LAHORE - He was a sceptic, agonist, bold thinker and questioned his own necessity of life fighting with his words throughout the life.
He was a man who believed in open intellectual dialogue and discourse. For him, a nation could only achieve prosperity by removing social taboos and introducing quality education.
Though Jaun Elia’s 14th death anniversary passed quietly yesterday, leading scholars remembered him with great respect. He died on November 8, 2002 in Karachi.
“Jani kya aj meri barsi hai–Yani kya aj mar gya tha main”
(My dear! Is today my death anniversary?–My dear! Had I died today?)
Born on December 14, 1931 in an illustrious family of Amroha (Uttar Pardesh, India), Jaun, whose real name was Syed Sibt-e-Ashgar Naqvi, is considered a prolific writer, poet and a great thinker of 20th and 21st century. He migrated to Pakistan in 1957 and settled in Karachi. His father Allama Shafique Hassan Elia, brothers Rais Amrohi and Syed Muhammad Taqi were also great scholars and writers of their time.
Jaun tied knot with a known story writer, columnist Zahida Hina but later they divorced. Born in Shia family, Jaun interestingly studied Deoband school of Islamic jurisprudence though he did not identify himself with any sect or religion.
His views on religion can be understood through his conversation with his friend Mir Zafar Hassan: “My dear Mir Zafar Hasan, you’re one lucky person.” “Why do you say that, Jaun sahib?” Zafar asked.
Jaun explained: “You are an exceptionally good poet and at the same time you’re extremely fortunate. You are Mir, but you can be Zafar, and you can also be Hassan whenever you feel the need for it. You can be a Sunni, and you can turn into a Shia if you so desire. But I, Jaun Elia, despite being an agnostic, will always be a Syed. Isn’t it sad?”
His religious views could be well explained in his two famous verses.
Youn jo takta hai aasmaan mein tu–Koi rehta hay aasmaan mein kia?
(As you look up to the sky–Does He reside in the sky?)
His political views were inclined towards Marxism and he would often describe himself an anarchist also.
According to Salim Bokhari, The Nation Editor, who enjoyed the company of late poet, Jaun was poet who all his life carried the legacy of old time poetry and combined it with the feelings of common man. Mr Bokhari said Jaun was the most misunderstood poet in his lifetime.
“Uss ki nigah-e-naz ka hum say yeh maan tha k aap–Umr guzar di jiye, umr guzar di gayi”
Jaun Elia was romantic and yet strongly believed in family system. “He was a realistic and never believed in hypocrisy. He said what he believed,”said Salim Bokhari.
Jaun was fluent in English, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Sanskrit and Urdu. “Jaun had the great command on different languages. He was probably the only person in Pakistan who knew Hebrew as he directly translated booklets of Ikhwanu Safa from Hebrew to Urdu,” Shahzad Nayyar, a known modern Urdu poet and critic, told The Nation.
(Ikhwanu Safa was a secret society of Muslim scholars in 8th to 10th century. Hebrew is ancient language of Jews.)
But, Nayyar explained, Jaun chose common day language to express his ideas. “Simplicity of expression and intellectual bitterness are the two top qualities of Jaun which differentiate him from other scholars of the region,” Shahzad said.
He termed Jaun’s ghazal true and rare depiction of intellectuality, social criticism and human truth.
Giving an example of Jaun’s social criticism, Shahazad quoted verses of the late poet:
“Ab mujhay tokta bhi nahi koi–Yehi hota hai khandan main kya?”
(Nobody objects on my thoughts now–Does it happen in a family?)
“Aik hi haadsa tu hai aur wo yeh k aaj tak–bat nahi kahi gayi, bat nahi suni gayi.”
(The only tragedy of ours is that nobody dared to talk and nobody dared to listen.)
Nayyar says Jaun was against putting chain on human thinking. “Jaun probably stands at number one when we compare him with the diffusion of poetry through social media with other poets like Ahmed Faraz, Mohsin Naqvi and Perveen Shakir. His books never go out of print.”
Asad Fatemi, another young poet and critic, said Jaun Elia was arguably the finest Urdu poet of the latter half of the 20th century. “Jaun had studied at the Deoband school in India. Deoband used to be a different place at that time. It hadn’t yet transformed into a fatwa-giving factory. I’m sure had he lived today, he would have been cold-bloodedly murdered by some religious fanatic.”
Jaun’s books on poetry are: Shayad, Yani, Gumaan, Lekin and Goya. He wrote light essays which are collected in his book “Fanood.” He also translated many books.