Urdu scholar Shamim Hanafi dies at 81 in Delhi

Published May 7, 2021
India’s leading Urdu scholar and literary critic Shamim Hanafi died in New Delhi. — Photo courtesy Times of India
India’s leading Urdu scholar and literary critic Shamim Hanafi died in New Delhi. — Photo courtesy Times of India

NEW DELHI: India’s leading Urdu scholar and literary critic Shamim Hanafi died here on Thursday, his friends and followers said. He was 81 and the cause of his death was not immediately known.

Mr Hanafi was one of the most respected literary critics, playwrights and poets of the subcontinent. A former academic at the Urdu department of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, he authored a number of respectable books in literary criticism.

Some of these are Jadidiyat ki Falsafiyana Asaas; Nayi Sheri Riwayat; Tareekh, Tehzeeb aur Takhleequi Tajurba; Urdu Culture aur Taqseem ki Riwayat; Khayal ki Musaafat; and Qari Say Mukalma.

Mr Hanafi wrote plays, translated books, and brought out four books for children which he admitted to enjoying immensely. His poetry collection Aakhiri Pehar ki Dastak was published by Rekhta, one of its first ventures in publishing, in 2015.

A not-so-known fact about Mr Hanafi is that he maintained a keen interest in painting, pottery and the performing arts.

Mr Hanafi was born in Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh to Mohd Yaseen Siddiqui, an advocate, and Begum Zaibunnisa. He was the eldest of six siblings. His father was also a literary enthusiast and introduced Hanafi to Tagore, Dostoyevsky, Dickens and others, quite early in life.

Mr Hanafi learnt Persian from Maulvi Mugheesuddin and his interest in Urdu literature was the result of his father’s perseverance and close proximity to his Urdu, history and English teacher Syed Moinuddin Qadri (translator of many notable English literary works himself).

While in intermediate, Mr Hanafi translated into Urdu the Persian play Aakhiri Yaadgaar-i-Nadir Shah of Persian playwright Saeed Nafisi. He shifted to Allahabad for higher studies.

At Allahabad University he came in contact with Firaq Gorukhpuri, Dr Aijaz Hussain, Prof Ehtesham Hussain and Prof S.C. Deb, who left an indelible impact upon his sensibilities. Mr Hanafi completed his DPhil from Allahabad University in 1966.

He was also the first regular student of DLit at Aligarh Muslim University, which he completed in 1976.

Mr Hanafi served as a faculty member at AMU for seven years before joining Jamia Millia Islamia. He remained connected to the institution in the capacity of Professor Emeritus.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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