, by QAZI OBAID-UR-RAHMAN HASHMI
The poetry of Ms Razia Haleem Jung, although not a familiar name in Urdu poetry, attracts our attention by her debut “Sada-e-Dil” (Outpourings of the Heart).
Leafing through it, we get the impression that it is an entirely different kind of poetic endeavour, which is devoted primarily to the praise and glorification of God Almighty and is a tribute to His prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). Though in our times, there are only a few poets who write exclusively on devotional themes, such a tradition does exist in all civilisations, including the west where from pre-Christian era to the 20th century, a lot of hymns have been written. One such masterpiece is G.K. Chesterton’s O! God of Earth and Altar. My mind also goes to great German philosopher-poet Goethe of the 18th century who wrote a marvellous poem, An Ode to Mohammad to pay his glowing tributes to the paragon of excellence, the essence of humanity and the spirit of piety.
Hymn writing was a favourite vocation of the Pali, Sanskrit and Hindi poets in our country during the ancient and medieval periods. Almost all the poets belonging to Bhakti movement rejoiced in writing such poetry.
In the chequered history of Persian and Urdu literary traditions, we find the names of prominent poets such as Jami, Attar, Sadi, Rumi, Iqbal, Mohsin Kakorvi, Iqbal Suhail, Bekal Utsahi, Mahirul Qadri, and Ahmad Raza Khan Baraelvi, etc., and a few younger Indian and Pakistani Urdu poets, who carved out a niche for themselves as a major part of their creative endeavour has the striking features of hymns devoted to the adoration of God Almighty and the praise of His prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). There has also been an un-interrupted centuries-old convention in our oriental poetry to write in the beginning of the poetic collection Hamd and Naat which even famous literary iconoclast Mirza Ghalib could not venture to defy, though he paid his complements in his own un-conventional manner:
These images drawn by Thee to make / Thine grand image, this world; / Stand there like supplicants bowed in prayer; / Their burden they can’t bear.
Even in our times, there are some poets who have written long and short poems mainly dedicated to the Lord of the universe and His beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). Some of these poems are a kind of dirge to bemoan the desecration of this beautiful earth, the futile existence of man on this planet in the wake of collapsing edifice of moral, ethical and spiritual values.
In the backdrop of this short literary scenario, nobody can say that the present work of Begum Razia Haleem Jung, containing mainly her Hamd and Naat, is an isolated creative experience. The fact is that it has deep roots in our literary canons. However, no prediction can be made about its sustenance in future owing to the conscious effort being made at too much of secularising and de-spiritualising of the poetic language.
The poems of Begum Razia are simple, direct and effortless outpourings of her heart. She considers the devotion to the Lord of the universe of the supreme significance and nothing else matters to her. These poems speak, in the first person, of the profound love of and yearnings for God, traversing the range of emotions connected with longing and devotion. They also speak of closeness to and merger with the one who transcends all distinctions, barriers and forms. Throughout her creative journey, the overriding theme of her poems has been absolute love and unwavering devotion to God and His Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). Nevertheless, it is a fact that in the absence of the thematic variety and multiple layers of meaning, at times, it appears to be somewhat monotonous for the reader to constantly focus on the divine light though the prism of the poetic vision without drifting the imagination to travel elsewhere.
Begum Razia, despite being fully aware of this dilemma, is not ready to grant respite or promise any refuge, and is consistent in her resolve and solemn pledge to adhere to brooding over the theme of love to God Almighty, so dear to her heart. To her mind this is the only subject worthy to be attempted as her intention is neither to secure material gains or laurels, nor to please the muse but to make it a convenient tool to connect her soul with the infinite reality for eternal bliss, purgation and redemption of the besieged humanity. When perceived in this light and in the backdrop of the subject matter of our present day poets, being generally limited to well meaning platitudes about routine love, her poetry becomes a real source of inspiration and a therapeutic balm which soothes the bruised mind and provides the much needed solace and tranquillity to the tormented soul.
It is time now to desist from churning around the peripheries and straightway coming across the whirlpool of the poetic imagination characterised by its vast expanse, echoing with the throbbing and pulsating “sound of the heart” which is also incidentally, the title of the book under discussion.
Despite betraying simplicity, it is not so simple. The poet being disinclined to the fascination of intentional embellishment is definitely a consummate artist who knows how to elicit deeper meanings from a comparatively less decorative narrative. This couplet is a unique example of the poet’s journey into the realm of metaphysics, where the celestial blinds are finally lifted. As a result of the swooning effect of the dazzling divine beauty, the poet is transported to a fluid state of eternal bliss and uncontrollable excitement.
Instead of going for critically dissecting each and every couplet, I think it would be better to have a glance at some of them collectively so as to have a closer view of the cascading beauty of the idioms in poetic language interspersed with the nuances of allusions and sufistic insinuations, but in no way tilted towards sermonising or edification. Some of the passionate utterances of the poet:
Diya mujko idrak hasti ka apni. / Mere dil mein wahdat ka deepak jalaya. (He bestowed on me the vision of His Being. / He kindled the passion for Oneness in my heart.)
Liya hai naam jab tera, khile hain phool gulshan mein. / Kiya hai zikr jab tera, fiza khushboo se mehki hai. (When I uttered thy name many a flowers blossomed. When I mention thee the air gets filled up with fragrance.)
Jo usne harf-e-kun kaha to kayenaat ban gayi. / Tulu-e-subh ho gayi, yeh chand raat ban gayi. (The universe came into being with His single utterance. Then dawned the morning and came into existence the moonlit night.)
Nadi, pahar, gul, shajar, yeh mausamon ke qafile. / Naya jehan ban gaya, nayi hayat ban gayi. (Rivers, mountains, flowers, plants and succession of seasons. / With all these there appeared a new world and a new life.)
Jo hukm-e-sajda ho gaya to jhuk gayi meri jabin. / Ita’aton ki yeh ada meri nejat ban gayi. (My forehead bowed to the command of prostration. I am rewarded with redemption for compliance to the master’s order.)
Ta’reef teri khaliq kaise karun bayan mein. / Alfaz sab hain qasir, taqat nahin zaban mein. (I am inept to praise the creator.
My words are defunct, my tongue is impelled.)
Kabhi Maula jo teri yaad se ghafil mein ho ja’un. / Mere sote huae dil ko laga kar zakhm chaunka de. (O’ Lord! If I became oblivious of thy remembrance. My slumbering heart be startled by inflicting a wound.)
Bayaban ho ke sahra ho, mujhe tera sahara ho. Tuhi khursheed ho mera, Tuhi mera sitara ho. (I seek your help everywhere, in loneliness and wilderness. I yearn to behold thee in the sun and the stars.)
From its preamble to the last couplet, it is through and through meditative and devotional poetry with all the hues of divine love, pristine beauty and spirituality in their purest form, where the poet is in deep contemplation oblivious of everything around, leaving an everlasting impact on the reader. This poetry, in essence has hardly any resemblance with the conventional and ritualistic hymns written in Urdu over a period of time.
At times it also appears that unlike other poetry, it is a kind of prayer in tranquillity with only the Supreme Being listening to the rapturous notes murmured by the poet on the threshold of the ever shining temple of the heart.
In any way, in the annals of present day literary rivalry, there would hardly be anyone to contest or question Begum Razia’s earnest strivings through her sonorous and moving poetry, to invoke divine mercy and benevolence, in the face of a grim situation and dreadful spectre looming large on mankind, in a strife torn world. This poetry is also reflective of the poet’s own persona, wherefrom she emerges, being herself an embodiment of empathy, magnanimity, graciousness and compassion in many ways.
The remarkably illuminating foreword by Mr. Najeeb Jung and brief lines on the flap of the book by Mr. Zafar Haleem Jung (both sons of Begum Razia) have significantly added to the worthiness of the book by way of providing several clues to the appreciation of the poet’s tryst with a tumultuous life and vicissitudes in the course of the country’s partition and the demise of her husband Nawab Haleem Jung in 1970.
Finally, compliments to Begum Razia Haleem Jung for her really so amazingly insightful and laudable poetic contribution having ethereal properties. It would not be inappropriate if I conclude with the couplet of famous Persian poet Hafiz Shirazi whose fascinating idea, thanks to intertextuality, has travelled far beyond its confines to so clearly resonate in the magnificent poetic realm of Begum Razia Haleem Jung. Hafiz Says:
Az sada-e-sukhan ishq nadidam khushtar. Yadgari cheh darein gumbad-e- dawwar be mand. (No ineffable clamour reverberates in the grand heavenly dome more sweetly, than the sound of love.)