Biaz - i- Zafar,

by Bahadur Shah Zafar the king of Delhi who declared war against British colonialists in May 1857.


Tragic hero of the first Indian war of independence, the last Mughal emperor of India, Abu - al - Muzaffar Siraj- ud- Din Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar who died in exile at Rangoon in 1862, was an Urdu poet and scholar of great merit. Besides his four poetic collections containing Ghazaliat and many other forms of Urdu and Persian poetry, he wrote Khiaban-e-Tasawwuf an interpretation of Gulistan, the great book by Muslih -ud- Din Saadi Sherazi, a well- known Persian poet. He also had another book to his credit entitled Talifat- e- Abuzaffari dealing with the issues of polishing poetry and lexicon. But unluckily it is not available now.

Zafar fought well the great war of Indian independence which began in May 1857. Major Abbot who was commander of seventh native infantry and who ran away from Delhi during the war, writes " From all I could glean, there is not a slightest doubt that the insurrection has been originated and matured in the palace of king of Delhi, and that with his full knowledge and sanction in the mad attempt to establish himself in the sovereignty of the country. It is well-known that he has called on the neighbouring states to co-operate with him in thus trying to subvert the existing government."

Zaffar knew each and every thing about the step by step expansion of British rule in India. He wrote in his poetry : India is passing through an age of unrest. Britishers are capturing its areas through their despotic bag of tricks. He and his followers were fully aware of the situation that It was no one else but British East India Company who made plans to conquer India and got many achievements in this direction. This company was founded in 17th century. At that time it worked as an instrument of financiers, aristocrats and merchants. It used several imperialist forms and methods of government and conquered India.

Due to the incapability of mughal princes, ill-equipped native army, inability and differences of the leaders of the war, betrayal of the members of the local war council and helplessness of the king in economic and administrative affairs, Bahadur Shah Zafar lost the war.

Mr Saleem-ud-Din Quraishi, secretary  Urdu Section at India Office Library London discovered a manuscript containing Bahadur Shah Zafar's unpublished poetry. Incidentally it is inscribed by the king himself. Sang-e-Meel publications has published it recently. It also has brought out Zafar's collective work in four volumes. The publisher rightly claims as far as his distinctive style is concerned the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar is considered to be a unique poet in the history of Urdu Ghazal.  

Mr Saleem -ud- Din Quraishi says : due to its importance and distinctiveness, the material concerning Indo-Pak subcontinent in India Office Library London has an unequivocal position in the world. A large quantity of Arabic, Persian and Urdu manuscripts in its possession have been brought from famous historical libraries of Indo -Pak. Approximately three thousand seven hundred volumes among these books were collected from the king's Library by the British Army after the fall of Delhi in 1857. Presently this collection is known as Delhi collection.

A great number of manuscripts preserved in this library are written in Arabic and Persian languages. However it also includes about 150 Urdu manuscripts. Most of them belong to 18th and 19th centuries. The greater part of this  collection indicate the intellectual and literary leanings of Shah Aalam the second and Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Mr Quraishi points out that the catalogue of Urdu manuscripts preserved in this collection was prepared and published by J.F. Blumhardt in 1926 under the title of Catalogue of Hindustani Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office London. Later the scribe re-evaluated the library and discovered a few more Urdu Manuscripts and wrote their detail in his book published in 1978 entitled Catalogue of Urdu Manuscripts in the India Office Library London. Mr Quraishi is an ardent  research scholar. His second book, Catalogue of Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto and Kashmiri manuscripts in the India Office Library London has earned a good name for him. Like his maiden book it, too has been widely appreciated by the research loving circles in subcontinent and U.K. He knew a lot many things about the old libraries and manuscripts in subcontinent.

Tughlaq, Nizam-ud-Din Aulia, Feroze Shah, Tatar Khan, Ghazi Khan, Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Khan-e-Khanan, Saleema Sultana, Muna'am Khan, Jahangir and Aurangzeb Alamgir were great lovers of knowledge and they had rare manuscripts in their grand libraries. Besides personal libraries of Adil Shah, Qutb-ul-Mulk, Shah Aalam, Shah Wajih-ud-Din, Makhdom Ibrahim, Sheikh Hazrami, Sheikh Muhaimee, Sayed Qamar-ud-Din, Raja Shatab Rai and Raja Ram Narayan, famous families, educational institutions and states in India had many remarkable libraries. The Nawabs of Luharo, Usman Pura, Ahmad Abad, Khanbaiat, Behrooch, Surat, Maisoor, Furrakh Abad, Bilgram, Rohela, Rampur, and Jaunpur owned marvellous libraries. Khanqah -e -Surkhaiz, Khanqah-e-Shah Abdul Aleem, Khanqah-e- Abbasi, and many other Khanqahs possessed super libraries including rare manuscripts having the seals and signs of great contemporary scholars and poets. Madrissa-e-Patan, Madrissa-e-Hadayat Baksh and Madrissa-e-Walliullah were famous for their historical libraries. Besides Royal Mughal Library, Royal Library of Oudh and Farangi Mahal Library had grand collections of noteworthy manuscripts.

Can we now locate all the literary and intellectual assets kept in these libraries. Of course it is not possible. Due to the reasons known to the students of history many libraries and manuscripts had perished years before the invasion of the subcontinent by the Britishers. Only a part of all these collections could be traced in various museums and famous libraries of the subcontinent and U.K.

Mr Saleem - ud - Din Quraishi writes:

Until 17th century the Royal Mughal Library contained more than 24,000 beautified and gloriously bounded manuscripts. In November 1638, Mandslo, a European traveller, wrote that the worth of the books in the library was more than 64,63,000 rupees. This library began to deteriorate with the continuous decline of Mughal Empire during 19th century. When in 1857, East India Company took it in its custody it contained less than one third of the books mentioned by Mandslo in his travelogue. The volumes of a lot many books from that collection were destroyed more or less during widespread plagiarism in Delhi. In spite of all this ruination, this collection because of its historical and intellectual significance is unique and exceptional.

As far as Biaz-e-Zafar is concerned it is an important document to know the real worth of Zafar's poetry as it is inscribed by the poet himself. Mr Quraishi seems to be convinced that the famous Ghazals such as " Nah Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon Nah Kisi Kay Dil Ka Qarar Hoon" do not belong to Zafar as it was not possible for him to write in the prison house at Rangoon. He proves his logic through a statement sent to the British government in India by the governor of Rangoon Jail. The governor relates:

"The public are of course not allowed to hold social intercourse with prisoners, and the servants can only gain admission under a pass issued from myself, which is issued daily and must be inspected by the officers on main guard before they gain admission, and for better security these tickets are printed and checked by a system of numbering in addition to my signature." He further says " Pen, ink and paper are of course strictly prohibited." So it was not possible for the royal prisoner to write poetry in jail and to send it out of jail for his Indian fans. In Biaz-e-Zafar unpublished and original verses of Bahadur Shah Zafar have been published. None of his ustads (poetry teachers) has touched or polished it. In presence of these verses no body can deny that Zafar himself was a sensible and serious poet of remarkable merit.