Iftikhar Arif : The Poetry of Passion

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Faiz Ahmad Faiz in a prologue to one of his books emphasised that the role of poet, which Ghalib had alluded to is not just to observe “whole in part”, but more importantly to make this observation accessible and tangible to readers too. On poet’s part, this feat is possible only when he/she is himself/herself caressed by the flow of life, by its threats and opportunities, joys and sorrows, crests and troughs. It is indeed possible that the poet may be commenting on something which he hasn’t existentiated himself, but one must remember that “there can be no deeper poetry without a deeper pain”. There is a visible difference between the art of versification feeding upon the habit of cursorily touching things and the poetics of engagement emerging from deeper understanding and association with people, things and structures. Arif, whatever theme he chooses to write on isn’t something external to his existence, but something he has existentially and mentally engaged with for ages. Might that engender the possibility of turning poetry into autobiography and make it so deeply immersed in its context and historicity that it loses its contemporaneity and universality so much essential to any piece of art. About transformation of poetry into autobiography, one can invoke Derrida who claimed that there ought to be no autobiographies outside the creative text and the piece of creative writing ought to be read in autobiographical sense itself. Having said that, it can be easily inferred from Arif’s poetry that despite being representative of a particular milieu and the existential and psychological states which are specific to poet, it does not lose its universality neither in terms of space nor time. If great poetry is to be recognised, as Gorakphuri noted “a continuum of extremes” or what has otherwise been described as the art of transformation of autobiography into universal narration, then we have ample evidence from Arif’s poetry sustaining both claims. Let’s take a look at these representative couplets:-
mire ḳhudā mujhe itnā to mo’tabar kar de
maiñ jis makān meñ rahtā huuñ us ko ghar kar de
or
miTTī kī mohabbat meñ ham āshufta-saroñ ne
vo qarz utāre haiñ ki vājib bhī nahīñ the
or
roz ik taaza qasīda na.ī tashbīb ke saath
rizq bar-haq hai ye ḳhidmat nahīñ hogī ham se
And
shagufta lafz likkhe jā rahe haiñ
magar lahjoñ meñ vīrānī bahut hai

A look at these couplets reveals their self de-contextualising potential i.e. despite the fact that they may be representative of poet’s mental and existential states and they might have emerged as poetic response to specific existential or mental states. But while one reads these couplets, they shed away their contextual baggage, as to speak to each reader as a story of his own. This process of self de-contextualisation, whereby poetry itself inherently carries with it the apparatus of disentangling itself from its contextual connotations is indeed essential for any piece of poetry and it emerges so visibly and emphatically as constitutive element in Arif’s poetry. Elsewhere the cotemporary consciousness of Iftikhar Arif’s poetry was referred to and the allusion needs further emphasis. Arif is not alone in assimilating and incorporating the contemporary social milieu with all its attendant facets into his poetry. We have an entire array of poets who have committed themselves to this call, but artistically the problem with most if not all of them is that the social consciousness and commentary thereupon steers them down the slope of poetic subtleties and their poetry brings down itself to “the poetry of statement” or “poetry of condemnation”. So the inherent danger which accompanies the art of contemporary consciousness is the risk of skidding from the plane of art and its loftiness to the crass state commentary and condemnation. But not so about Iftikhar Arif, whose style of protest, to quote G.C.Narang is not rebellious but one characterized by muffled voice, the laments of misery struck and the pangs of one left helpless by situations and circumstances. He doesn’t raise his voice in protest, nor does he speak of subversion, revolution or recuperation. He just registers his pain and this registration takes place within the perimeters of poetic and artistic parameters. Two of his representative ghazals from this genre:-

ḳhvāb-e-derīna se ruḳhsat kā sabab pūchhte haiñ
chaliye pahle nahīñ pūchhā thā to ab pūchhte haiñ

kaise ḳhush-tabā haiñ is shahr-e-dil-āzār ke log
mauj-e-ḳhūñ sar se guzar jaatī hai tab pūchhte haiñ

ahl-e-duniyā kā to kyā zikr ki dīvānoñ ko
sāhibān-e-dil-e-shorīda bhī kab pūchhte haiñ

ḳhaak uḌātī huī rāteñ hoñ ki bhīge hue din
avval-e-sub.h ke ġham āḳhir-e-shab pūchhte haiñ

ek ham hī to nahīñ haiñ jo uThāte haiñ savāl
jitne haiñ ḳhāk-basar shahr ke sab pūchhte haiñ

yahī majbūr yahī mohr-ba-lab be-āvāz
pūchhne par kabhī aa.eñ to ġhazab pūchhte haiñ

karam-e-masnad-o-mimbar ki ab arbāb-e-hakam
zulm kar chukte haiñ tab marzī-e-rab pūchhte haiñ
Or
azāb-e-vahshat-e-jāñ kā sila na māñge koī
na.e safar ke liye rāsta na māñge koī

buland hāthoñ meñ zanjīr Daal dete haiñ
ajiib rasm chalī hai duā na māñge koī

tamām shahr mukarram bas ek mujrim maiñ
so mere ba.ad mirā ḳhūñ-bahā na māñge koī

koī to shahr-e-tazabzub ke sākinoñ se kahe
na ho yaqīn to phir mo.ajiza na māñge koī

azāb-e-gard-e-ḳhizāñ bhī na ho bahār bhī aa.e
is ehtiyāt se ajr-e-vafā na māñge koī
There can be and there are indeed many other aspects of iftikhar Arif’s Nazams and Ghazals which qualify for extensive treatment, but that shall take us beyond the limits imposed by space. But it seems indispensable though to take a brief look and have a cursory survey of his Naats and to bring out the dominant elements therein. As with poetry in general and tragically with Naat genre too, people reproduce inauthentic, second hand and borrowed motifs, themes, emotions and ideas. What can be more shocking and pitiful than people copying and plagiarising the naats of others. But this has indeed been the case and in many cases poets in Urdu have simply reiterated the Naats already written in Arabic or Persian. Naats in case of Iftikhar Arif do not emerge from superficial engagement with the holy being of Prophet (PBUH) and nor does he write Naats just to prove mastery in the genre. His Naats rather emerge from the deep spiritual and psychological attachment to Prophet (PBUH), Ashaab and Ahlul Bait, the Islmaic values and and his firm belief on the doctrinal and practical aspects of Islam. In connection to ihs naats, Dr. Abul Syed Khair Kashfi notes that Arif

box:Allah Kay Ghar Der Hay, Andhair Nahi.” Literally, it means that there is delay in God’s House , but not Dark. Both God’s House & Dark are figurative expressions of the phrase. God’s House is like God’s Arms, Steps, Hands, which all manifests the Real Sovereignty & Power rests with God Almighty alone. Dark here stands for denial, rejection, hopelessness & helplessness. In this way, the phrase means that God takes His Own Time but he does do Justice. He waits but delivers people of injustice

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