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Famous Pakistani Poets

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Sagar Siddiqui (1928-1974)

Saghar Siddiqui (takhallus: Saghar) was born in 1928 n Ambala (in united Punjab under British India). He was named Muhammad Akhtar at birth. He was the only child of his parents and he spent the early years of his life in Ambala and Saharanpur (UP, India). He received his early education from Habib Hassan, a friend of the family.
Young Akhtar was much impressed by this gentleman, and he got interested in Urdu poetry because of him. He writes that at 7-8 years of age, he had became so fluent in Urdu that people used to come to him to get their letters written.
Then he moved to Amritsar, Punjab, India. At that age he regularly read Urdu newspapers like Zamindar, Ahsan, and Inquilab . He for a couple of months used Nasir Hijazi as his pen name, but later he chose Saghar Siqddiqui. In the pre-teen years, he used to live with his teacher Habib Hassan in Amritsar. At age 16, he would regularly attend mushairas. He was also active in an Urdu majlis (society) formed for the advancement of Urdu literature by Dr. M. D. Tasir and Maulana Tajwar Najibabadi and attended its mushairas. He attended the Urs of Pir Sabir of Kalyar Sharif in 1945 and participated in the mushaira there.
At the time of partition he was only 19 years old. In those days with his slim appearance, wearing pants and boski (yellow silky cloth) shirts, with curly hair, and reciting beautiful ghazals in a melodious voice, he became a huge success. But perhaps he was too sensitive for this cruel world. He probably had some tragic turns in his life.
Sometimes he would have to sell his ghazals to other poets for a few rupees. He would use the waste paper spread around to light fires to stay warm during winter nights. There, on the street, he passed away in Lahore on 19 July 1974 at age 46. His dead body was found one early morning outside one of the shops. Despite his shattered life, some of his verses (ash’aar) are among the best in Urdu poetry. It is unbelievable that he kept his inner self so pure and so transcending.

Ahmed Faraz (1931-2008)

Ahmed Faraz (January 14, 1931 in Nowshera – Pakistan) is considered one of the greatest modern Urdu poets of the last century and greatest living Urdu poet of present times. Faraz is his ‘takhallus’, whereas his real name is Syed Ahmed Shah.

Faraz, who has been compared with Mohammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, holds a unique position as one of the best poets of current times, with a fine but simplistic style of writing, even common people can easily understand and identify with. Ethnically a Pashto-speaking Pashtun, Ahmed Faraz learned and studied Persian and Urdu at the Peshawar University where he taught these subjects later.

In an interview with Rediff he recalls how his father, a teacher, once bought clothes for him on Eid. He didn’t like the clothes meant for him, but preferred the ones meant for his elder brother. This lead him to write his first couplet:

Layen hain sab ke liye kapde sale se
Layen hain hamare liye kambal jail se
He was told by his parents once to learn mathematics from a female class fellow during the summer vacation. “I was weak in mathematics and geography. I still don’t remember maps and roads”.

Instead of learning mathematics he played bait-bazi with her, a game in which one person recites a couplet and the other one recites another couplet starting from the last letter of the previous one. He always lost, even though he memorized hundreds of couplets for her, but when he started manufacturing his own couplets she couldn’t catch him anymore. Coming from a respectable family of Syeds, descendents of ”Haji Bahadar” a famous saint of Kohat, he moved to Peshawar with entire family. Studied in famous Edwards College Peshawar and then did his Masters in Urdu and Persian. Initially Syed Ahmad Shah Faraz thus became Ahmed Faraz.

During his college time, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ali Sardar Jafri were the best progressive poets, who impressed him and became his role models. He initially worked as a script writer at radio Pakistan Peshawar and then moved on to teach Urdu at Peshawar University. In 1976 he became the founding Director General (Later Chairman) of Academy of Letters.

Outspoken about politics, he went into self-imposed exile during the Zia-ul-Haq era after he was arrested for reciting certain poems at a mushaira criticizing the military rule. He stayed for three years in Britain, Canada and Europe before returning to Pakistan, where he was initially appointed Chairman Academy of Letters and later chairperson of the Islamabad-based National Book Foundation for several years. He has been awarded with numerous national and international awards.

He was awarded the Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2004, in recognition of his literary achievements. He returned the award in 2006 after becoming disenchanted with the government and its policies.

“My conscious will not forgive me if I remained a silent spectator of the sad happenings around us. The least I can do is to let the dictatorship know where it stands in the eyes of the concerned citizens whose fundamental rights have been usurped. I am doing this by returning the Hilal-e-Imtiaz (civil) forthwith and refuse to associate myself in any way with the regime…” a statement issued by the poet.

Ahmed Faraz Meeting Pakistan FM.

About his current writings he says: “I now only write when I am forced to from the inside.

Maintaining a tradition established by his mentor, the revolutionary Faiz Ahmed Faiz, he wrote some of his best poetry during those days in exile. Famous amongst poetry of resistance has been “Mahasara”

One amongst his great ghazals is the famous Ranjish Hi Sahi. He has so far written 13 books and all put together comes as “Shehr e Sukhn aarasta hai” his latest publication so far.

Allama Iqbal (1873 – 1938)

Birth

Iqbal was born in the Punjab on February 22, 1873. His ancestors, who were Kashmiri Brahmins, had embraced Islam two hundred years earlier. Iqbal’s own father was a devout Muslim with Sufistic bent of mind.

Primary Education

He received his early education in Sialkot. After passing the entrance examination, he joined Intermediary College. Mir Hassan, a great oriental scholar, had a special aptitude for imparting his own literary taste and to his students. Under his influence, Iqbal was drawn towards Islamic studies, which he regarded to be an outstanding favor that he could not forget it all his life.

Higher Education

Passing on to the Government College of Lahore, Iqbal did his graduation with English Literature, Philosophy and Arabic as his subjects. At the college he met Prof. Arnold and Sir Abdul Qadir. Iqbal’s poem, Chand (moon) and other early poems appeared in the journal (which belonged to Sir Abdul Qadir) in 1901 and were acclaimed by critics as cutting a new path in Urdu poetry.

It did not take him long to win recognition as a rising star on the firmament of Urdu literature.

In the mean time he had done his MA in Philosophy and was appointed as a Lecturer in History, Philosophy and Political science at Oriental College, Lahore. He then moved to Government College to teach Philosophy and English Literature.

Wherever Iqbal worked or thought his versatility and scholarship made a deep impression on those around him.

In Europe

Iqbal proceeded to Europe for higher studies in 1905 and stayed there for three years. He took the Honors Degree in Philosophy and taught Arabic at the Cambridge University in the absence of Prof. Arnold. From England, he went to Germany to do his doctorate in Philosophy from Munich and then returned to London to qualify for the bar. He also served as a teacher in the London school of Commerce and passed the Honors Examination in Economics and Political Science. During his stay in Europe Iqbal not only read voraciously but also wrote and lectured on Islamic subjects which added to his popularity and fame in literary circles.

Back in India

Iqbal returned to India in 1908. The poet had won all these academic laurels by the time he was 32 or 33. He practiced as a lawyer from 1908 to 1934, when ill health compelled him to give up his practice. In fact, his heart was not in it and he devoted more time to philosophy and literature than to legal profession.

He attended the meetings of Anjuman Himayat-I-Islam regularly at Lahore. The epoch making poems, Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa, which he read out in the annual convention of it one year after another, sparkled with the glow of his genius and made him immensely popular. They became the national songs of Millet.

Iqbal’s other poems Tarana-e-Hind (The Indian anthem) and Tarana-e-Milli (the Muslim Anthem) also became very popular among masses and used to be sung as symbols of National or Muslim identity at public meetings.

The spirit of Change

Allama IqbalThe Balkan wars and the Battle of Tripoli, in 1910, shook Iqbal powerfully and inflicted a deep wound upon his heart. In his mood of anger and frustration, he wrote a number of stirring poems, which together with portraying the anguish of Muslims were severely critical of the West.

The spirit of change is evident in poems like Bilad-e-Islamia (the lands of Islam), Wataniat (Nationalism), Muslim, Fatima Bint Abdullah (who was killed in the siege of Cyrainca, Siddiq, Bilal, Tahzib-e-Hazir (Modern civilization) and Huzoor-e-Risalat Maab Mein (in the presence of Sacred Prophet).

In these poems, Iqbal deplores the attitude of Muslim leaders who lay a claim to Islamic leadership and yet are devoid of a genuine spiritual attachment to the blessed Prophet.

The turning point in Iqbal’s Life

Iqbal was shaken by the tragic events of World War I and the disaster the Muslims had to face. The genius had passed through the formative period. He had attained maturity as a poet, thinker, seer and crusader who could read the signs of tomorrow in the happenings of today, make predictions, present hard facts and unravel abstruse truths through the medium of poetry and ignite the flame of faith, Selfhood and courage by his own intensity of feeling and force of expression. Khizr-e-Raah (The Guide) occupies the place of pride among the poems he wrote during this period. Bang-e-Dara (The caravan bell) published in 1929 has held a place of honor in Urdu poetry and world poetry.

Iqbal preferred Persian for poetic expression because its circle was wider than that of Urdu in Muslim India. His Persian works, Asrar-e-khudi (Secrets of the self), Rumuz-e-Bekhudi (Mysteries of Selflessness), Payam-e-Mashriq (Message of the East), Javed Nama (The Song of Eternity) belong to the same period of his life. And so is Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam, which was extensively appreciated and translated into many languages. Academies were set up in Italy and Germany for the study of Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy.

Politics

In 1927 the poet was elected to the Punjab Legislative assembly. In 1930, he was elected to preside over at the annual session of Muslim League. In his presidential address at Allahabad, Iqbal for the first time introduced the idea of Pakistan. In 1930-31, he attended the Round Table conference, which met in London to frame a constitution for India.

In Spain

Allama Iqbal in PrayerWhile in England, Iqbal accepted the hospitality of Spain. He also went to Cordoba and had the distinction of being the first Muslim to offer prayers at its historical mosque after the exile of Moors. Memories of the past glory of Arabs and their 800-year rule over Spain were revived in his mind and his emotions were aroused by what he saw.

Meeting with Mussolini

In Italy Iqbal was received by Mussolini who had read some of his works and was aquatinted with his philosophy. They had long meetings and talked freely to each other.

The Universities of Cambridge, Rome and Madrid and the Roman Royal society organized meetings in his honor. On his way back he also went to Jerusalem to attend the International Conference of Motamar-i-Isalami.

In Afghanistan

At the invitation of King Nadir Shah, Iqbal visited Afghanistan in 1932. The king received the poet with great honor and met hi privately, as well during which he laid bare his heart. The two talked and wept.

Iqbal’s Death

The last phase of Iqbal’s life was embittered with constant illness. But as regards his creative activities this product was most productive. He kept in touch with every question of the day and continued composing beautiful verses.

A few minutes before his death he recited these touching lines:

The departed melody may return or not!

The zephyr from Hijaz may blow again or not!

The days of this Faqir has come to an end,

Another seer may come or not!

Allama Iqbal’s MausolemAlthough Iqbal’s was long and protracted the end was sudden and verypeaceful. He breathed his last in the early hours of April 21, 1938, in the arms of his old and devoted servant, leaving behind a host of mourners all over the Islamic world. There was a faint smile playing on his lips, which irresistibly reminded one of the last criterions, which he laid down for a truthful Muslim.

I tell you the sign of a Mumin-

When death comes there is smile on his lips.

Note: The above biography is a summarized version from Glory of Iqbal by Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi

[republished with permission from www.jaihoon.com]

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