Recently two noted scholars passed away and most of their admirers came to know of it very late. Neither any of the ubiquitous TV channels, nor newspapers mentioned the sad events even briefly.
The two scholars whose death went almost unnoticed were Dr Waheed Qureshi and Dr Hanif Fauq. Only a few newspapers reported Waheed Qureshi's death and many readers learnt of it after about a week when condolences and some half-heartedly written editorials on Waheed Qureshi began to appear in a few newspapers.
Some newspapers published only the clichÃ©d messages of those who matter and of those who find somebody's death an easy way of getting their names published and broadcast. The news of Hanif Fauq's death was broken by Ali Hyder Malick in his literary column in a weekly and that, too, one and a half months after the sad event as Fauq Sahib had died in India and nobody here knew of it. Had these scholars been singers, comedians or actors instead, their death would have sent 'shockwaves' through the media.
Dr Waheed Qureshi was probably the last of the research scholars of what is sometimes referred to as the Lahore school of research. With his predecessors, such as Hafiz Mahmood Sherani, Dr Moulvi Muhammad Shafi and Dr Syed Abdullah, he helped shape the mood and colour of research on oriental languages and literature. The tradition of scientific research that began with Mahmood Sherani saw one of its stalwarts in the person of Waheed Qureshi.
Born Abdul Waheed on Feb 14, 1925 in Gujranwala, Dr Waheed Qureshi got his early education in Lahore. Having obtained an honour's degree in Persian from Government College, Lahore, he went on to earn a master's in history, a PhD on classical Persian prose in 1952 and a DLitt on Mir Hasan and his poetry in 1964. Being devoted to books since childhood, he began building his personal library when he was a student and turned it into a sizable collection of rare Urdu and Persian books and manuscripts.
Waheed Qureshi was appointed lecturer in Punjab University Oriental College in 1963 and he became its principal in 1980. He worked as dean of Islamic and Oriental Learning for years. During his tenure at the National Language Authority as its chairman, he got published a large number of research dissertations and technical books and strove for the implementation of Urdu as the official language -- a dream that remains unfulfilled even 64 years after the creation of the country that came into being on the two-nation theory.
Dr Waheed Qureshi entered the literary circles with a bang in the late 1940s when he wrote Shibli ki hayat-i-muashuqa, a research work that unearthed the love-life of Shibli Naumani, the great scholar, and tried to portray him as a human in the light of Freudian theories. He psychoanalysed Shibli's personality as reflected in his Persian ghazals and his letters addressed to Atiya Fayzee. This created uproar and many, including Atiya Fayzee, issued rejoinders to it. In addition to his two doctoral dissertations, his works that earned him name and respect of his peers were his critical studies, research papers and annotated and edited versions of some classical Urdu and Persian works. Another contribution of his is towards understanding the ideological basis of Pakistan, the Pakistan movement and Iqbal's poetry. He remained editor of several literary and research journals, including Saheefa, Iqbal Review and Iqbal, for many years. The institutions that benefited from his acumen include the Maghribi Pakistan Urdu Academy, Bazm-i-Iqbal and Iqbal Academy.
He wrote some 30 books. His vast and deep study of oriental literature, acquaintance with the German and French languages and exposure to social sciences helped him create a distinct literary approach and style that beautifully entwined criticism with research. His criticism draws vigour from research and his research comes from his scientific and modern approach.
Dr Waheed Qureshi was a researcher, critic, poet, teacher, administrator and a very witty person. One manifestation of his wit was his satirical literary column in daily Jang, Lahore, which he wrote with the pseudonym Mir Jumla Lahori.
We have lost a teacher, scholar, critic and poet who fought to the very end and very bravely. About a year ago, this writer had an opportunity to visit him at his Lahore residence. Though bedridden, he was bubbling with his usual sharp wit. His gift of repartee was very much alive and he was well aware of all new literary works.
What surprised me most was his optimism. Though ill, aged 83, he was planning to write some new books and to finish his incomplete projects. He recited some poetry he had just composed and then showed us the proofs of some new books that were sent to him by the Maghribi Pakistan Urdu Academy for final approval before being sent to press and he had written some vivid remarks on them. This brave scholar had never given in to odds all his life. He died on Oct 17, 2009 in Lahore.
Dr Hanif Fauq had fallen ill a few years back and his brother had taken him along to their native town Bhopal in India. And the news of his death, when first reported in Pakistan, said that he had died 'about one and a half months ago'. This kept on echoing in literary circles and finally some condolence messages appeared in newspapers. It has now been established that Dr Hanif Fauq died on May 1, 2009 in Bhopal. It is a pity that we did not know about it for months in this age of electronic communications.
Born on Dec 26, 1926 in Bhopal, Hanif Fauq's real name was Hanif Qureshi. He emerged on the literary scene in 1950s and '60s with his critical writings. He received his education at Bhopal, Kanpur and Lucknow. Having obtained BA honours and MA degrees in 1950, he migrated to East Pakistan and joined Dhaka University as lecturer. In 1964, he did his doctorate from the same university and later joined Karachi University. In 1980, Hanif Fauq joined Turkey's Ankara University as visiting professor of Urdu. Here he learnt Turkish and later translated some pieces of Turkish literature into Urdu. After his retirement from Karachi University, he was appointed chief editor of the Urdu Dictionary Board. Later, he joined Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi.
His books include Musbat qadrein, Chiragh-i-shanasai, Mutawazi nuqoosh, and Turkey zuban aur Ata Turk Urdu tehreeron mein. His book on Iqbal and the western philosophy, written in English, was published by Ankara University. He was a poet too and after his initial fascination with nazm, he turned to ghazal, but no collection of his poetry has been published. His hundreds of critical essays are buried in literary journals, which, if published in book form, will be of great value.