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iqbal lives on with new research

By Rauf Parekh



As I have mentioned elsewhere, Ghalib and Iqbal are two poets of Urdu fascination about whom has refused to wane and in spite of the fact that almost every aspect of their lives and art has been done to death, scholars keep on piling up books and articles on them. Hardly a year goes by when a book on Iqbal and Ghalib is not published.

Though most of such articles, especially the ones written as a ritual on the death or birth anniversaries of these poets, are more or less repetition of past writings and hardly anything new, if at all, is found in them, sometimes quite good articles can be spotted in the heap.

Similarly, among a number of books published on the two poets every year, only a few are worth the time and money spent on them. But some books present such refreshing thoughts and the approach is so different that one is convinced that such a book was needed and its publication is not yet another spiritless, ritualistic affair. In the last few months a few such books have been published on Iqbal that deserve special mention.

One of them is on Iqbal’s last book ‘Armaghaan-i-Hijaz’. But before I introduce the book and say something about the author, allow me a few words on the trends and quality of Urdu research. What pleasantly surprises me and keeps me excited is the emergence of one after another talented, young research scholar of Urdu from Punjab. I have mentioned in these columns some commendable research works of Punjab’s young researchers of Urdu, such as Abrar Abdus Salam (Aab-i-Hayat) and Suhail Abbas Khan (Bagh-o-Bahar), both of whom belong to Multan. Now I have before me another good work done by a young researcher from Lahore.

These rising stars of Urdu research make me wish that Karachi may find its own stars to sing of, which we badly need. This new trend shows a lack of genuine interest in Urdu research in Karachi. It reflects the city’s mundane spirit and its commercial culture that favours studying management and economic sciences or technology rather than humanities. It also reflects the quality of research that is carried out by the new generation of scholars of Urdu from Karachi: of late, hardly any worth-mentioning dissertation of a young Karachiite has been published.

The new rising star in the firmament of Urdu research is Dr Baseera Ambreen. She not only possesses some prerequisites for Urdu research, such as knowing Persian and prosody, she has already published another research work which was just as unique and fresh. Titled ‘Tazmeenat-i-Iqbal’, the previous work traced the insertion of quotations or other poets’ verses by Iqbal in his poetry. This insertion, intended to corroborate or complement the meanings a poet wants to convey and which is duly notified, is technically known as ‘tazmeen’. Tracing the ‘tazmeen’ is called ‘takhreej’, or the act of finding the original and correct text and the creator of the couplets or quotations inserted. This meticulous work calls for a perfect researcher who could sift through numerous books and reference works and whose brain is a store-house of miscellaneous information. Tracing such verses in Iqbal’s poetry requires another precondition to be met: a keen eye for classical Persian texts. Baseera Ambreen has done the job quite well in her book ‘Tazmeenat-i-Iqbal’.

Though I have never met her, judging by the work presented by her in the new book of hers ‘Maqaesa-i-Armaghaan-i-Hijaz Farsi’, published by Bazm-i-Iqbal, and by the introductory notes written by such literary stalwarts as Dr Waheed Qureshi and Dr Aslam Ansari, I can well imagine the enormity of her talent. Dr Ansari writes that the variation in the texts of old manuscripts was but natural as all the texts were hand-written. Even in today’s era of modern printing and publishing, textual errors and variance in different editions of a work are not uncommon. That is the reason why researchers and scholars lay much emphasis on collation and comparison of varied texts of a work. Except for ‘Armaghaan-i-Hijaz’ and ‘Baqiyaat-i-Iqbal’, all the works of Iqbal were published during his lifetime and he was very particular about their calligraphy and printing. Dr Ansari says that since ‘Armaghaan’ was published a few months after his death and its various editions contain varied text at many places, it was a must to ascertain the authentic version before looking for the reasons for this variance. This was a hard nut to crack but University Oriental College’s young faculty member and scholar Baseera Ambreen has made this work look so easy, opines Dr Ansari in his introduction. As she has consulted the original text hand-written by Iqbal himself, she has, in the process of collating, edited and compiled the Persian quartets that were missing from the printed versions of ‘Armaghaan’. She has brought back to life the ‘rubaiyyat’ and ‘dobaitis’ of Iqbal that were hitherto unknown to the scholars of Iqbal and some of which are so elegant that they must have been incorporated in the original text.

Dr Waheed Qureshi is of the view that the scholars who have worked on Ghalib and Iqbal without knowing a little Persian could not grasp the real thoughts of these poets. Baseera has chosen Iqbal as a topic of special study and not only has she done justice to ‘tazmeenat’ of Iqbal but, equipped with the knowledge of Persian, she has also collected such verses of Iqbal, after collation and comparison, which had skipped the early compilers. There are large numbers of general surveys of Iqbal’s poetry, but any real and worthwhile research works on Iqbal can be counted on the fingers of one hand, says Dr Qureshi. The way in which Dr Baseera Ambreen has shed light on some new aspects of Iqbal and his linguistic peculiarities in this book of hers has in fact enriched the treasures of Iqbal studies.

Baseera Ambreen’s yet another marvellous work, which I have been waiting for, is to appear soon. It is her PhD dissertation titled ‘Iqbal ke sanae badae’, or rhetorical ornaments of Iqbal. Those who have gone through this thesis, such as Prof Dr Moinuddin Aqeel, believe that it is yet another stunning work from a young scholar.

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