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Column: Literature and ideology

August 18, 2013

Fateh Mohammad Malik

FATEH Mohammad Malik is distinguished among the Urdu critics of our times because of his commitment to an ideology, say Islamic ideology, which inspires him to study literature in its light and accordingly pass his critical judgment. The advent of ideological criticism in Urdu can be traced back to the Progressive Writers’ Movement, which made its appearance in the mid-thirties of the 20th century. This movement brought in its wake critics who, inspired by the Marxist theory of literature, judged contemporary writings according to this ideology. With zero tolerance for writings not in line with Marxist thought, they dismissed them outright, branding them as reactionary. Malik rose to prominence as a critic during the ’60s, showing his inclination for an ideological trend different from what had come to be known as progressive. Of course, progressive writers no longer dominated our literary scene. Still, Malik’s ideological leanings, which bore an overtly religious stance, did not find in literary quarters a ready response. But he stuck to his ideological interpretation of literature. However, in spite of being ideological in his approach towards literature, Malik widely differs from the Marxist ideologues in the sense that he appears to be accommodative of all kinds of literary trends and to all brands of writers, ranging from the secularists to the atheists. And this attitude has paid him back. It is because of this attitude that he has succeeded in identifying Islamic thinking even in the writings of Miraji. This approach is clearly demonstrated in the latest collection of his articles published by Sang-e-Meel under the title Khiyal-au-Khwab. First and foremost in this collection are articles in which Malik seems to be under the spell of figures such as Tipu Sultan, Hazrat Shah Waliullah and Allama Iqbal. They appear to him as great dreamers and he shares their dreams of Islamic revival and the Muslim society’s rejuvenation.
This thinking has resulted in a passion which provokes Malik to trace religious sensibilities in the writings of his contemporaries. Luckily, a few of them have much to offer in accordance to his liking. These include Iftikhar Arif, Jameeluddin Aali and Muneer Niazi. As for Ahmad Faraz, he was a known progressive and his thinking provoked the obscurantists to condemn him. But Malik takes pains to dig out from his poetry much of what is religious and clarifies his position. But Malik has also the sagacity to reconcile with a situation when the required material is not available. His article on Hasan Abdi provides one such example. Abdi’s poetry as discussed here is honest to his secular thinking and Malik meets him on his own terms. The poet’s deep devotion to his cause classifies him as a genuine poet whose poetic expression never deteriorates to the level of slogan mongering. This means that this ideological critic can suspend his ideological fervor for a while if the occasion demands. It also means that he has now come to believe in the peaceful co-existence of ideologies apposed to each other. A change of attitude can also be observed on some other occasions. When Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, leveling charges against Faiz, pointed out that he had joined the imperialist army in spite of his claim of being anti-imperialist, Malik came out in defence of Faiz and said that after Hitler’s invasion of Russia the war had transformed into a peoples’ war. So Faiz was perfectly justified on that occasion to join the British army. While discussing Noon Meem Rashid, Malik gets excited when quoting his letter to Jameel Jalibi in which Rashid says that after the separation of East Pakistan we should cut off our links from the subcontinent and link up with the Middle East. Malik has not quoted all that Rashid says in support of this proposal. Let me quote what has been omitted by Malik. In his letter to Jalibi, Rashid says: “If our country with its unwieldy size has been cut to size it should not been taken as a big catastrophe.” He adds, “Now when the country has been cut to size, it has gained proportionality.” How ironic that our esteemed poet does not regard the loss of half of our country a catastrophe. Instead, he feels satisfied that Pakistan has lost its unwieldy size and in consequence he has the opportunity to offer this precious proposal. The proposal is to separate Pakistan from South Asia and make it a part of the Middle East. He wants us to fight our geography as well as our one thousand year-long history.