Hamza Baba - Baba e Ghazal

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Hamza Baba - Baba e Ghazal,
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)

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Hamza Baba - Baba e Ghazal

Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005

ستا په اننګو کښې د حمزه وينو سره دې

ته شوې د پښتو غزله ځوان زه دې بابا کړم

Hamza Shinwari is invariably called "The father of Pashto Ghazal". In this all his critics are unanimous. It is not because he is the exponent of the Ghazal form in Pashto litrature. The Ghazal is as old, in fact older than Pashto literature itself. It is because he has given it new dimensions and a new sense of perfection; which was somehow lacking in the entire Pashto Ghazal before him. As it might have been pointed out before, the Ghazal form as such came to Pashto via Persian. It was originally an Arabic literary form, which was borrowed by Persian. It quickly superceded a number of indigenous literary forms, as it proved to be more suitable for the poetry of not only love and beauty but also ethics and metaphysics. It was found out to be more suitable for the expressions of the innermost feelings and esoteric experiences. It turned out to be ideal for expressing abstractions or apparent contradictions and paradoxes of the mystic or metaphysical poets; because of its inexhaustible paraphernalia of ingenious metaphors, similes, hints and allusions, signs and innuendo, imagery and symbolism. It can aptly convey and shade of finer feeling or delicacy of thought or any intricacy of expression.

Originally the word Ghazal meant talking to women and, lexically, it also had an element of the soft, glossy beauty of the deer or more particularly its large, dreamy but alert eyes. But the latter poets broadened its scope, each successive age making its own demands on it. They introduced not only highly complex metaphysical concepts through it, it was also used or equisitioned (if I might use this rather mundane expression), for the expression of the day-to-day experiences of natural love, sorrow, loss or pain. Some pashto poets, from Khushal Khan onward, also made it a vehicle for the expression of their feedings of patriotism or even their undisguised urge for freedom from the existing oppressive polity.

Pointing out the antiquity and classical nature of the Ghazal form, Professor Afzal Raza has pointed out: "No change has taken place in the technical aspect of Ghazal; but it has assumed new colours on various stages of its evolution from the point of view of subject matter and thought content. It might be said that Ghazal has now extended its bosom for not only the expressions of the woes of love but also the cares of the world. In the way it has adapted its delicate nature to the demands of the time. We can find out this difference by comparing old and modern Ghazal.

Ghazal was also adapted to Pashto music as it had already been adapted to Persian and Urdu music. It started competing with the traditional musical forms. They could not exclude each other as each form turned out to be more suitable for a particular occasion or mood. But Ghazal did make serious inroads in the traditional musical forms. Today it carries a stamp of taste and culture while some of the other forms are looked upon as just absurd if not outright vulgar. The masses may be swayed by this or that of the other forms but the cultivated listeners prefer only Ghazal for only Ghazal can fathom the depths of their subconscious. The Ghazal has woven a web of sophistication around itself. It is not only the charm of the accompanying music but the classical annotations, cast in appropriate Ragas, that in themselves have a cathartic effect, never to be sensed in the noisy din of the traditional forms. It was just to say that because of its typical musical potential the Ghazal has strongly appealed to the aesthetic sense of the Pathans, so much so that the bulk of their very best poetry has now been devoted to this form. In fact it would not be wrong to assert that this form alone carries almost all their best poetry now-a-days.

Murad Ali Shinwari, Hamaz Shinwari's only son and a poet and writer in his own right, writes about Hamza Shinwari, "The poetic intuition of Hamza Shinwari and his inborn inclination towards Ghazal, could not tolerate that the scope ofGhazal should be so constricted that it could not express his national or patriotic feelings through it. Like a sincere Pathan poet he considered it his literary duty to raise such a pure edifice of Ghazal, on the foundation of Khushal Khan and Ali Khan, of which every brick would be made from the indigenous soil and sand of Pakhtoonkhwa. His first attempt was to accommodate Pakhtoon psychology in the essence of his Ghazal in such a sweet way that would deeply appeal to every pathan reader.

For a brief outline of the Pashto Ghazal and the place of Hamza Shinwari in it we should turn to Professor Yar Mohammad Maghmoom. He not only teaches Pashto literture but is also an admirer (if not a student as well as a disciple) of Hamza Shinwasri. He, however, explains, "The Roshanite Movement (of Bayazid Ansari) gave birth to a poet like Mirza Khan Ansari, who adopted Ghazal for his poetic effusions; and when this unbroken chain reached Kazim Khan Shaida, the Ghazal had somewhat come of age. Shaida undertook new experiments in Ghazal, which became the basis of its maturity. But Shaida undertook new experiments in Ghazal, which became the basis of its maturity. But with the Ghazal of Hamza Shinwari this maturity attains perfection. There have been many poets between Mirza Khan Ansari and Kazim Khan Shaida but the former, for the first time, propagated a branch of mysticism (Wahdatul Wajud) in Pashto literature, as the moving philosophy behind the Roshanite movement, while the latter attained the acme of delicacy of thought and intricacy of expression through singular similes, rare metaphors and indigenous rhyming schemes etc. If the characteristics of both the above poets could be combined in the Ghazal of one poet then it is Hamza and Hamza alone. It cannot duly define the Ghazal of Hamza if I call it Pakhtoon Ghazal because even the mysticism of our poet is Pakhtoon.

Pointing out the distinguishing characteristics of the Ghazal of Hamza, Noor Mohammad Zigar points out, "Hamza Baba has given to Ghazal new words and terms (and he has listed a number of them which we might as well overlook). Apart from this he has given beautiful rhymes, moving rhythms and striking refrains (Radeef). These can be a source of inspiration for the other poets. The greatest impact that Hamza can be said to have on Pashto Ghazal is this: that he has given it lofty thoughts and typical Pakhtoon characteristics because of which it is at once recognized as Pakhtoon Ghazal i.e. if we look at it against the Ghazals of the world.

As far as his Ghazal is concerned, Hamza has been compared to the greatest Urdu and Persian poets and it has been established that, by all reckoning, he is their equal. In this connection Tahir Kulachvi writes about Hamza Shinwari. "It will not be out of place (here) if I call Hamza the Ghalib or Khwaja Hafiz of Pashto literature. He expresses even love and passion in artfully philosophical way. Perhaps that is the reason that his poetry is somehow above the common run; only the cultivated (or the initiated_) can appreciate it fully. It would be more proper to call him the poet of a particular taste. In the same, vein Dr. Raj Wali Shah Khattak maintains, "The art of Hamza is his poetry and particularly Ghazal in poetry. How far he has succeeded in the art of Ghazal can be judged from the fact that he is called the father of Ghazal. As the father of Ghazal he has taken Ghazal to perfection. As in Persia, the extent to which Hafiz Shirazi took the Ghazal, nobody could better it afterwards. Similarly nobody could write like Ghalib after him. The credit of the perfection of the Pashto Ghazal goes to Hamza. So, Hamza is the perfect artist of Ghazal. His Ghazal carries all the requirements of Pashto Ghazal; rather he can be said to have created "The Pashto Ghazal" in Pashto.

This doesn't at all mean that Hamza has been influenced by either Urdu or Persian or both and that he has consciously or unconsciously tried to imitate their great poets to achieve a similar greatness for himself in Pashto. On the contrary he has been influenced by none. He has but limited study of both Urdu and Persian, although he has written books in Urdu and has also done extensive Urdu-Pashto translations. / Only among the Pashto poets he has been inspired, to a certain degree, by Khushal Khan Khattak and Kazim Khan Shaida which he himself admits. Yet even their influence on him is minimum, indeed invisible. He might, in the same way, have read all the great Urdu poets but has never been visibly influenced by an Urdu or Persian poet. Farigh Bokhari has pointed out this fact by saying; "A glaringly noteworthy characteristic of Hamza Shinwari is that he has been least influenced by Urdu or Persian poetry because of his very limited study thereof". It may well be an inborn greatness, attained by the compulsions of his own elemental genius, unadulterated by the undercurrents or crosscurrents of alien poetry or poetic traditions. It would not be out of place here to discuss them controversial issue of "art for art's sake" and "art for life", in the context of Hamza Shinwari's poetry. By coming across some of his new poems, some of his critics have mistakenly concluded that Hamza has also fallen a prey to the lure of art for art's sake. He is, therefore, branded as an idealist, a utopian or at best an escapist. I think it is a very wrong and self-deluding assumption. It is at best a rude irony because of all the Pashto poets Hamza is the least escapist; indeed if he abhors anything it is the inherent absurdity in the theory of art for art's sake. Once I turned his attention to this question and in his usual curt manner he replied indignantly, "If art is for art's sake then where does man come in. I thought he more than clarified what he meant. And then the subject was changed to some less artistic matter.

After reading his entire body of poetry (well, I might say almost, even if I must have read all of it). I was more than convinced that he had a definite message to project and most of his poetry pointed that way. In this connection we might point out that if he has at all been influenced by any Urdu poet, it is Allama Iqbal, the poet with an unmistakable message. Hamza has translasted two of Iqbal's works in Pashto verse. He acknowledges the depths of Iqbal's thoughts and the urgency of his message and has addressed a number of poems to him, as he has devoted an equal number of poems to Khushal Khan Khattak, another poet with a powerful message.

Two dominant passions seem to be the mission of his life; Tassawuf and Pakhtoonwali. On the one hand, like Rehman Baba or Allama Iqbal, he preaches divine love and moral reformation while on the other hand, like Khushal Khan Khattak and Ali Khan, to some extent, he projects in the them the Pakhtoon unity.. And we come across both these recurrent themes in his poem after poem. Unlike Khushal Khan he has never grown restless and pessimistic. His message is always a message of hope. The meters of his poems may vary, their rhythm may now be swift now sluggish, their wording may be different; different metaphors and similes might have been employed; but the unmistakable themes remain the same; the purpose and the passion behind it seem be constant. We might again quote Farooq Shinwari in our support. "There was no purpose or object in Ghazal before Hamza; whether it was Persian Ghazal or Urdu Ghazal, its axis was beauty and its untiring praise from various angles, a mere gratification of the aesthetic impulse. Hamza did not adopt a contrary course from the main stream Ghazal and its inherent spirit but he did insert Pakhtoon elements into it".

This point of view has also been corroborated by Zarin Anzor when he says, "Pashto Ghazal had degenerated after Khushal Khan, Rehman, Hamid and Ali Khan. Hamza felt that as long as it was not given a direction or a transfusion of an aim or object there could be no question of a healthy literature in Pashto. When he looked at Ghazal with the eye of an artist, he soon came to know that as long as the spirit of Pakhtoon was not infused with its spirit, it could not be called a Pashto Ghazal of Hamza."

It is interesting to see how Abdur Rahim Majzoob has compared Hamza Shinwasri with Khushal Khan, Rehman Baba and Ali Khan and has pointed out their certain shortcomings which he claims to have been rectified by Hamza. He writes, "In the Ghazal of Khushal Khan there is amorous pleasure, cheerfulness and romance; but his Ghazal sounds incomplete, imperfect and artificial. The love that Khushal has depicted belongs to the lower, carnal attractions. His beauty is nude although his Ghazal is well polished. He is the founder of rhymes and rhythms, yet his Ghazal is incomplete from the point of view of subject matter. On the contrary, the love and beauty that have been extolled in the Ghazal of Hamza Shinwari are pure and divine. His Ghazal is in reality Ghazal; it is complete and well rounded from the point of view of structure as well as subject matter. Similasrly he writes about Ali Khan, "The Ghazals of Ali Khan are full of love and beauty and poetic effusions. The thing that is missing from Khushal but is there in Rehman and the art that is lacking in both Khushal and Rehman can be found in Ali Khan. His Ghazal is perfect. But Ali Khan is lacking mysticism or the sufi dimension because life itself did not provide a chance to the inner beauty in his heart to have fully germinated, to have made it a part of his Ghazal. But this lack of mysticism on the part of Ali Khan was more than made up by Hamza.

It was Ghazal which bestowed upon Hamza this coveted title of Baba-e-Ghazal but only because it was Hamza who established Ghazal in Pashto literature so firmly that it sounds on more alien, a mere borrowed entity, encumbered with a host of artificial conventions. It now more than seems a part and parcel of pathan psyche, reflecting his own surroundings and his own inner urges in a forthright, faithful manner. He gave it such a perfect finish and such a glittering glass that it can now be said to have become the envy of both Urdu and Persian Ghazal. In this process he also happened to erase a recurrent inferiority complex from the mind of subsequent Pathan poets. Professor Pareshan Khattak says more or less the same thing when he declares in his typical debonair fashion." Whatever Hamza has done for Pashto Ghazal from technicasl point of view can not be denied by even a confirmed Hamza denier. He has more than proved that Pashto has vaster ground for Ghazal than all those languages which alone have been boasting about good Ghazal so far. Of course he means Urdu and Persian.

At the end, we will quote this highly amusing criticism of Hamza and the Ghazal form by Abdur Rahim Majzoob. He writes, "It was perhaps Hamza who stretched his old muscles in the beginning of the twentieth century. He dressed the bride of his Ghazal in new metres and made new ornaments for her with new similes and new metaphors. When the connoisseur of art lifted her Cashmere Shawl it turned out to be the same widow who had buried many husbands in the moldering graveyard of Persian literature. It had now come over (or having been brought over) to Pakhtoonkhwa. At every step the coquette in her would look at herself in a mirror and would renew her waning make up every now and then. It was not Hamza alone who shed his respectable Pathan tears for her and sent the Jargas of his morbid sighs for her enticing hand. Even the Shinwari youth rabbled about her, burnt themselves like the wild rue (Spelane) and jingled the hains of self-imposed madness. Hamza is old; he is not to blame. But it doesn't become the raw Shinwari youth with their young, energetic spirits and their strong nerves to be swayed, as they are, by this ill-fated, alien widow".


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Hamza Baba - Baba e Ghazal,
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)