Insha Allah Khan Insha and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s bicentennial passed almost unnoticed
One expects a steady flow of books, articles and symposia on Sir Syed Ahmed Khan during the year 2017, as it marks the 200th birth anniversary of the great visionary. New editions of Sir Syed’s works too are much in demand. But so far, very little activity has been seen and only a few publications have appeared.
Remembering Sir Syed and revisiting his books is very important as it was he who paved the way for the educational, political, cultural and literary revival of the people of the subcontinent in general and Muslims in particular at a time when they were reeling from the aftermath of the 1857 war of freedom.
In fact it was Sir Syed who, during the Hindi-Urdu controversy, declared that Muslims were a separate nation. The idea, later called the two-nation theory, proved to be the theme of the movement leading to the demand for a separate country. The government of Pakistan, especially the National History and Literary Heritage Division, working under the aegis of the federal ministry of information, broadcasting and national heritage, should have come up with a detailed plan to celebrate Sir Syed’s 200th birth anniversary, thereby reaffirming the commitment to save and promote our national history and heritage.
One hopes that the host of departments and institutions working under the ministry would, at least, publish some books on Sir Syed and his role in shaping the ideas that accentuated a separate Muslim identity in South Asia, which culminated in the creation of Pakistan. The Pakistani nation must pay homage to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in a befitting manner.
Similarly, Insha Allah Khan Insha’s 200th death anniversary falls in the current year. Just like Sir Syed, Insha was a polymath. He knew Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Bengali and Marathi, and wrote in Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Hindi. His knowledge of many languages is evident from his poetry.
Insha was one of the earliest of Urdu poets who used English words in their Urdu poetry. His wit, erudition and prosodic experimentation make Insha stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries. But Insha is rarely, if ever, remembered.
Luckily, the National Book Foundation (NBF) has come up with a selection of Insha’s Urdu poetry, coinciding with the bicentenary of the poet.
Titled Intikhab-i-kalaam: Syed Insha Allah Khan Insha and compiled by Hanif Abid, the book was launched last week at Karachi’s Ghalib Library. The speakers especially mentioned the fact that NBF has done a good job by publishing the selection of Insha’s Urdu verses during his bicentenary year.
In the intro to the book, Dr Inamul Haq Javed, director general of NBF, says that it is of utmost importance to convey the literary heritage to the next generations and NBF has been trying to do that in an effective manner by publishing the selections of classical Urdu poets under its series ‘Rang-i-sukhan’. This is the 8th book in the series and more are on the way.
Hanif Abid is a senior journalist and has been associated with print and electronic media for a long time. In his preface, he has introduced the poet and his work briefly but lucidly.
We know that some literary organisations and educational institutions are planning to hold conferences on Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in October this year, as his birthday falls in October. This is commendable indeed, but what they must ensure is that the proceedings should be published because speeches disappear in thin air and publications remain and can be referred to.
Just as the centennial and bicentennial of some great writers and poets — such as Hali, Shibli, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Manto, N.M. Rashid, Miraji, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Mir Taqi Mir — were celebrated with much fervour, it is hoped that Insha Allah Khan Insha and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan too would be remembered with the same zeal. Publishing books, research papers and special issues of literary magazines are the means that ensure the legacy reaches posterity.
Insha Allah Khan Insha died on May 19, 1817.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, born on October 17, 1817, died on March 27, 1898.