Hamd is a poetic genre that exclusively praises Allah. The word hamd comes from Arabic root ‘h,m,d’ and it literally means to praise. The Arabic word Muhammad is also derived from the same root and means ‘praiseworthy’.
The word naat, too, is an Arabic word and it also means ‘praise’, but in Urdu naat means the praise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) while hamd is for Allah. Hamd as a literary genre exists in many languages including Arabic, Persian, Urdu and many others. Just like naat, almost every Urdu poet has composed at least a few couplets in praise of God.
The history of naat and hamd both can be traced back to the earliest poetic works in Urdu, especially in masnavis as it was almost ritualistic for a poet to begin a masnavi with the lines of hamd, the praise of Allah. The author of a masnavi was then supposed to compose next few couplets eulogising the last Prophet (PBUH), his companions and other venerable personalities of Islam, though, ironically, most of the masnavis narrate a story of a worldly love.
Aside from masnavis, hamd is traceable to the earliest pieces of Urdu poetry, especially written in the Deccani and Gujari varieties of Urdu, writes Sabeeh Rahmani in the intro to the book that he has compiled.
Titled Urdu hamd ki sheari rivayet (The poetical tradition of hamd in Urdu) and published by Karachi’s Academy Bazyaft, the book is a collection of articles written by different scholars, some of them quite renowned. These articles, elaborating the topic of hamd, its nature and development in Urdu, open up new perspectives for those who study and research poetry and its different genres.
Sabeeh Rahmani has been working for the promotion of naat for over a quarter of a century now and has written, edited and published a large number of books on naat and allied topics. This time around he has come up with a book on hamd.
Sabeeh’s intro to the book is a research and critical paper unto itself. It is not a run-of-the-mill piece usually found in the beginning of the anthologies. Rather, he has discussed the philosophical, historical, religious, technical and literary aspects of the genre hamd in Urdu and other languages. In the process, he has raised some critical questions and in search of answers has penned a 44-page intro that lets the reader know the history and critical dimensions of the genre hamd.
Firstly, Sabeeh Rahmani is critical of the critics who avoid writing on naat and hamd, excusing themselves by saying that these are the matters related to religious beliefs and respect and such things cannot be or may not be seen in the light of the critical point of view. Sabeeh has always argued that these are poetic genres just as other literary genres and hence should be viewed and discussed on the same lines, just as any other literary piece. So, he says that it is very difficult to compile a collection of critical articles on naat and hamd as finding such articles written with purely literary perspective is not easy. Secondly, while discussing these genres, critics show a patronising attitude and mostly shy away from discussing these genres epistemologically or from literary and critical point of view, says Sabeeh.
But of late, many poets who have been composing naat have begun writing hamd as well and a number of collections of Urdu poetry have appeared that consist purely of hamd verses. Some periodicals devoted to publishing hamd poetry and articles on hamd have also played a role in promoting this trend. Sabeeh has named such magazines as well and some of them are:
Monthly Naat, Lahore, published a special issue on hamd in 1988.
Quarterly Karavan-i-Adab, Lucknow, published a special issue on hamd-o-munaajaat in 1994.
Monthly Tehreeren, Lahore, published Hamd-i-Bari Ta’ala Number in 1991.
Quarterly Mufeez, Gujranwala, published two issues on hamd. Similarly, magazines like Jahan-i-Hamd (Karachi), Naat Rang (Karachi), Armughan-i-Hamd (Karachi), Aqeedat (Sargodha), Qirtas (Nagpur) and some others have published significant material on the topic.
Recently some books too have appeared that critically review Urdu hamd.
Sabeeh has listed some 150 collections of Urdu hamd published during the last 140 years or so, with Divan-i-hamd-i-ezdi (1880), by Mufti Ghulam Sarwar Lahori being the first such collection of hamds.
The intro also mentions research carried out on Urdu hamd. In fact this intro by Sabeeh Rahmani is a useful bibliography for anyone wishing to carry out further research or critical work on hamd in Urdu. Some new articles as well as some golden oldies are included in the book.
Some of the writers whose articles have made it to the collection are Syed Abul Hasan Nadvi, Jeelani Kamran, Riaz Majeed, Tariq Hashmi, Ashraf Kamal, Saleem Shahzad, Aziz Ahsan, Ismail Azad Fatehpuri and Yahya Nashet.
Just like Sabeeh Rahmani’s works on naat, this too will serve as an important source on an important literary genre.
Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019