Friday, March 7, 2008

Ibn-e-Safi - Work

Ibne Safi’s prose work can be classified into two categories:

  • Mystery novels
  • Short stories and articles of humor and mockery

Ibn-e-Safi started writing poetry in his childhood and soon earned critial acclaim. After completing his Bachelor of Arts, he started writing short stories, humor and satire under various names such as “Sanki Soldier” and “Tughral Farghan.” In the Nakhat magazines, he published several satirical articles which commented on various topics ranging from politics to literature to journalism. His early works in the 1940s included short stories, humor and satire.

According to one of his autobiographical essays, someone in a literary meeting claimed that Urdu literature had little scope for anything but sexual themes. To challenge this notion, Ibn-e-Safi began writing detective stories in January 1952 in the monthly Nikhat, naming the series Jasoosi Dunya. In the preface of Jasoosi Dunya's platinum jubilee number (Zameen Kay Baadal - Clouds of Earth), he mentioned those novels of Jasoosi Dunya whose main plot elements were taken from Western literature and which included Daler Mujrim (The Fearless Criminal), Pur-asraar Ajnabi (The Mysterious Stranger), Raqqasah ka Qatl (Murder of the Dancer), Heeray ki Kaan (The Diamond Mine) and Khooni Pathar (The Bloody Stone). He also mentioned some characters which were borrowed from English fiction, such as Khaufnak Hangamah’s (The Terrifying Chaos) Professor Durrani and Paharron ki Malikah’s (The Queen of Mountains) White Queen and Gorilla. He claimed that, other than those novels and characters, his stories were his own creation, and even the mentioned novels had only borrowed ideas and were not translations.

In 1955, Ibn-e-Safi started the Imran Series, which gained as much fame and success as Jasoosi Dunya. In the aforementioned essay, he claimed that all the characters and stories of the Imran Series were original and not borrowed. Ibne Safi’s novels – characterized by a blend of adventure, suspense, violence, romance and comedy – achieved massive popularity by a broad readership.

So strong was Ibne Safi’s impact on the Subcontinent’s literary scene that his novels were translated into several regional languages. It was not unusual for Safi's books to be sold at black market prices in Pakistan and India, where they were originally published every month.

The settings in Ibne Safi's novels are such that the reader is never told the national origin of the heroes. Since Jasoosi Duniya was created before the partition of the subcontinent, the names of the characters and their locales suggest that the novel takes place in India. The advent of the Imran Series came post-partition, and the reader is set up to assume that the narrative is situated in Pakistan. Besides their native countries, the main characters of both Jasoosi Duniya and Imran Series have had adventures around the world – Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, Pacific Islands, Zanzibar, South Africa, the United States of America, and various other places. Considering that Ibne Safi never left the Indian Subcontinent, the detailed descriptions he provides of the diverse localities are surprisingly accurate.

Many a time, Ibne Safi created fictitious settings for his stories. The magical web of his writing is so captivating that these fantasy lands have become real in the minds of readers. Avid fans of the author are experts on the people and cultures of Shakraal, Karaghaal, Maqlaaq, Zeroland, and many other imaginary domains. In cities around India and Pakistan, one can find discotheques, bars, night clubs, and hotels named after venues found in Ibne Safi's novels. Some places worth mentioning are: Dilkusha, Fizaro, Niagara, Tip Top, High Circle, etc.

Besides humor and satire he also wrote some short adventures, namely Baldraan Ki Malika (The Roots of the Man), Ab Tak Thee Kahaan? (Where had you been?), Shimal Ka Fitna (The Trouble from North), Gultarang, and Moaziz Khopri. In these adventures, Ibne Safi takes the reader to various fictitious lands similar to the ones created by H. Rider Haggard.

Ibn-e-Safi - Biography

Ibne Safi was born on July 26, 1928 in the town 'Nara' of district Allahabad, India. His father's name was Safiullah and mother's name was Naziran Bibi.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Agra University. In 1948, he started his first job at 'Nikhat Publications' as an Editor in the poetry department.

His initial works date back to the early 1940s, when he wrote from India. After the partition of Indian and Pakistan in 1947, he began writing novels in the early 1950s while working as a secondary school teacher and continuing part-time studies. After completing the latter, having attracted official attention as being subversive in the independence and post-independence period, he migrated to Karachi, Pakistan in August 1952. He started his own company by the name 'Israr Publications'.

He married to Ume Salma Khatoon in 1953.

Between 1960 - 1963 he suffered an episode of schizophrenia, but recovered, and returned with a best-selling Imran Series novel, Dairrh Matwaalay (One and a half amused). In fact, he wrote 36 novels of 'Jasoosi Duniya' and 79 novels of 'Imran Series' after his recovery from schizophrenia. In the 1970s, he informally advised the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan on methods of detection.

He died of pancreatic cancer on July 26, 1980 in Karachi, which was coincidentally his 52nd birthday.

Garmi-e-Hasarat-e-Nakaam Se Jal Jaate Hain

garmi-e-hasarat-e-nakaam se jal jaate hain
ham charagon ki tarah shaam se jal jaate hain


bach nikalate hain agar aatih-e-sayyad se ham
sholaa-e-aatish-e-gulafaam se jal jaate hain


Khudanumaai to nahin shevaa-e-arabaab-e-vafaa
jin ko jalanaa ho vo aaraaam se jal jaate hain


shamaa jis aag main jalatii hai numaaish ke liye
ham usii aag main gumanaam se jal jaate hain


jab bhii aataa hai meraa naam tere naam ke saath
jaane kyun log mere naam se jal jaate hain


rabtaa baaham pe hamain kyaa na nahenge dushman
aashanaa jab tere paigaam se jal jaataa hai

_Qteel Shifai

In poetry, the ghazal (Persian: غزل; Turkish gazel) is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. The Arabic word "ghazal" is pronounced roughly like the English word "guzzle", but with a different first consonant, and literally means "speaking with women." A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 6th century pre-Islamic Arabic verse. It is derived from the Arabian panegyric qasiida. The structural requirements of the ghazal are similar in stringency to those of the Petrarcan sonnet. In its style and content it is a genre which has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central themes of love and separation. It is one of the principal poetic forms the Indo-Perso-Arabic civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world.
The ghazal spread into South Asia in the 12th century under the influence of the new Islamic Sultanate courts and Sufi mystics. Exotic to the region, as is indicated by the very sounds of the name itself when properly pronounced as ġazal, with its very un-Indian initial voiced velar fricative g. Although the ghazal is most prominently a form of Urdu poetry, today, it is found in the poetry of many languages.
Ghazals were written by the Persian mystics and poets Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi (13th century) and Hafez (14th century), the Turkish poet Fuzuli (16th century), as well as Mirza Ghalib (1797–1869) and Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), who both wrote Ghazals in Persian and Urdu. Through the influence of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), the ghazal became very popular in Germany in the 19th century, and the form was used extensively by Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866) and August von Platen (1796–1835). The Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali was a proponent of the form, both in English and in other languages; he edited a volume of "real ghazals in English."
In some modernized ghazals the poet's name is featured somewhere in the last verse.

The ghazal not only has a specific form, but traditionally deals with just one subject: Love. And not any kind of love, but specifically, an illicit, and unattainable love. The subcontinental ghazals have an influence of Islamic Mysticism and the subject of love can usually be interpreted for a higher being or for a mortal beloved. The love is always viewed as something that will complete a human being, and if attained will lift him or her into the ranks of the wise, or will bring satisfaction to the soul of the poet. Traditional ghazal love may or may not have an explicit element of sexual desire in it, and hence the love may be spiritual.
The Persian historian Ehsan Yar-Shater notes that "As a rule, the beloved is not a woman, but a young man. In the early centuries of Islam, the raids into Central Asia produced many young slaves. Slaves were also bought or received as gifts. They were made to serve as pages at court or in the households of the affluent, or as soldiers and body-guards. Young men, slaves or not, also, served wine at banquets and receptions, and the more gifted among them could play music and maintain a cultivated conversation. It was love toward young pages, soldiers, or novices in trades and professions which was the subject of lyrical introductions to panegyrics from the beginning of Persian poetry, and of the ghazal." (Yar-Shater, Ehsan. 1986. Persian Poetry in the Timurid and Safavid Periods, Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.973-974. 1986)
The ghazal is always written from the point of view of the unrequited lover, whose beloved is portrayed as unattainable. Most often either the beloved does not return the poet's love or returns it without sincerity, or else the societal circumstances do not allow it. The lover is aware and resigned to this fate but continues loving nonetheless; the lyrical impetus of the poem derives from this tension. Representations of the lover's powerlessness to resist his feelings often include lyrically exaggerated violence. The beloved's power to captivate the speaker may be represented in extended metaphors about the "arrows of his eyes", or by referring to the beloved as an assassin or a killer. Take for example the following couplets from Amir Khusro's Persian ghazal Nami danam chi manzil buud shab:


Nami-danam chi manzil buud shab jaay ki man buudam;
Baharsu raqs-e bismil buud shab jaay ki man buudam.
Pari paikar nigaar-e sarw qadde laala rukhsare;
Sarapa aafat-e dil buud shab jaay ki man buudam.


I wonder what was the place where I was last night,
All around me were half-slaughtered victims of love, tossing about in agony.
There was a nymph-like beloved with cypress-like form and tulip-like face,
Ruthlessly playing havoc with the hearts of the lovers.