Ahl-e Wafa

Posted by sepoy on June 29, 2004 · 3 mins read

I discovered Faiz Ahmed Faiz when I was a senior in high school (FSc for those that know). My mother warned me specifically not to touch some authors as they were godless communists or had mature content. Faiz was one of them (Manto and Faraz the others). I bought Dast-e Saba (Wind's Palm) at a roadside vendor near Anarkali and secreted it inside my textbooks. I read it over the next nights and afternoons when amma was not looking. It is hard, even now, to say how deeply that slender volume of poems impacted me. I can state that the world appeared as if anew. Most of the poems in Dast-i Saba were written during his incarceration, 1951-1954, by the Pakistani state. This was not like poetry that I had ever read before. Sure, the idioms of Mir, Ghalib or Iqbal were there as was the Mahboob (Beloved) and themes of despair and longing. But more than that was a poet struggling to make sense of his political world and standing up against oppression. When I was leaving for US, I had in my possession a borrowed copy of Nusqhahai Wafa (Manuscripts of the Faithful) - his collected works. Instead of returning the book to Sohail's father, I sneaked it into my luggage and onto US soil. For the next year, I read Faiz every night. Page by page. underlining lines, reciting it out loud. Faiz was my connection to my home, to my people. His love was unconditional but his critique was severe. I do not think I would be the person I am today without Faiz.

I was reminded of all this by reading Deevaan's post. And for that I thank him. I also offer my loose translation of one of my favorites from Faiz (Hum Dehkain Gey):

We Shall Witness

We Shall Witness

It is a must that we, too, shall witness,

That promised day

which is inscribed by fate

We Shall Witness

When the immense mountains of oppression

blow away like cotton,

When under the feet of these slaves

this land will throb,

When upon the heads of our rulers

lightning will strike

We Shall Witness

When from the House of God

all idols will be lifted,

When We, the Clean ones, the Outcasts

will be seated at the top,

All the crowns will be tossed,

All the thrones will be toppled.

We Shall Witness

Only His name will survive

Absent he is and present he,

The view he is and seer he,

The shout will rise, I am the Truth

Which is me and also you

And His people will then rule

Which is me and also you

We Shall Witness

It is a must that we shall witness.


Zack | June 29, 2004

One of my favorite poems of Faiz, I have it written in my diary. I also brought Nuskha Hai Wafa with me to the US. In my case though, it was mine. Oh, and same experience with parents regarding godless communism and Faiz and fahashi and Manto.

danial | June 29, 2004

My parents didn't think that Faiz and Manto were godless communists but my mom still thinks that Manto's stories are fuhush. I think that we are lucky that we read Faiz when we were young and I feel sad for today's Pakistani youth, majority of them are totally ignorant of his works and life.

sepoy | June 29, 2004

We are even related to Faiz from some Sialkoti connection but not even that gave him the seal of approval. Although, amma did discover my copy of Dast-e Saba and she still has it and I think she likes it a lot. I don't know about Pakistani youth but Faiz is one of the topmost Urdu poets (if not THE topmost) getting translated into English. Especially the work of the late, great Agha Shahid Ali.

Aamir | June 29, 2004

On my 17th birthday shahzad amin gave me a book of "Faraz" whom he had never read. my father had read it, though, and he asked me, Who gave you this book? and in his eyes i saw something other than just curiosity..................... later i found out that we two actually share the dislike for the poet ,although for different reasons. i found "Faraz" too loud, superficial and blunt. shahzad amin's literary ignorance and sohail ahmad's social intellect simultaneously pushed and pulled me towards the the phenomena called "Faiz" and i was never strong enough to get out of it .i have lived faiz, lost in the sounds and colours of his world. Munir Niazi is the only contemporary voice i can hear or the color i can distinguish from him. Manto's name still gives smoke in our house hold,and smells like burning feathers. My pain is opposite that of Danial's, cuz i think Faiz, like anything else has recently been turned into pop,cliche or trend.....whatever you call it....i mean something which would make your feet dance but never get to your heart.Have you never seen his picture in Syed Noor's room?Now he is the poet of Musharaf, Nirma and Mushahid(karachi university)...........and me.

Naveed | June 30, 2004

The act of translating is really mark of dedication. A great translation indeed. Faiz was committed to Socialism and Pakistani intelligensia labelled him as "godless communist" but would you expect such a person to utter these words 'buss naam rahay ga allah ka'. Faiz reinvents himself and his body of work does not seem "dated" to a specific era. Yes, this was the only book by my bedside in the US for so many years and the EMI tapes playing in the car stereo. A truly surreal experience to listen to Faiz on a desolate US highway. I had overcome homesickness. One trains the heart to closet these thoughts of folks backhome to a dark corner that you try very hard not to visit. Its a tough task but sometimes you feel that you have succeeded. Then you read Faiz and the relentless deluge unleashes when you read/hear "kar rahaa thaa ghum-e-jahan ka hisaab, aaj tum yaad bay-hisaab ayay" I agree with Aamir and respect his comments on Faraz because his diction is so different from Faiz but you can revel in their poetry by seeing Faraz as an unabashed lover and Faiz as a hopeless (or hopeful) romantic. If I can just put forward one suggestion. Faraz is difficult to read (and a bit expensive) because his collection is in several publications. Faiz's kalam is encapsulated in his single nuskha-hai-vafa. This makes the reading experience a lot different between these poets. I do feel going back to Faiz more often than any other poet. As long as we are talking bedside reading I also have Zehra Nighah, Jon Elya, Nasir Kazmi and Munir Niazi. Rgds Naveed

s¯nee | June 30, 2004

Faiz is also our Nani's chachu!!

sepoy | June 30, 2004

On Faraz, I tend to agree with Aamir that he is a bit too mechanical for me. N. M. Rashid is someone I discovered in grad school and am quickly starting to really admire. Nasir Kazmi was Aamir's present to me and his rhythmic cadenzas and sparse language still brings a smile to me. Although his politics is a bit messy. SonY: Nani's Chachu? What does that make him? Our great grandfather? He wasnt THAT old!

Aijaz | June 30, 2004

I am not a Pakistani expat (anymore) and I am not going to recount all of those moments when I connected with Faiz's poetry. These few lines are to relive the memories of Sepoy and me sitting in our east third street apartment reciting Faiz and talking about home. I miss you man!

Ejaz Asi | June 30, 2004

just in hurry. Just wanted to ask you guys if all of you have seen "Faiz Ahmad Faiz - Aj K naam" a must have CD-Rom for any of the fan of Faiz sab.? If not, I would like to do something about it. It's no more in market and the guys at Enabling technologies don't seem to be interested (Remember their CEO, jehan Ara is busy straightening out PASHA) but I think I can do something about it. It's really worth keeping it.

sepoy | June 30, 2004

No, I haven't. But google tells me that you reviewed it. Looks VERY interesting. Do tell more.

Ejaz Asi | July 01, 2004

Google is sometimes very moronic indeed. Recently, I have discovered many bad things about it. No, they are not about privacy or any other worries. It's just that it keeps sending right people at wrong places and vice versa. Of course many other people are responsible for that. anyways, I hope to complete that review soon :$ and wish to share the original CD with as many as possible. As I said, it's out of printing and Enabling Technologies have no interest in it whatsoever. Something's got to be done from under the tables, you know!

meherban | January 10, 2005

Jany ka nahin shor sukhan ka mere hargiz Ta hashr zamanay main mera deewan rahaga. i wonder if Mir had read Faiz might have he said the same for him as well??????

Shariq Faraz | August 16, 2005

I think its unfair to label Saadat Ali Manto as an author of lewdity alone, if one reads carefully stories like "Kali Shalwar" and "Thanda Gosht" they starkly portray the sheer pain and anguish of their time. I have read translated work of Manto and found in his work a craftsmanship of excellent observation and art of story telling. No wonder he inspire current geniuses of story narration like Rushdie. Although a big fan of Faraz but even with my loyalties towards him can't compare him to Ghalib or Iqbal genre. Faiz has always revoked my submissive Islamic spirit but apart from that his romantic poetry is class apart.

m | July 27, 2006

i love faiz, and ham dekhain gay is one of my favourites, so i had to add my two pence worth. there's a stunning (live) rendition of this by Iqbal Bano that you have to listen to, if you haven't heard it already. it's linked to at this post - http://www.streetphotos.net/blog/index.php/archives/2005/05/13/hum-dekhain-gaay/ another faiz favourite of mine is nisar mein teri galiyon pe jo tujh se ahd-e-wafa ustavar rakhtay hain ilaaj-e-gardish-layl-o-nahaar rakhte hain

Qalandar | August 01, 2006

I haven't read as widely in Faiz as I should have, but two poems really stand out for me: "Heart Attack" and "Subh-e-Azaadi"...

Syed Zohair | November 29, 2009

ASAK I believe Faiz sahab , Manto sahab were those who wrote what they felt. in words of manto sahab.."may nay is muashray ko nanga paaya...to may nay woh hee likhaa jo dekhaa"....(i have found this society nude, so i wrote which i saw.)...i believe our parents put a ban on these writers becoz in their time they have found these writers odd and there is always a subliminal environment against the odd. We like them becoz we read them as un biased reader. definitely part of communish and fuhush is not absent in this literature but i feel becoz we see much higher fuhush and nude society so its acceptable literature to us... definitely these guys were great and their work is still toooo good un matachable. i also suggest if anybody would like to read than read Ghulan Abbas specially " Anandi"

Harsha | August 30, 2012

This seems absolutely naive to ask while you talk of poetry of such great charm, but can you please tell me what is the meaning of the word 'ahal'?

sepoy | August 30, 2012

Ahl is "They who" or "belonging to"