Khwaja Ghulam Farid – a victim of linguistic prejudices – Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

UDERSTANDING DIWAN-I-FARID; translation and explanation by Dr. Shahzad Qaiser; preface by Seyyed Hossein Nasr; pp 972; Price not mentioned; Publishers Suhail Academy, Chowk Urdu Bazaar, Lahore. 

Dr. Shahzad Qaiser is a typical representative of a Punjabi bureaucrat-cum-intellectual lot whose first and foremost quality is that he does not own his own mother tongue and its rich linguistic traditions, expansion and cultural depth. Either, he hates his language which was evaluated by many Punjabi and non-Punjabi scholars like Sheerani, who labeled this language as the undeveloped form of Urdu. This mantra worked well on Punjabis and they before and after independence refused to give Punjabi its due status in educational and administrative structures. Rather, all those who demanded that Punjabi should be introduced as medium of instruction at the primary level in Punjab were dubbed by the bureaucrats like the late Altaf Gohar as ‘traitors’ to be dealt with severely. Not only that they (Punjabi bureaucrats) were deadly against all other provincial languages. It were they who first strongly opposed Bengali as the second national language. It was not a principled stand. It was vested interest in the power or space of any language which it enjoyed in the ruling system. If Altaf Gohar stood for labelling Punjabi protagonists as ‘traitor’ his junior Dr. Shahzad, according to the tradition set by another senior CSP the late Qudratullah Shahab tried his best to reduce the status and importance of Punjabi language, about which Khwaja Farid himself had said that his language or the language of his area (Bahawalpur State) was Punjabi.

Farid never named his language as Multani or Seraiki but Shahzad has imposed Seraiki on Farid and this a grave linguistic dishonesty in which a retired CSP officer plus a self-claimed Sufi has been practicing for the last 30 years.

Dr. Mahr Abdul Haq was his guide for doctorate thesis he wrote for the Multan University and Mahr was so prejudiced against Punjabi that he declared in writing that Punjabi was not the language of Pakistan. Shahzad has not yet come out of the influence of Mahr Haq and he refused to accept the oneness of Punjabi language. He did his research on Farid and literature of Multan region but perhaps he was not introduced with the famous book, Maqabeesul Majalis, record of the day-to-day activities of the last eight years of the life of Farid which was vetted by Farid himself and the book was allowed to be published by Farid’s son Muhammad Bukhsh. Scholar Shahzad in rest of his life never bothered to consult Maqabees for understanding Farid’s Diwan of poetry, language and mystic traditions and the genre Kafi whose founding father is the poet of Lahore Shah Husain. Whether it could be called intellectual dishonesty that he usually avoided to mention the influences of Shah Husain, Bulleh Shah and Sultan Bahu on Farid and his philosophy?
All that is one aspect of the matter and the other is that Shahzad had earlier produced a translation and explanation of Farid’s poetry into English and published it while serving as private secretary to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who was then preparing ground for launching Seraiki for separating his area from the central Punjab which was also not finding favour with people like President Zardari. Gilani had already established an agency at the Multan University for the promotion of Seraiki. Thus Shahzad’s venture must have earned some favour of the PM. That was published in 2009 spread over 700 pages under the title of “Message of Diwan-i-Farid” now followed by the book under review, Understanding Diwan-i-Farid. One wonders which should have come first understanding or message. The new edition being presented as independent publication appears when Shahzad has been appointed government-controlled vice-president of Iqbal Academy, Pakistan.

The difference between the two versions is that the latest book contains introduction by the author, one preface by Nasr, foreword by G.A Allana, prologue by N.A. Baloch and reflections by William C. Chittick. The first was dedicated to Dr. Qaiser, father of Shahzad while the second is to Shahzad’s spiritual master Baba Sufi Muhammad Tufayal. The publisher is the same.

There are other misstatements including a reference to Maulvi Azizur Rahman – the officially appointed compiler of Farid’s poetry. The statement attributed to Maulvi Aziz is: though Khwaja Farid had composed his Kafis mainly “in Seraiki language”. This is wrong because Aziz never used the word Seraiki at least in 1943, the year referred to in the book. And in the last sentence from the flap tribute: This work is the fruit of a remarkable synthesis between scholarly erudition and a fundamental orientation towards the spiritual import of Sufi teachings, engaging both the academic and the mystic, the scholar and the seeker.

Curtsey:DAWN.COM — PUBLISHED SEP 28, 2011 

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