one’s creative energy is wasted. Iktikhar Arif has also included a narrative about Faiz’s stay in Beirut where he edited Lotus.
Iftikhar Arif and Faiz sahib were great friends; they respected each other and praised each other’s poetry. In the foreword of Iktikhar Arif’s poetry collection “Maher-e-doo-neem,” Faiz Ahmed Faiz praising him observed, “… in future if he [Iftikhar Arif] does not create additional work even then this book will earn him a prominent place in modern literature.” And Iftikhar Arif praising Faiz in NaZr-e-Faiz has said: Joo Faiz say shaarF IsstaFadaH rakhtay haiN/Kuch ahlay darD say nisbat ziadah rakhtay haiN (Those who have the privilege of Faiz’s company/They have close relationship with those who feel)
Indeed, Iftikhar Arif had the privilege of Faiz’s company and through Kalam-e-Faiz Ba-Khat-e-Faiz he has proved his closed relationship with Faiz. The book is a wonderful tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
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