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Marsiya collection launched

October 05, 2010

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KARACHI, Oct 4 A collection of marsiya writings titled Nawa-i-Mimbar by Dr Rehan Azmi was launched at the Arts Council Karachi on Monday. Distinguished poet Iftikhar Arif presided over the programme while Deputy Speaker of the Sindh Assembly Shehla Raza was the chief guest.

The event was conducted by Javed Hasan in a lively and eloquent manner. He gave a rather elaborate introduction to the poet and his book. Then poet Shaer Husain Shaer and poetess Parveen Haider paid tribute to Rehan Azmi in verse.

Dr Akhtar Hashmi was the first speaker of the evening. He said he had known Rehan Azmi for a long time when the latter used to write songs for radio and television programmes. Subsequently the poet switched to noha writing and earned a formidable reputation. In 2006 Rehan read a marsiya which as far as the audience was concerned proved to be a huge success. He argued that Rehan Azmi unlike many modern poets hadn't detached himself from the classical traditions of marsiya writing.

Poetess Fatima Hasan in her short but comprehensive essay said Rehan Azmi was a prolific poet and had a profound devotion to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family. She said his nohas had acquired great popularity, particularly amongst the younger generation and were a wonderful form of communication. She said phrases like public relations and mass communications had positive and knowledge-related connotations as well. She claimed all humans had an in-built sense of communication and the mimbar is a medium of communication. She said marsiya was part of our rich culture and tradition and existed even before the tragic events of Karbala took place.

Journalist and poet Sarwar Javed said marsiya writing was a difficult thing to do and needed a certain kind of sensibility and expression, and Rehan Azmi had reinvigorated the art form. He said there were two schools of marsiya writing (old and modern - Josh and Jamil Mazhari representing the latter) and Rehan was closer to the older one.

Poet Hasan Akbar Kamal said in the last 25 years Rehan Azmi's nohas had reached all corners of the world and were known by heart even by the younger lot. He pointed out that while composing marsiyas Rehan Azmi had benefited from the past masters and brought back themes like talwar (sword), ghora (horse), jung (battle) into the genre.

Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly Shehla Raza said she was aware of Rehan Azmi's geet and noha writing prowess and even remembered some of the couplets from his nohas. She said Azmi's nohas contained a certain message that must be carried forward. She hoped that his marsiyas would be read like his nohas.

Prof Seher Ansari said he had seen Rehan Azmi progress as a poet and acknowledged that he was a modest human being. He said probably no other poet had written as many nohas as Rehan. He commented writing religious poetry was a difficult undertaking because the audience or readers were already aware of the events being discussed in it, which is why marsiya became that much more important. He said marsiya writing required a certain type of grandiloquence and finesse, and dabbling in the genre meant that the poet was well-versed in all other genres of Urdu poetry. Prof Ansari said in modern marsiya writing Karbala is touched upon at the very end, and Rehan Azmi had combined both classical and modern traditions of the form.

Iftikhar Arif said in order to read and understand poetry of Homer or Milton one didn't have to convert to their religion. It took a certain kind of training and understanding to 'feel' and comprehend their art and its content. He said at the end of the day marsiya was judged according to its literary merit. He said the marked feature of Rehan Azmi's writing was that it had 'asar' because of his devotion to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family.

Reflecting on the debate of old and new schools of marsiya writers, Iftikhar Arif said the primary purpose of the genre was to evoke a (nafrat) repulsion or hatred against oppression and tyranny; it should make one stand against the oppressor or tyrant. He said Karbala was not an incident or event but an attitude (rawayya), a way to lead one's life. He said Mir Anees and Allama Iqbal wrote marsiyas when the Muslim world was going through troubled times. Both the great poets told us how to gather courage and valour by looking at Karbala. He agreed with Seher Ansari that in order to compose a marsiya one had to be well-versed in all genres or Urdu poetry. He lamented the fact that the book hadn't been properly proof-read and blamed Rehan's friends for the oversight.

In the end secretary Arts Council Ahmed Shah extended his gratitude to the participants and audience of the programme.