Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 51: Launch of ‘Urdu Literacy Society’
From my school days, I have been interested in poetry and literature. Good verses always touched me deeply. Even in my childhood in my village when I heard Pushto poems I was elated. My interest further enhanced when I was at school. In the beginning, I was interested in novels and some concocted stories. While I was at school at Qadian, I did not have access to novels and concocted stories from the library. Therefore, I would save money from my pocket money to buy some novels. My favorite novelists in those days were Maulana Abd ul Haleem Sharar, Naseem Hijazi, Raees Amrohi and M. Aslam. I became interested in the work of Abd ul Haleem Sharar as Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih I once praised his novel ‘Flora Florenda’. Therefore, apart from this particular novel I read many others that were based on Islamic history. Although I no longer have an interest in fiction, even now I read novels by Maulana Sharar.
During my College days, on perusal of a College Report relating to me Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih II noticed that I read novels. Huzoor said to me:
“If you are fond of reading novels please study English novels. Reading them might help improve your English and you will learn a lot about the way of life in Britain. The contents of Urdu novels are mostly grossly exaggerated and are often untrue. In English novels though there is plenty of imagination but in most of them a factual story is portrayed.”
Consequently, during my college days I read the novels written by H. Rider Haggard and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with great pleasure. I also read some novels by Kipling and many others.
This was possibly the result of my having been chosen to edit the Urdu portion of the college magazine ‘Al Manar’. My very first article in that magazine concerned the poetry of Khushal Khan Khatak, which was highly appreciated. Later on, by the Grace of Allah Hadhrat Maulana Abul Ata included me in the Editorial Board of his famous publication ‘Al Furqan’. I wrote several articles for that magazine.
I was then blessed with an opportunity to edit the ‘Review of Religions’ – a periodical inaugurated by the Promised Messiah himself.
When I was in London in 1965 it occurred to me that except for a few, the books written by the Promised Messiah were all in Urdu. It was therefore a duty of the Jamaat to publicise and popularise the Urdu language. In England in those days, except for one or two, there were no other societies or organisations to promote Urdu. ‘A. Bazm e Tafreeh’ did exist that held a monthly meeting in a hall in Victoria. The moving light behind this society was Chaudhry Akbar Ali who had been in England since before the establishment of Pakistan. The activities of the society were not confined to poetry or creative writing. Without any agenda a few friends would get together and meet. Chaudhry Akbar Ali would take the Chair and invite those present to relate, read or recite either in English, or in Urdu, or in Punjabi, or any other language, whatever they wished. Some would recite a poem or some amatory verses. Some would read a written ‘Paper’. Some would come to the stage and recite a poem or relate humorous stories. Some would even sing a song. In this manner, without a set schedule, a meeting would be held and last for two or three hours. In the end, at his own expense Chaudhry Akbar Ali would entertain the guests with light refreshments.
In 1965 I founded ‘The Urdu Literary Society’ and I became its Founder President. Laeeq Ahmad Tahir, who was then the Deputy Imam, became its Secretary. The first session of this society was held in the Hall adjacent to the Mosque. It was decided that the society would hold a meeting every month and would invite poets and scholars to participate. It was also decided to hold regular Mushairas. In addition, Papers on Urdu creative writing would be presented. Regardless of religion, colour or creed membership of the society would be open to all. It was also settled that the expenses incurred for light refreshments to be served at the meetings would not be borne by the Mission but instead a few friends would bear the expenses on a rotational basis. The society was launched with great success. In the early meetings, many famous scholars and poets presented their poems and Papers. Muhammad Shareef Baqa presented an article on ‘Allama Iqbal Kee Shaeeri’. In a later session, the famous British scholar of Urdu Rolf Russell presented an article on ‘Ghalib Kee Shaeeri’. He also related his own life story in Urdu. Hadi Ali Chaudhry presented an article on ‘Urdu Economiumi?’ Many international Mushairas were held in which, not including the poets in England, some famous poets from the Sub Continent presented their ‘kalam’ (Poetry). Amongst them were Saqib Zeeravi, Jagan Nath Azaad, Naseem Saifi, Obaid Ullah Aleem, Saleem Shahjahanpuri and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali. Resulting in the contact of the Jamaat with them being strengthened almost all the eminent poets of the country participated in these Mushairas. Nazim Khan Ghauri, Mansoor Ahmad B.T., Bashir Ahmad Saami, Arshad Baqi, Hidayatullah Bangvi and some others rendered invaluable help. Nazim Khan Ghauri is Secretary to the ‘Asian Elderly Society’ and has a large number of friends. Recently, for services rendered to the elderly from the Sub Continent, he was awarded an M.B.E. He utilised his contacts for the promotion of our society. May Allah reward him plentifully. Amen. I am pleased that some poets from within the Jamaat told me that by participating in the proceedings of the society their ability in the poetic field developed further. Being encouraged, they made progress.
The proceedings of the meetings of the society were reported in the ‘Jang’ and in the ‘Daily Al Fazl’ published from Rabwah. The ‘Bazm Sheyr o Adab’ exists even now and from the very beginning I continue to be its President. Many Secretaries, have one after the other served. Mansoor Ahmad B.T. who was in turn succeeded by Bashir ud Deen Saami followed Laeeq Ahmad Tahir.
An historic Mushaira of the ‘Bazm e Sheyr o Adab’ was held in 1972. When Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III toured Europe, he also came to England and I made a mention of the work of the ‘Bazm’ to him. He liked the scheme and said that he would like an opportunity to meet some of the chosen poets residing in England. I suggested that if he permitted we could hold a Mushaira under the auspices of ‘Bazm e Sheyr o Adab’ in which Huzoor may also join. Huzoor very kindly granted permission and with the help of Nazim Khan Ghauri, Mansoor B.T. and Bashir ud Deen Saami an historic Mushaira was held in the Mahmood Hall. About a dozen of the famous and well-known poets living in the United Kingdom participated. Amongst them were some Muslim, some Hindu and some Sikh poets. Huzoor sat through the entire Mushaira. He showed appreciation and even applauded some good verses and presented fountain pens to some poets. Huzoor particularly liked the ‘kalam’ of my dear friend Bakhsh Lyallpuri. He called him back to the stage two or three times and as a gift gave him a fountain pen that was then in his own use. I was an extremely close friend of Bakhsh Lyallpuri. He was President of the ‘Progressive Writers Association’. He strongly condemned the action of the Pakistani Ulema who persecuted Ahmadis during the 1974 disturbances. Some of his verses in this regard were published in some Urdu newspapers.
Huzoor also highly appreciated the verses recited by Sohan Rahi in his melodious voice. At the end of the Mushaira Huzoor said that this ‘Bazm’ should continue in their work. He also bestowed a donation out of his own pocket.
In one of the Mushairas organised by the ‘Bazm’ a very famous and distinguished poet of the Indo Pak Sub Continent, Jagan Nath Azaad participated and presented his ‘kalam’, which was highly applauded. He occupies a very special position in the poetic and literary circles of the Sub Continent. It was because of him that in large numbers so many famous and well-known poets participated in the Mushaira. ‘Saqib Zeeravi Kay Saath Aik Shaam’ another international Mushaira was held under the auspices of the ‘Bazm’.