WE are not a nation of bookworms and have never been. Yet there is a considerable percentage of population that loves to read even in this age of technology-based distractions.
Despite a general decline in reading habits in the country and a less-than-desired level of readers’ interest in research works, new Urdu books based on research keep pouring in. One of the reasons is a recent trend among the students of Urdu to get a higher degree — an MPhil or a PhD. This has definitely increased the demand for books based on research and/or critical studies.
A positive sign indeed and the scholars penning such works are usually a committed lot that does not care if they are appreciated or not, but serious minded readers, especially those whose butter and bread is research and teaching, should take at least a little interest in new research works being published.
So here are three new books that have some aspects of research and Urdu and Persian:
Ghulam Muhammad Nazr Sabri (1923-2013) was apparently a librarian at Attock College, but was, in fact, a great walking library himself. He was a scholar and poet of Urdu and Persian, too. Sabri had spent almost 60 years of his life on tracing, discovering, reading, editing and evaluating rare books especially Persian manuscripts.
Dr Arif Naushahi, a well-known scholar of Persian, was very close to him as both shared the same love of books and Persian manuscripts. For about 37 years both the scholars were in touch through letters and exchanged hundreds of letters. Now about 100 letters written by Nazr Sabri and addressed to Dr Naushahi have been collected, edited and annotated with meticulousness by Dr Abdul Aziz Sahir.
Most of the letters discuss issues related to manuscripts, their copies in different libraries and museums around the world, their editing, authors and calligraphers of rare works. In his scholarly intro, Naushahi says: “Though basically Nazr Sabri was a poet and librarian and lived in Attock, a city not particularly known for its scholars or scholarship, Sabri was immersed in reading, writing and researching on issues that even the professors in universities in big cities could not think of.”
Dr Sahir in his preface has succinctly described the life and works of an erudite scholar that Sabri was. But the way Sahir Sahib has compiled and annotated these letters speaks volumes of his own erudition. Since the letters have many scholarly points that need to be explained, for readers Dr Sahir has discussed them in detail. Notes on personalities whose names appear in the letters are very informative and valuable. Even the sources and contexts of verses and poetic lines that occur in letters have been amply explained and clarified.
Though Dr Sahir is a professor teaching Urdu at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), Islamabad, he is equally at home with Persian language and its manuscripts. One can safely say that even scholars can learn a thing or two about how to edit and annotate literary works from Sahir’s work. The book is published by Nizamiya Dar-ul-Isha’at, Attock.
It is another research work written by another faculty member of AIOU, Islamabad. The book, published by Karachi’s Rang-e-Adab Publications, is a collection of research papers. Dr Arshad Mahmood Nashad, the author, teaches Urdu at AIOU and is known as a poet as well as researcher with a dedication that is rare among today’s researchers.
The book has three sections and the first one contains research articles that discuss the genre of naat. The second one has articles on some classical works of Urdu and the third part proffers papers that are on various topics, such as, rare manuscripts, palaeography, grammar, impact of globalisation on Urdu literature, Soofi Tabassum’s unpublished commentary on some of Allama Iqbal’s Persian verses and issues in versified translations.
As one can see, the topics are unique and new researchers can learn a lot from these papers as they are packed with rare information.
Dr Ayoob Sabir: Shakhsiyet Aur Fan
The Pakistan Academy of Letters has been publishing some very useful works under the series Pakistani Adab Ke May’maar, or the builders of Pakistani literature. So far over 150 books have been published on the poets, writers and intellectuals who have helped shape Pakistani literature and they include writers from different Pakistani languages and the national language.
The latest addition to the series is the book on Dr Ayoob Sabir, a well-known researcher and a scholar, who has done enormous research on Allama Iqbal.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2022