QASEEDA, or panegyric ode, is a genre in Urdu and Persian poetry that is not so easy, albeit it is almost a dead genre these days. Qaseeda poses much difficulty to the poets who try their hand at it as it demands not only a command over language and rhetorical techniques but it also requires use of grandiose vocabulary, unique metonyms and a vigorous style. To prove their own erudition, many poets deemed it necessary to use in qaseeda the technical terms that are used in different branches of knowledge.

This, in turn, makes qaseeda one of the most difficult-to-understand genres, let alone explaining it. For instance, Khaqani’s qaseedas in Persian are considered quite difficult as tortuous metaphors, rare words, abstruse allusions and technical terms used in astrology, medicine, theology and history are used in them abundantly. In Urdu, Maumin Khan Maumin’s panegyric odes are laden with terms used in ilm-e-nujoom (astrology) and hikmat (eastern medicine). But Zia Ahmad Badayuni was known for explaining and teaching qaseedas by Khaqani and Maumin with great ease. He compiled and published Qasaaed-i-Maumin M’a Sharh (panegyric odes by Maumin with explanatory notes) in 1925. He compiled and published Maumin’s divan with exegesis in 1934.

Zia Badayuni had met Akber Allahabadi in 1919 and Akber, while appreciating his poetry and saying that it sounded like that of Shibli, advised him to use it for some good purpose. Upon which Zia Badayuni decided to versify historical events just like the way Shibli did. The result was a succession of such poems, published in literary magazines and later on collected in Tazkaar-i-Salaf (1928). Its second edition with the addition of new poems was published in 1953 under the title Tajalliyaat.

Aside from being a poet of Persian and Urdu and a professor and head of department at Aligarh Muslim University’s Persian department, Zia Ahmad Badayuni was a critic, researcher and scholar of Islamic studies and Islamic history.

Right from beginning, he was immersed in religious studies and munazraati adab, or literature on religious debates. His book Jalva-i-Haqeeqat’ (1972) is a collection of articles on religious issues. He has also discussed Shia-Sunni controversies but was of the view that Muslims should forget their differences and be united as they face a united threat. Mahmood Ahmad Abbasi’s book Khilafat-i-Mu’aviya-o-Yazeed was much debated when it was first published in 1959. It was reprinted several times and was often discussed in religious and scholarly circles. Abbasi’s book, however, had kicked up more issues while trying to settle them. Zia Ahmad Badayuni’s book Qaul-i-Sadeed’ (1960) is a rejoinder to Abbasi’s work. Based on research and historical facts, Zia’s book offers a balanced point of view on the touchy topic.

His invaluable articles on Urdu literature, Persian literature, history, Sufism and Islam are included in his two collections: Mabahis-o-Masaael (1968) and Masaalik-o-Manaazil (1975).

Zia Ahmad Badayuni was born on Sept 21, 1894, in Badayun. He was educated at home as was in vogue in those days. Then he was admitted to Madrasa-i-Shams-ul-Uloom, Badayun, where he studies Arabic, Islamic jurisprudence, logic and Hadith. Later on, he studied at Government School, Badayun, and Bareli College. He did his MA in Persian from Allahabad University in 1924 and carried out research on Persian literature written in the reign of Mughal emperor Akber.

In 1929, he began teaching at Aligarh College and then at Aligarh University’s Urdu department. Later on, he was posted at university’s Persian department and ultimately rose to head the department as professor. When Delhi University began a project to compile a Hindi-Urdu dictionary, Zia Badayuni was appointed as director in 1960. But the project was shelved.

The early education at a madressah and knowledge of Arabic, Quran and Hadith had made him a firm believer, but his exposure to modern education created a balanced point of view. With his profound study of Persian, Arabic, Urdu and English literatures, he became a scholar with a rare insight and erudition that few could match. Many scholars agree that Zia Ahmad Badayuni was a man of exceptional abilities and his understanding of certain literary and religious issues was not less that of Shibli No’mani.

Zia Badayuni composed poetry in Urdu and Persian and Kulliyat-i-Zia (1998) is a collection of his Persian and Urdu poetry, edited by Zaheer Ahmed Siddiqi, his son and the then head of Urdu department at Delhi University.

In Yadgaar-i-Aali’ (1937) he collected his father Raf’i Ahmad Aali’s poetry. He also collected poetry by Razi Badayuni, his brother, and named it Lam’aat (1947). In Maktoobaat (1967), he collected letters of some luminaries, such as Allama Iqbal and Moulvi Abdul Haq, addressed to him. In Saman Zaar (1968), he collected selections from classical Persian poetry and this anthology is truly valuable.

This extraordinary scholar died in Aligarh on July 8, 1973.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2022

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