HISTORY tells us that once we had some remarkable scholars, but we lost them and even forgot that we have had such invaluable gems. Syed Hashmi Fareedabadi (1890-1964) was one of those diamonds.
He was a friend of Moulvi Abdu Haq, but it is a sad story of how the two scholars were reunited and how they parted ways, only to shake hands again and then to be separated yet again. It also reminds us of how our literary and academic bodies are prone to become a victim of conspiracies and vested interests.
Moulvi Abdul Haq (1870-1961), one of the towering figures of Urdu language and literature, had few friends in real sense of the word and, having migrated to Pakistan at the age of 77, felt lonely. Abdul Haq had settled in Karachi to establish the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu Pakistan (ATUP) from scratch. Most of Anjuman’s treasures — its manuscripts, rare books, publications and, above all, scholars working for it — were left behind in India after the independence in 1947. Here he felt alone and badly needed some scholars to lend a helping hand.
Hashmi Fareedabadi had been working with Moulvi Abdul Haq at the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu Hind (ATUH) at Delhi. When he migrated to Pakistan, Moulvi Abdul Haq asked him to join the ATUP. Syed Hashmi did join and ATUH’s fortnightly magazine Hamari Zaban was relaunched by the ATUP from Karachi with the new name Qaumi Zaban, though Hamari Zaban continued its publication from Delhi under the aegis of the ATUH and has now become a weekly. Qaumi Zaban is regularly published by the ATUP as a monthly.
Let us glance over some painful facts about the ATUP during its early years after being reestablished in Pakistan. These historical facts are rarely discussed and only a few scholars, such as Syed Yousuf Bukhari Dehlvi and Shuj’a Ahmed Zeba, have cautiously mentioned some unpleasant events that took place at the ATUP. Intrigues were rife at that time to oust Moulvi Abdul Haq from the ATUP, the true saviour of Urdu and the moving spirit behind the organisation.
The ATUP was passing through a stormy phase as some groups were trying to take over the ATUP and drive Abdul Haq out with mental tortures and abuses. In fact, the ATUP had remained in a paralysed status for quite a few years and Abdul Haq was rendered helpless and ineffective. Abdul Haq has described those dark days in his book Anjuman Ka Alamiya and Jameeluddin A’ali, being close to him, has added some details in his intro to the book. Had it not been for General Muhammad Ayub Khan, who had taken over the reign of the country in 1958 martial law and rescued Abdul Haq, the ATUP would have met a calamitous end.
It is often said that Moulvi Abdul Haq used to believe every piece of gossip received from anybody and everybody. This tendency to believe in unverified pieces of information was taken advantage of and some unscrupulous employees and those seeking favours would mislead him, creating doubts about his near ones. With adversaries and conspirers already besetting the ATUP, Abdul Haq believed the gossip and thought Syed Hashmi was trying to replace him at the ATUP. Hashmi, heartbroken, quietly resigned and went to Lahore to join Punjab University project of Urdu Encyclopaedia of Islam, a monumental work that was ultimately completed in 23 volumes. It was 1954, wrote Yousuf Bukhari.
Later on, Abdul Haq felt Hashmi was sincere and he needed him. In 1958, Urdu Development Board (later on renamed as Urdu Dictionary Board) was established with the task of compiling Urdu’s most comprehensive dictionary. Abdul Haq was appointed as its first chief editor and he asked Hashmi Fareedabadi to come and join in. Hashmi duly came back and, as board’s offices and library were being established, dictionary’s initial work began at the ATUP in 1959, with Hashmi helping as editor. The two friends were reunited and old frankness returned, but in 1960 Hashmi resigned from the board over a dispute and went back to Lahore, wrote Yousuf Bukhari.
Born Syed Mir Hashim Ali Hasni in Fareedabad, a town near Delhi, on Jan 30, 1890, Hashmi Fareedabadi was a historian, translator, critic and poet. Hashmi was educated at Aligarh, but could not get a degree as he was expelled for writing a poem on Kanpur Mosque Tragedy. When in 1912 the ATUH’s office was moved to Aurangabad, Deccan, Hashmi assisted Abdul Haq and was later made a member of the governing body. Hashmi joined the Translation Bureau at the princely state of Deccan in 1916. After retirement, he joined the ATUH, Delhi, in 1938. Hashmi penned over 35 books and a large number of articles and poems. He also translated many important works on history.
Syed Hashmi Fareedabadi died in Lahore on July 19, 1964.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2023