NAJMUL Ghani Rampuri’s Bahr-ul-Fasaahat (1885) is one of the most authentic and most comprehensive books written in Urdu on prosody, rhetoric and poetics. This all-important book has recently been published by Majlis-i-Taraqqi-i-Adab, Lahore — yet again!

Though Najmul Ghani Rampuri penned over 30 books and some of them became quite popular, no other work of his could surpass Bahr-ul-Fasaahat. The book covers some basic issues related to literature and some of the topics are: poetry and its origin, poetry’s definition and kinds, prosody, meters, rhymes, grammatical terms, figures of speech, metaphor, metonymy, simile, semantic and lexical techniques used in poetry, prose and its kinds and the flaws that mar poetry.

Bahr-ul-Fasaahat was first published in 1303 Hijri (1885 AD) by Munshi Naval Kishor, Lucknow, and it consisted of just 238 pages. Najmul Ghani prepared a second, revised and expanded edition, which appeared in 1335 Hijri (1917) and had over 1,100 pages. The third edition, published in 1345 Hijri (1927), spread over 1,200 pages. This last edition was reprinted in India in 1957 with introduction by Ameer Hasan Noorani. Lahore’s Majlis-i-Taraqqi-i-Adab began printing a new version of the third edition in six parts. Edited and annotated by Syed Qudrat Naqvi, the first part appeared in 1999. Surprisingly, this new edition, too, became quite popular and it had to be reprinted within a short span of time. Now it has been reprinted recently, once again.

In an era when poetry and literary arts are on the wane, the popularity of Bahr-ul-Fasaahat proves that there still are serious-minded readers and though poetry may have declined in the West, in this part of the world there are readers who love poetry and buy books even on the art and craft of poetry and its techniques.

An edited version of Bahr-ul-Fasaahat was published from India, too, and this 2006, one-volume edition, bulky tome, was annotated by Kamal Ahmed Siddiqi. Though Siddiqi, too, has done a commendable job, some errors, probably typos, have crept into the preface and some of the dates mentioned therein are incorrect. Qudrat Naqvi’s preface to his edited version, published by Majlis, is much better and offers more biographical and bibliographical details.

Hakeem Muhammad Najmul Ghani Khan Rampuri was born in Rampur on October 7, 1859. His father Abdul Ghani Khan was a scholar from Rampur and, having settled in Udaipur, Rajasthan, had written Kaarnaama-i-Rajputaan, a book on the history of Rajputs and Rajasthan. When Najmul Ghani’s early education finished in Udaipur, he was sent to Rampur’s Madressah-i-A’aliya from where he passed his Dars-i-Nizami. Later, Najmul Ghani learnt hikmat, or the science of Eastern medicine, and became a hakim, or a physician. But Udaipur State offered him the post of head teacher of Arabic at Udaipur High School and he accepted it.

At Udaipur, he began writing books and penned some invaluable books on history, literature and religion. The State of Rampur had approved a monthly stipend of Rs50 for Najmul Ghani and when he came back to Rampur after a few years, the stipend was doubled. Such stipends from former princely states had freed numerous scholars from financial worries and they worked wonders in the realms of literature and scholarly domains. This stipend had enabled Najmul Ghani to devote his time entirely to research and writing.

Raza Ali Khan, the Nawab of Rampur, had made him the in-charge of Rampur’s Raza Library, a post he held till his death. Established in the last quarter of the 18th century by Rampur’s ruler Nawab Faizullah Khan with his personal collection of rare Arabic and Persian manuscripts, miniature paintings, rare specimen of Islamic calligraphy and books in many languages, today Raza Library is managed by the government of India and possesses books in Pashto, Turkish, Tamil and Sanskrit languages, not to mention Urdu and Hindi. Successive nawabs, some of them writers and poets themselves, continued to add to these treasures and today the library is among the few libraries of the subcontinent known for their rare manuscripts, along with Khuda Bakhsh Public Library, Patna, and some others. Najmul Ghani benefited much from this library’s treasures.

When Najmul Ghani sent his book Akhbaar-us-sanaadeed to Allama Iqbal in 1918, Iqbal praised it much and opined that the roots of Pathans can indeed be traced back to Israelites, as Najmul Ghani had written, and many Pashto words had their origin in Hebrew. According to Kamal Ahmed Siddiqi, when Nizam of Deccan visited Rampur’s Raza Library, Najmul Ghani was asked to stay away as the nizam was unhappy with him since Najmul Ghani had criticised the State of Hyderabad for not supporting Tipu Sultan against the British. He was also critical of Hyderabad State for siding with the British during the 1857 freedom war.

Some of Najmul Ghani Rampuri’s other books include Tareekh-i-Avadh, Tareekh-i-Rajputana, Muntahi-ul-Qavaid, Nahj-ul-Adab, Mazaahib-ul-Islam, Tazkirat-us-Sulook, Khazain-ul-Adviya and Qarabadeen. His book Uqood-ul-Jawaahir Fi Ahwaal-ul-Bawaahir describes the Bohra Muslims and their beliefs and was later reprinted, too. Some of his works remained unpublished.

Hakeem Muhammad Najmul Ghani Khan Rampuri died on July 1, 1932.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019