THE emergence of renewed interest in the works of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan (1873-1956) and his works is quite an interesting phenomenon. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that Zafar Ali Khan was indeed a stalwart of the Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement.
Zafar Ali Khan, a poet, writer, translator and an editor, was a creative genius whose energies were channelised in journalism and politics. Aside from his political and journalistic achievements, he was also a litterateur in his own right because his poetry, translations and other literary works granted him a seat in Urdu’s hall of fame. Even his editorials and journalistic writings sometimes sparkled with such literary gems that are rare among his contemporaries. He died on Nov 27, 1956, in his hometown Karamabad, near Wazirabad, Punjab.
Though the Indians have been writing in English and Hindi for a long time about Maulana Zafar’s work, in the recent past there have been quite a few books and articles by Pakistani writers as well, raising questions about the Pakistan Movement and seeking justification for it.
These writings, which some people would refer to as anti-Pakistan, mostly originate from Punjab, especially Lahore, the city where the historic Pakistan Resolution was approved. I don’t have any objection to such write-ups as I support the freedom of expression, but I watch this tussle from the ringside seat with a detached academic interest.
The Maulana Zafar Ali Khan Trust, Lahore, has come up with a new book and also new editions of three of his old books, emphasising the value of freedom and Maulana’s role in the Pakistan Movement.
Similarly, Punjab University’s Institute of Communication Studies has published some rare letters of Maulana Zafar. In the latest issue of Ghalib, a literary journal published by the Idara-i-Yadgar-i-Ghalib, a detailed research paper discusses Quranic elements in his poetry.
Among the books which have recently been published on the Maulana, first is Roznama Zamindar: Maqala hai iftitahiyya-o-shazraat. Edited by a renowned historian and researcher, Prof Ahmed Saeed, the book is a collection of Zamindar’s editorials and editorial notes published from January to April 1923. These editorials, mostly penned by Maulana Zafar and Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mehr, are a treasure-trove of vital political and social information and commentaries. Anyone working on the history of India-Pakistan, especially the Pakistan Movement and anti-British sentiments prevalent in those days, cannot afford to ignore this book. What makes the book more important is the fact that old issues of the Zamindar are extremely hard to come by and if they are available, the 90-year-old newspaper’s ink and paper are giving way to the vagaries of time. Two more volumes are still to come in this series and Prof Ahmed Saeed is working on them.
The other book is titled Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. Written by veteran journalist Ashraf Ata, who had an opportunity to spend around 20 years of his life working with the Maulana, this book, first published in 1962, is an authentic and balanced account of his life and personality while also evaluating his literary and journalistic works.
Another journalist, Shorish Kashmiri, had a chance to work with Maulana Zafar Ali Khan for quite some time and was deeply influenced by him. His book Zafar Ali Khan offers a sympathetic view on the Maulana life and his work. Though it became very popular when first published in 1957, the book has been out of print for decades. But it was published again with an introduction by renowned critic and scholar Dr Anwer Sadeed. It also includes the Maulana’s selected verses.
Yet another book, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan: Halaat-i-zindagi aur intikhab-i-kalam was written by renowned scholar Naadim Sitapuri. Published in 1970, the book succinctly describes Maulana sahib’s life and enlists his literary works, with a selection of his poetry as well. This second edition was published by the Maulana Zafar Ali Khan Trust in collaboration with Ferozsons, Lahore.
A scholar, Prof Dr Zahid Muneer Aamir, has been working on Zafar Ali Khan for long. His new book Zafar Ali Khan: khutoot-o-khuyoot is an edited and annotated collection of the Maulana’s rare and unpublished letters, shedding some new light on his personality. The book includes a few rare photographs and the facsimiles of the original letters make the book worth a read.