PALESTINE issue is basically a humanitarian one, and anyone and everyone with at least a little compassion would stand with Palestinians.

Historically, the land that the Palestinian people of Arab descent had made their home centuries ago was handed over to Jews by the West without any justification and the Jewish state of Israel was created on the Palestinian Arab lands in 1948. Since then atrocities against Palestinians have continued unabated.

This has definitely created sympathies for the Palestinians even in the West, but the people of Pakistan hold Palestine in high regards for several reasons: firstly, the mysterious and sacred land of Palestine has a special appeal to the Muslims all over the world. It is the place where Dome of the Rock is situated, known as the ‘First Qibla’, the direction to which the Muslims used to face while praying until the Quranic injunction was revealed to turn to Ka’aba in Makkah instead. Secondly, it is the place from where the last Prophet of Allah (PBUH) embarked upon his heavenly journey known as M’eraaj. The area around Jerusalem is also said to be the final resting place of many Prophets of Allah.

Thirdly, the leaders of Pakistan Movement, notably Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, had fully supported the Palestine cause. The All India Muslim League had passed a resolution during its 25th annual meeting held at Lucknow on Oct 17, 1937 favouring Palestinian people’s right over their land. It also expressed full support for endeavours of the grand Mufti of Palestine Aminul Husseini that he was making for the liberation of Palestine. So in Pakistan, the Palestine issue is viewed as a problem faced by the whole Muslim Ummah.

Though Arab defeat in Arab-Israel war in 1948 caused a deep feeling of disappointment and frustration among the Palestinians and Arabs, it created a deeper desire for political change which, some experts believed, was also one of the reasons for the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt in early 1950s.

This historical perspective inevitably influenced the views of Pakistani creative writers and poets writing in Urdu. Interestingly, progressives, non-progressives and modernists wrote in favour of Palestinian people, though all for their own reasons. The topic is too vast to be covered completely in a small piece like this one as two fully fledged books have been written on the subject. First, by Fateh Muhammad Malik, Falasteen Urdu Adab Mein (Palestine in Urdu literature) and the other by Iftikhar Shaf’i, Urdu Adab Aur Azadi-i-Falsteen (Urdu Literature and Liberation of Palestine).

Based on these two books and some other sources, I will try to mention important creative works of Urdu here that reflect Palestine. These works let us know how Pakistani creative writers feel about the Palestine issue.

The defeat of the Arabs in 1967 Arab-Israel war created disappointment and frustration among the Palestinians and Arabs in particular and Muslims in general. But it also fuelled a desire to depict Palestine issue in Arabic and Palestinian literature. As for Urdu poetry, Pakistani poet Noon Meem Rashid expressed his sentiments in his poem ‘Dil Mere Sehra Navard-i-Peer Dil’ used metaphors such as desert, dust and fire to express his anguish.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz had close association with Yasir Arafat and stayed in Beirut for quite some time. This gave him an opportunity to have first-hand knowledge on the Palestine issue, which ultimately reflected in several of his poems, especially in Sar-i-Vadi-i-Sina. In this poem Faiz protested against Israel for its aggression but he also sarcastically accused the Muslim and Arab leaders of expediency in the name of prudence and policy.

Many other poets of Urdu from Pakistan voiced their concern. For instance, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Habib Jalib, Naeem Siddiqi, Ibn-i-Insha, Ahmed Faraz, Ada Jaferi, Yousuf Zafar, Zameer Jafri, Zaheer Kashmiri, Shehzad Ahmed, Mahmood Sham, Khatir Ghaznavi, Asgher Nadeem Syed and many others. They protested over issues like killing of children, desecration of Aqsa Mosque and lip service by the Muslim rulers.

When it comes to Urdu prose, Intizar Husain’s two short stories are often presented as examples of how the issue is portrayed symbolically. One is titled ‘Kana Dajjal’, or the one-eyed deceitful Messiah, which is an allusion to Israel’s one-eyed general Moshe Dayan. The story ends when unexpected news of Muslims’ defeat arrives and a character hangs his head in shame. The other short story by Intizar Husain portrays two journalists as main characters. They translate news from Arabic into English and one of them throws his headgear on the ground and wails when he receives the news of the fall of Jerusalem. The story is in fact a satire, saying that the Muslims are waiting for the arrival of a divine saviour.

Other Pakistani writers who penned short stories on Palestine include Qudratullah Shahab, Mazharul Islam, Sam’i Ahuja, Anwer Khwaja, Jameel Ahmed Adeel and some others.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2023

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