Monday, November 23, 2009

Faiz: do the masses matter?

I do not think that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was an athiest. He was a simple Muslim, as I may say from what I know of his biography. He used Sufi and classical imagery in his poems more abundantly than some other contemporaries but in many ways, if not all, he opposed the basic Sufi value, Love. This makes it very difficult to bracket him with Sufi poets (and this much has also been pointed out by some other critics).

My strongest disagreement with Faiz is on his disfranchizing of the masses. Stated explicitly in some speeches and essays which most of his readers have not read, but also implied throughout his poetry, the masses are not entitled to choose their literature or to think for themselves. In his opinion, they always get "conditioned" and he advises governments to indoctrinate the people.

Hence, while Faiz speaks for the people, he does not believe in seeking mandate from them. Nor does he believe that when you claim to be speaking for others, then you are obliged to present their case, otherwise you should just say that you are speaking for yourself and exercise your freedom of expression. Instead, he imposes himself in a position where he knows what is good for others, and therefore they do not have the right to question his legitimacy as their spokesperson. The fundamental right which is denied here is "consent".

It seems to me that these ideals did not arise from any dictatorial streak in his personal makeup. Quite the contrary. It seems to me that he was rather too gentle to revolt against these dominant trends of the school of thought with whom he got associated somehow. In my opinion, an impartial study will reveal an immense worth of his poetry for the study of a very interesting mind.


  1. sir you have mentioned the finite and infinite portions of the poetry of Faiz which shows that somewhere nobody can oppose the reality which is called as "LOVE". In a ghazal of poem which is of later time 1954."Gulon mem rang bharey baad e nobahar chaley" in the last shair of this ghazal
    "Maqam faiz koi raah main jacha hi nahi
    jo kuuye yaar sey nikley to suuye daar chaley"

    It really accepts the importance of Love.I think it does and this is the speciality of poetry.

  2. Yes Faiz was not an atheist, the cold war era labeled all leftist as atheist, a mere propaganda. Faiz was a Sufi, a staunch believer of ordinary peoples' power and their well being. Just look at the following poem:

    We will see
    Certainly we too will see
    That promised day
    That day ordained
    When these colossal mountains of tyranny
    and opperssion
    Will explode
    into wisps of hay
    The day when the earth
    Under our feet
    will quake and throb
    And over the heads of despots
    Swords of lightening will flash
    The day when all the idols
    Will be thrown out
    Of this sacred world
    And we
    The destitue and despised
    will at last be granted respect.
    The day when crowns will be tossed
    Into the air
    And all the thrones
    Utterly destroyed.
    Only the name of God will remain
    Who is both absent and present.
    Both the seen and the seer.
    The cry: I am the Truth,
    Will rend the skies
    Which means You, I, and all of us.
    And sovereignty will belong to people
    Which means
    You, I, and all of us.

  3. Akhtar, am I being too naive to say that this one poem by Faiz at least reminds of Allama Iqbal in his overall prophetic thrust of meaning? I am way too new at these studies and reflections to offer any statements of opinion. So here again I ask questions (yet, I hope not the kind of asking which was abhorrent to Iqbal.)

    First, is it possible that Faiz was leaning more toward Marxism in his earlier day and more toward Sufism (of a certain type) as he got older? Were there then two distinct phases with an intermediary overlap of the two? I noticed if the historian was correct, that he called Sufis his comrades. So is there any respected branch of Sufism which could possibly leave love out?

    Second, did Faiz perhaps see his calling at times as more of a organizer and bridge between ideologist-leaning activists and the more pragmatic "hands-on" sort of activists...and therefore sound less in touch with the people than this poem Akhtar shares with us would cause us to believe of his truest heart?

    I am teachable in all these matters and very curious to know what you all three would say?
    At any rate, he's one more beautifully-spoke example of someone from your rich culture who is supremely fit with words infused by heart (as meaning essence of life and life-flow)

    If not too much to ask, Akhtar, is it possible to put the URDU for this poem?

  4. Khurram A Shafique Sahib, we might always expect you to be listening silently to this community and similar threads eslewhere wherever you are - even when there is no apparent sign. :) And your comparative notes and understanding of history and it's figures often adds an surprising and enriching focus.

  5. hmm....Shafique Sahib...there are people who think they are wise....and there are people who have people believing in them.....there are people who would say only what they think is right and found them alone...

    While I usually found the crowd around those who uses crowd's words.

    Not all of us have this ability to use the words wisely and arrange them in a manner to make them easy and mesmerizing for everyones ears.

    Faiz Ahmed Faiz, no doubt was one of the above one.

    hmm....not all of us have the ability to use CONSENSUS....hmmm...besides it needs you out in the crowd, you cant win the crowd inside from your house....

  6. Faiz was born in Sialkot, the birth place of Iqbal also. He and others of his generation have been so much influenced by Iqbal that is beyond measure. But Faiz is not like Iqbal when it comes to the prophetic diction. Iqbal is a seer, whereas Faiz is a dreamer. Faiz dreams for a better life for his fellow beings, Iqbal predicts that, with conditions.
    Faiz’s leanings were always towards Marxism, not strictly towards its political manifestations but rather towards its economic justifications. Sufism without love is just like a flower without scent. Sufism was always inculcated in his poetry; he was a Sufi at heart.

  7. Dar Sahib...thanks for the information.

    Talking about Marxism....I think until we watched its result on CUBA we were not thinking bad about it....but once we had its after effects we start thinking about the other part of the theory too.

    May be that's what Faiz was trying to think this world without love and watch its afterwards effect?

    hmm....or may be this world is without love and he was just making it clear to us....

    But I really like his poetry and never think in this way before about him.... :)

  8. Urooj, Akhtar, Connie and Thinking, thanks for the lively discussion :).

    Urooj, the terms are "finite clauses" and "non-finite clauses".

  9. thank you sir for the correction.

    I was thinking about the right words but forgot when i was going to comment.