Literary notes: Dialogue with divinity and a few other translations
HOW many books have been translated into Urdu from different languages on different topics so far? The estimated numbers differ wildly.
Ubaidullah Qudsi in his book Pakistan mein zehni rujhanaat (1958) had put the number of translated books into Urdu at about 6,000. In an article, Delhi University’s Dr Abdul Haq had estimated that there were about 18,000 books translated into Urdu from different languages as translations into Urdu had begun in the 16th century. Dr Haq’s article was included in Tarjume ka fun aur rivayet (1976), a book compiled by Dr Qamar Raees.
It would be safe to put the number somewhere in between as there are hundreds of translations, if not thousands, that were never published and their manuscripts are still gathering dust in museums, libraries and private collections. Seema Alavi in her book Islam and healing (2007) has mentioned a large number of original and translated works on medical science, written in India, which were never published. Also, translators have been doing their job untiringly and new translations from a large number of languages into Urdu keep pouring in. So, the actual total number of works rendered into Urdu must be very high.
Last week in these columns some new translations were discussed but many more were left since this writer has been receiving translated works in good numbers this year and some of them merit a mention.
Sheikh Abul Hasan Kharqani (963-1023) was a Sufi said to be unlettered, but, as put by Prof Moeen Nizami, was an ocean of arcane knowledge unto himself. Much respected among mystics, Kharqani had a profound knowledge of hadith and Quran as well. Known for their philosophical and mystic style, malfoozaat, or dictums, of Kharqani were compiled and published in Persian from Tehran some time ago under the title Navishteh bar darya.
Prof Moeen Nizami, a veteran scholar of Persian and an academic respected for his knowledge and commitment, has rendered it into versified Urdu. Titled Sara-i-Maula and published by Idara-i-Farogh-i-Urdu, Lahore, the book has certain pieces that are in fact dialogue with God and the poet talks to divinity with a rare and alluring candidness. Moeen Nizami teaches Persian at Lums and has done a wonderful job — yet again.
Sabarmati is located near Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India. It is the place where M.K. Gandhi (1869-1948), the leader of the independence movement who originally belonged to the Indian state of Gujarat, had established his ashram (hermitage), hence the name of the book. It is an Urdu translation of a book by Indulal Kanaiyalal Yajnik (also spelt Yagnik) (1892-1972). Originally titled Gandhi as I knew him and published in English in 1943, it is memoirs of a politician who was very close to Gandhi in his early political career, but was later disillusioned with the policies of Gandhi.
Translated into Urdu by Zafar Ahmed Ansari (1908-1991), All India Muslim League’s assistant joint secretary and a key figure in pre- and post-independence politics, the book has just been reprinted by Karachi’s Bazm-i-Takhleeq-i-Adab. It has been recomposed and presented in a good get-up, but at a very reasonable price. Rashid Ashraf, an engineer and bibliophile from Karachi, who is reviving and preserving rare Urdu books both online and in print form, has written the preface, giving details about the author and translator. This is a must-read for the scholars and students of history.
3. Sufaid Parinda
This is an Urdu translation of Iranian folk stories. Rendered into lovely flowing Urdu prose by Prof Moeen Nizami, this is only the third such collection in Urdu. Though modern Persian short stories have been translated into Urdu before, we had had only two translations of age-old Persian folk tales, one by Shafi Aqeel and the other by Tehseen Firaqi, informs Moeen Nizami in his foreword. Lahore’s Idara-i-Farogh-i-Urdu has published it and it must attract children and grown-ups alike.
Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene’ is considered among the remarkable works of English literature. A classical allegory, this long poem has always posed difficulties for the readers because of its language, which was dubbed as “archaic” by some critics. Tayyaba Tehseen has rendered it into Urdu and thus has enriched Urdu literature. Karachi’s Rang-i-Adab Publications has just published it.