Faiz: A Revolutionary-Dr Ashraf Lone

Faiz Ahmad Faiz is rightly considered one of the greatest poets of Urdu and world literature as well. Faiz was a progressive poet, attached with the Progressive Movement of Urdu Literature in India and later in Pakistan. Not only Progressives consider Faiz a great poet and rightly so, but he is now considered great by non-progressives or modernists as well who were hesitant before and remained highly sceptical about his art. Resistance and revolutionary ideals in Faiz’s poetry has played a major role in his popularity however it was his mastery as an artist which gave his poetry a distinctive place among critics and academic circle as well. The problem with resistance poetry or any resistance art is that a poet or artist has to take extra care. There is a strong possibility that a piece of poetry ends up as sloganeering or pamphleteering, as has happened with many great artists. Faiz has taken every care to make his poetry appealing while taking good care of both his political leanings and the art of poetry.

Faiz with Chilean comrade Pablo Neruda-File Photo

            In the beginning, Faiz was inclined towards writing romantic poetry however his romantic tendencies couldn’t cope with the needs of the hour.As Faiz came to know keenly the political atmosphere of his times, his tone changed and in a very short time, he made his mark in literary circles. His revolutionary poetry began to be revered everywhere. Faiz very keenly observed the colonial exploitation and oppression, and with it, his poetry attained more revolutionary tone with each passing day. Faiz became a torchbearer of Marxist revolutionary ideals along with his literary comrades began plan revolution through which old system(of exploitation) would be dismantled and new and just system thus implemented.

Speak—your lips are free.
Speak—your tongue and your upright body
Are still yours.
Speak—your life is still yours.

Look—in the blacksmith’s shop,
The flames soar and the iron is red-hot.
Look—the mouths of the locks are beginning to open,
The links of the chains are coming undone.

Speak—the little time before your body and tongue give out
Is enough.
Speak—truth is still alive.
Speak—say whatever you wish you’d said.

(Poem: Speak Up<Bol>)

This revolutionary and revolting tone of Faiz is more relevant today when oppression has taken new dimensions. Imperialist ideology that once took the form of colonialism, has changed its tools to control and oppress the weaker nations. New ways of exploitation and oppression have been forged. Poor and marginalized are being oppressed in one way or the other. Faiz through his poetry, tried to give voice to the voiceless. The greatness of the poetry of Faiz is that his poetry never degenerates as sloganeering or shouting but with his firm grip on poetic art, his poetry has a kind of taste that sooths our mind as well:

Forever will I nurture pen and paper,
forever express in words whatever my heart undergoes,
forever proffer ingredients of the sorrows of love
and quicken into life the wasteland of time.
Yes, the bitterness of time will keep on spawning,
just as the tyrants will persist in their cruelty.
Cheerfully I’ll give in to bitterness, this tyranny too I’ll endure
so long as there’s breath, I’ll seek ever new cures for torments.
If the tavern still remains, I shall embellish every door
and balcony of the haram with the redness of wine.
If the heart is not drained of all the blood, I’ll color every tear
with the redness of the beloved’s lips and cheeks
This posture of indifference, let it be her prerogative-
For me it will always be my desire’s entreaty.

(Poem:  Tablet and Pen<Loh-O-Qalam>)

Faiz with Palestinian revolutionary leader Yaser Arafat-File Photo

Even artists especially the poets have accepted this fact, that the idea or imagination to poet’s or artist’s mind comes from heavens but we cannot deny this fact too, that every artist or poet has been influenced or is being influenced by his society in which he has lived or living and Faiz is no exception to this phenomenon. But the difference between ordinary and great is that while the ordinary gets influenced only, the great after getting influenced by his peers and his society, influences the coming generations’ holds this position of greatness firmly, and with times, the relevance and symbolism that was once attached to of his poetry,  is still increasing. As the oppression and exploitation took new forms his poetry is attaining new heights and reaching new destinations’ has become a voice of marginalized and oppressed sections of every nation:

If they snatch my ink and pen,
I should not complain,
For I have dipped my fingers
In the blood of my heart.
I should not complain
Even if they seal my tongue,
For every ring of my chain
Is a tongue ready to speak.

(A Poem from Dast –e- Sabaa< Fingers of the Wind>)

We shall Witness. Surely, we too shall bear witness

To the promised day etched on all eternity

When mountains of tyranny will blow away like cotton

When the ground beneath the feet of us who are the oppressed will shake and tremble

When thunderous lightning will hover over the rulers, we shall surely witness

When idols of falsehood would be cast aside from the abode of God (Kaaba)

When we – the pure, the outcasts of sacred place (haram) would be placed on thrones

When crowns would be tossed around, when thrones would be demolished

Only the name will remain, which is both invisible and visible

Which is both the spectacle as well as the beholder, the cry of truth will upsurge,

Which is I and you, and God’s own creations would reign

Which is I and you

We shall Witness, definitely we too shall witness.

(Poem: Hum Dekhenge<We Shall see>)

In these two poems , we can see Faiz clearly standing on the side of oppressed and exploited. He takes a stand against the oppressor. He is of the firm belief that time is very near when mountains of oppression will be blown away into the air, the day will come when cruel rulers will be  thrown away like the idols of Kaaba(Mecca) were thrown away.

            Faiz criticized power structure in his verses and challenged the rulers of his time.He was aware of the oppression, deceit and corruption of Pakistani rulers. He spared none and consequently he was put in prison for his opposition and criticism of rulers and for speaking truth but true to his commitment, he did not run away from his stand:

 My salutations to thy sacre, my nation

Where, the rule is that no one should

Walk with their heads held high,

If one is to embark on a journeyin search of truth,

One must walk with eyes lowered,

With the body and soul under threat

(Poem:My Salutations to The Sacred Streets<Nisaar Mei Teri Galiyu Ke Ae Wattan>)

            Faiz is rightly considered among the great poets of the 20th century. Faiz has beautifully and artistically put his thoughts in his poetry. Faiz through his poetry gave voice to the poor, marginalized, oppressed and exploited. He always stood for the truth and against the oppressor and unjust. The poet Faiz is becoming more relevant with each passing day and his poetry is entering new lands and spheres and here lies the greatness of Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

Dr Ashraf Lone is a leading Kashmiri scholar and intellectual who did his PhD from JNU, Delhi.
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