Faiz Ahmed Faiz: The man who stirred human conscience

Published: November 21, 2010
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 Faiz will be remembered as a poet, visionary, philosopher and symbol of hope. photo: file

Faiz will be remembered as a poet, visionary, philosopher and symbol of hope. photo: file

KARACHI: Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the man who “stirred human conscience,” passed away on November 20, 1984, but 26 years later the poet’s message of hope and peace remains as relevant and necessary as it was during his time.

Faiz was born in 1911 in Sialkot. In the 1930s, he came under the influence of the anti-fascist, pro-socialist Progressive Writers’ Movement. A few years later, Faiz became one of the founders of the Progressive Writers Association.

During the Second World War, he served in the British Indian army in Delhi. After independence in 1947, he resigned from the army, moved to Lahore and became the editor of the leftist-English language daily, Pakistan Times. He also served as managing editor of the Urdu daily Imroz.

Faiz, a Marxian activist, won the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union in 1962. He was associated with the Communist Party of Pakistan and leftist leaders like Sajjad Zaheer, Hasan Nasir and Major Ishaq. Deeply saddened by their demise, Faiz wrote poems for Zaheer and Ishaq, who have also written the preface of his book Zindan-nama.

As secretary of the Pakistan Peace Committee formed after partition, he worked to establish peace between India and Pakistan. A UK-based newspaper called Faiz “a brave enough man to fly from Lahore to Delhi for Gandhi’s funeral at the height of Indo-Pakistan hatred,” as quoted in the ‘Requiem for an unsung messiah.”

Faiz had much respect and admiration for Mahatma Gandhi as was obvious in an editorial called “Long live Gandhiji!” that he wrote for the Pakistan Times in February 1948. “Though he is dead, he will live through ageless time,” Faiz wrote.

The poet was arrested in 1951 for the Rawalpindi conspiracy case and spent the next four years mostly in solitary confinement. After the sentence was announced, in a telegram to his wife Alys, Faiz said: “Now it’s over: we can start counting the days.” In solitude and exposed to harsh realities of life, Faiz wrote two of his greatest works Dast-e-Saba and Zindan-Nama.

A symbol of resistance, Faiz went into self- exile in Beirut when General Ziaul Haq came to power after a military coup. During this period, Faiz wandered from country to country and wrote a poem that highlights his pain away from home. In a poem called ‘Meray dil meray musafir, Faiz wrote “har ik ajabi se poochain, jo patta tha apnay ghar ka” (Asking every stranger where one’s home was)

The poet’s humanity transcends geographical, cultural and religious boundaries. He wrote about the plight of Palestine, students of Iran and the people of Africa. In the book Poetry East, Carlo Coppola calls him “a spokesperson for the world’s voiceless and suffering people.”

In an interview by I A Rehman in 1984, Faiz said he was a man of peace because in his childhood he was “surrounded by women, widows and orphans who had suffered terribly.”

Faiz will be remembered for all times to come as a poet, visionary, philosopher, teacher, mentor and a symbol of hope for all those who continue to strive for a society based on justice and equality. He shall always remain a beacon of hope. As Faiz himself put it “hum dekhain gain”.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Sahar
    Nov 21, 2010 - 3:06PM

    whoever decided to run this article using a picture of him smoking is justw……wow. smart editors, so tasteful. Recommend

  • Lost treasure
    Nov 21, 2010 - 3:24PM

    Excellent piece. Another piece on the same website on Faiz’s work is linked below:

    http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/1325/urdu-poetry-and-the-spirit-of-global-progression/Recommend

  • Teresa Liddell
    Nov 21, 2010 - 3:50PM

    Wonderful, wonderful man. Thank you for this.Recommend

  • YLH
    Nov 21, 2010 - 4:07PM

    There are a few corrections necessary to this article:

    Faiz became the editor of Pakistan Times – at Jinnah and Iftikharuddin’s request- in January 1947 and not after independence.
    The author quoted Faiz’s editorial on Gandhi… but ironically did not quote his editorial on Jinnah which was even more flowery and paid a greater tribute.

    I wonder who it is amongst the Tribune sub-editors who keeps pushing Gandhi down our throats.Recommend

  • Aasia Sohail Mian
    Nov 21, 2010 - 4:14PM

    Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a great poet and revolutionist. He was never admired during his life time by the Government of the time. However his poetry always depicted his state of mind and can never be replaced by any other poet. He was a great man of his time.Recommend

  • YLH
    Nov 21, 2010 - 4:46PM

    Faiz’s Editorial on Jinnah

    13 September 1948

    The Qaid-i-Azam has passed away, after long years of toil and sacrifice and service in the cause of his people, his frail body has at last been gathered unto rest and his soul called back to the abode of eternal blessed. No name in the history of Indian Muslims has been loved and acclaimed as the name Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

    No man in living memory evoked such unquestionable loyalty, such unqualified devotion, such unbounded faith, for the one-time oppressed, rejected and broken Muslim nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was much more then a political leader. He was the father and the brother, the friend and the counsellor, the guide and confidant, the comrade and leader all combined into one. Millions hopefully whispered his name in hours of anguish and blessed him in moments of joy. For the best portion of his life he carried on his shoulders the burden of all their cares, in his heart the ache of all their sorrows and in his bones the weariness of all their labours. And now he is gone. The nation has been deprived of his love and his wisdom that guided and sustained them, of his leadership that held them so closely together, of his incorruptible rectitude that set the standard for their moral and political conduct.

    It is difficult in the shadow of this fateful hour to discourse dispassionately on what consequences his bitterly mourned death will engender for Pakistan and the rest of the sub-continent. The horizon has never been so dark and cloudy as it is today and the people of India and Pakistan have never faced more anxious days then the days we are now passing through. Not only has the social, cultural and economic renaissance that the dawn of freedom was expected to bring not yet materialised but new dangers to national freedom and national happiness have arisen that have to be fought and overcome.

    A million homesteads are still drenched in tears for the loss, during the dark and bloody days of a year ago, of whatever was dear to them on this earth, and already the rumblings of fresh trials and new conflicts are audible from a distance. Short-sighted fanaticism and heartless greed are preparing to plunge both the dominions into another suicidal devil-dance and the voice of the common man is getting feebler through exhaustion. Both India and Pakistan need at this time all the wisdom and humanity they can muster to save themselves from the cataclysm that threatens, and it is a cruel irony of history that at precisely this time both countries have been deprived of the two most wisest and most humane men in the sub-continent. Ours is very much the greater and more grievous loss.

    We can show no greater devotion to our beloved leader and give no greater proof of our loyalty to his memory then to base our conduct on the pattern that he has immortalized and to conduct ourselves in a manner that accords with his life-long preaching.

    From the great grief that envelops the nation today, must emerge a new courage and a new determination to complete the task that the Quaid-i-Azam began, the task of building a free, progressive and secure Pakistan, to restore our people the dignity and happiness for which the Quaid-i-Azam strove, to equip them with all the virtues that the nobility of freedom demands and to rid them of fear, suffering and want that have dogged them their lives through the ages.

    (Faiz Ahmed Faiz)Recommend

  • Makdoom Humza
    Nov 21, 2010 - 6:54PM

    Kashmir was second home of Faiz Ahmed Faiz before 1947. He had lots of friends in Kashmir from Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah leader of the leftist leaning National Conference and Communist Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Faiz Ahmed Faiz nuptial ceremony was performed by Sheikh Abdullah at Raj Bagh Srinagar in the ancestral house famous Kashmiri-Amercian poet author of Country Without Post Office Aga Shahid. In 1947 he accompanied by his brother Dr. Taseer visited Kashmir to convince Sheikh Abdullah to join Pakistan but Sheikh Abdullah instead visited Delhi and stayed at Nehru’s house as his guests. But no biographer has mentioned about Faiz’s association with Kashmir.Recommend

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