AMONG the most remarkable and influential literary magazines of Urdu was Urdu Nama. With articles on lexicology and linguistics written by renowned scholars being its forte, Urdu Nama triggered several linguistic debates, resulting in rebuttals, rejoinders and minor controversies. But it was all in a genial mood and intended for advancement of knowledge.
Urdu Nama stood head and shoulder above the other magazines of Urdu devoted to the dissemination of knowledge on Urdu language as its specialty was lexicography, lexicology, orthography, grammar, semantics, phonetics, etymology and historical linguistics. Additionally, Urdu literature, especially in contextual reference to lexicography, was also covered by Urdu Nama.
It was a quarterly Urdu magazine launched in August 1961 by Taraqqi-i-Urdu Board, or Urdu Development Board, Karachi. Later on, the federal government rechristened it Urdu Lughat Board, or Urdu Dictionary Board (UDB). Entrusted with compilation and publishing of Urdu’s most comprehensive and most authentic dictionary on historical principles, UDB achieved the monumental feat in 2010 — 52 years after its inception. It was a long journey demanding hard work, research and sheer erudition. Today, UDB’s 22-volume Urdu-Urdu Dictionary is looked up to with awe and admiration.
UDB launched the magazine under the editorship of Shanul Haq Haqqee. Though the idea of board’s magazine was opposed initially, even by its editors, Haqqee Sahib — a visionary working as secretary and virtually the chief editor — had other ideas: it was not to be a formal newsletter or mouthpiece trumpeting one’s own success. But Haqqee had planned to discuss problems related to lexicography, lexicology and especially Urdu orthography, which was a bone of contention in those days. How can one begin writing a dictionary until the scholars agree on basic orthographical rules governing certain Urdu words?
The experts from India and Pakistan, and even abroad, were requested to contribute to the magazine and discuss the issues concerning orthography, lexicography, lexicology and etymology. The response was simply overwhelming: as the old issues of Urdu Nama are testimony to the fact, the towering figures of the world of Urdu literature and language enthusiastically engaged in the debates, writing some scholarly pieces with everlasting importance and true insights on Urdu language and linguistics. It in a way helped editorial team to clear some foggy corners of their mind, too.
Secondly, Haqqee began publishing the fascicles — a separately published instalment — of the proposed gigantic Urdu dictionary that the board intended to compile on philological principles. Again, the scholars from India and Pakistan began sending in their reviews, suggestions, missing entries, new words, new citations and — well, a lot of disapproving views. But Haqqee was very positive and appreciated their input as it was the basic aim of launching the magazine. Critical views were also published in Urdu Nama and in the light of critical opinions a large number of amendments and additions were made to the first draft of the dictionary as it was still at a nascent stage.
As one can see by just leafing through the old issues of Urdu Nama — though now they have become almost rare and are hard to come by — bigwigs of the day used to write for the journal, such as Josh Maleehabadi, Gopi Chand Narang, Hamid Hasan Qadri, Jameel Jalibi, Rasheed Hasan Khan, Gian Chand Jain, Framan Fatehpuri, Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Haqqee himself, Amna Khatoon, Abdul Aziz Memon, Abdul Majeed Sindhi, Abul Lais Siddiqi, Qudrat Naqvi, Naseem Amrohvi, Muslim Ziai, Mumtaz Hasan, Ashraf Suboohi, Agha Iftikhar Husain, Shaukat Sabzwari, Khalil Sididiqi, Ralph Russell, Sakhawat Mirza, Waris Sarhandi, Suhail Bukhari, Saleemur Rahman, Muhammad Ahsan Khan and many others.
Unfortunately, Haqqee sahib had to resign from the board in 1976 and in 1977 the last issue, numbered 54, of Urdu Nama came out. Although board tried to revive the magazine in 2017, it was a shadow of its former self, a far cry from its glorious past, consisting mostly of the material already published elsewhere.
The articles published in the 54 issues of the magazine were invaluable. Students and researchers often need them but usually fail to find them as the complete record of Urdu Nama is hardly available, even many well-stocked libraries do not have the entire record of 54 volumes. A collection of select articles from the magazine in two volumes has just appeared. Titled Majmoo’a-e-Maqalaat: Urdu Nama, compiled by Wasiullah Khokhar and published by Lahore’s Kitab Sarae, it is a labour of love.
The two volumes have been divided into portions according to the subjects. The sections are named: dictionaries and dictionary-writing, descriptive linguistics, historical linguistics, etymology, language and language reformation. A section titled miscellanea covers some other important topics such as Urdu script and orthography.
Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2023