Muhammad Khalil-ur-Rehman's free verse - By Professor Dr. Saadat Saeed


Muhammad Khalil-ur-Rehman's was a thinker, well- known Urdu poet, scholar and literary organiser. He began his intellectual career in early forties. It also was the period of dawning of Free Verse on the horizon of Urdu literature. N. M. Raashid, Mira Jee, Tassaduq Hussain Khalid and a few other poets were trying hard to impart new ideas and methods of expression to the readers familiar with the lullaby of traditional ghazals, or romantic poems and the verses depicting nature. Khalilur-Rehman participated enthusiastically in the movement for the promotion of new ideas and styles in Urdu poetry. His poetic collection Lamhay (Moments) reveals that he was fully involved in the grafting of dawning literary modes and creative traditions. He adopted skilfully the symbolic and metaphoric style of reflecting the loneliness, aspirations, hopes, sadness, desperations and dispositions of a soul facing the ups and downs of city life, newly emerged from the depths of industrial atmosphere.

Khalil-ur-Rehman was bom on Dec 10 1921 at Ambala and died on 20th June 1965 at the age of 44. He did his BA Honours in English Literature from Government College Lahore, there he founded the Sondhi Translation Society. After completing his education, he started his career as a broadcaster in All India Radio. Even living in United India, he like Iqbal, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, always thought for a separate homeland. After partition of the subcontinent he came to Lahore and served Radio Pakistan Lahore for more than a decade. Later he joined the Information Department and supervised B N R Centre Lahore . In 1960 he founded Majlis-e- Fikr-o- Nazar and worked for the development of Urdu language and modern thought in Pakistan. RCD was the brainchild of Mr Khalil, he along with Mian Bashir Ahmad ex- ambassador to Turkey and a few other nationalist companions took pains for its establishment. He was of the opinion that in the first instance all the cultured Muslim countries should unite and achieve latest scientific and intellectual goals. He proposed in a conference held on Iqbal Day under the auspices of his Majlis that there should be a Muslim bloc for the political and economic co-operation between Muslim countries. It also will able to resolve constrictions among them. He met Field Martial Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan, in connection with his suggestions and ideals to attain the capability of making atomic weapons under the shelter of peaceful atomic programme. As secretary Majlis -e- Fikro Nazar besides few other selections of the articles read in various meetings of the Majlis, he published a book in Urdu on atomic energy by Dr M Maqsood entitled Johri Twanaie. The prominent broadcaster Akhlaq Ahmad Dehlvi writes in his book Yadoon Ka Safar" In Khalil's mind the map of Pakistan was like the map of Germany in Hitler's mind before the world war second. For Khalil Hitler brought into practice Nietizche's philosophy and made him and his country leading in the world. That was the reason that after the birth of Pakistan Muhammad Khalil-ur-Rehman dedicated his collection of poems Lamhay to those brave soldiers of Pakistan who were alert day and night on the borders for the defence of the greatness and integrity of their country. He used to say" Modern poetry is like a moment in front of splendid centuries of traditional poetry. But this moment is not alien. All the centuries of traditional poetry is participating in its development and enrichment. Akhlaq Ahmad Dehlvi concludes "As if modern poetry seems to be the product of old poetry." This is a separate issue. It requires another article. We can deal with it later on.

Why Khalil-ur-Rehman founded Majlis Fikr-o-Nazar in the presence of Halqa Arbab-e-Zauq, a prominent organisation for literary discussions and B N R centre, an institute for national reconstruction? He himself replied "When as a member of an old organisation I , tried to restore it, I found other members didn't favour my act so I thought there should be a new organisation to fulfil up-to-date national requirements. I and my other companions Mian Bashir Ahmad, Painter of the East Abdur Rehman Chugtai, Maulana Hamid Ali Khan, Abdul Majeed Bhatti, and Sufi A Q Niaz, founded a new organisation " Dabistan'. As its aim was to pursue masters of arts and literature to write articles on various subjects of their interest, its programme proved to be a bit heavy. As a result we thought on a stage to change its name and its programme because nobody could guess from Dabistan that it was an organisation.

We replaced its old name and called it majlis-e-Fikr-o-Nazar. And to mobilise people for intellectual work we preferred for it discussions and postponed the presentation of articles by scholars. Its basic members were Ameer-ud-Din Qodwaie, Dr Burhan Ahmad Farooqi, Dr S.A Hyder, Begum Azra Haider, Begum Farrukh Rahim, Syed Mashkoor Hussain Yad, Dr Ejaz Qureshi, and Dr Waheed Qureshi."

Other prominent intellectuals who regularly participated in its meetings were Syed Abid Ali Abid, Sufi A Q Niaz, Prof. C A Qadir, Prof. Ashfaq Ali Khan, Allama Ala- ud- Din Siddiqi, Prof Sheikh Rasheed, Dr Ebadat Brailvi, Dr Muneer -ud- Din Chugtai, Dr Abdul Salam Khurshid, Bashir Dar, Asar Sehbai, Nazir Ahmad, Salah -ud -Din Akbar, Prof Akhtar Iqbal Kamali, Prof Gilani Kamran ,Jamil-ud-Din Aali and Syed Hashim Raza.

The Majlis under the vigilance of Khalil-ur Rehman unpretentiously worked for the development and promotion of Urdu, our national language which nowadays unluckily is treated as an ordinary language by our English stricken bureaucrats and rulers. He tried to explore the authentic resources of sciences and arts to enrich the intellectual assets of Urdu. In 1962 Khalil-ur-Rehman published the first issue of Sarmaya-e-Fikr-o-Nazar containing articles on some crucial and significant issues such as "Teacher and Student", "The Sources of Iqbal's Philosophy", "The Philosophy of Pakistan" "Needs, Education and the construction of Behaviour", "The rear sons behind the Decline of Civic Values", "Teachers and Revolution", "Cultural Trends Among New Generation", "Urdu Language and Our Educational Requirements", "A Brief Account of Arabic Poetry", and many topics concerning Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam.

The Majlis encouraged intellectuals to write articles and books concerning biography, criticism, play writing. Khalil-ur.Rehman keenly strove for the progression of national pursuits.

He worked hard in the direction of establishing new libraries and schools for the promotion of Urdu. As a strong supporter of Pakistan Idealogy, he wanted to make the Majlis a movement for spreading consciousness among Pakistani men and women. Late Prof C. A Qadir in a meeting declared that in the new era of cultural strife Khalil wanted to preserve the cultural future of his soil.

He was a man of opinion and self criticism. Prevention of healthy thought in a society was an unforgivable crime for him. Khalil always welcomed the process of difference of opinion, as it could add new dimensions tovarious ideologies.

For Maskeen Ali Hijazi,

"In world of distrust, individualism and loneliness he was a dedicated supporter of the theory of human communication. He practically hankered after the real unity and intimacy between scattered literary and social groups. He chose to deliver his message to the writers of Pakistan. He was one of the founder members of Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq and member of Pakistan Writers Guild, the great forums for discussions and expansion of thought.

Hamid- al-Makki, Iqbal Aawan, Chaudry Riaasat Ali,Prof, Ismail Bhatti and many other writers appreciated his collective behaviour and theoretical approach. Hafiz Jullundhry wrote a poem about Khalil's achievements and thought and said that he himself had adopted Khalil's opinions for the prosperity of Muslims and Pakistani nation. He says

Todays meeting and Khalil's remembrance is pious act

That Khalil who was the great admirer of freedom of morals

The man of truth and action who always acted like a brave man

He fought against those enemies who were fighting against his nation.

His character depicted wonderful devotion

He used to create life through his poetry

He was a great fighter nothing horrified him (Poem by Hafiz Jullandry)

Sufi A Q Niaz in his book of translations "Cries in the Night" published in 1957 correctly pointed out that Khalil-ur-Rehman is

"One of the most sensitive among the moderns with firm and deep roots in national consciousness, he is a young poet of brilliant promise style and imagery intensely alive." Sufi A Q Niaz who himself was an intellectual and poet of great merit, translated Khalil's poems under the titles of A prayer, Tears, Desire, Autumn Night, Voices from the Dead, Song of the Times, Waiting, Martial Band, Thought and Vision, Revenge, The Basic Problem, In the Wilderness of Life, Moments, Again the Evening Comes, Loneliness, and The Dead End of the Dumb desire.

Even a sketchy view of the subjective and reflective world of modern Urdu poetry can Indicate the readers many things about its introspective variety. It could be safely assumed that only few poets chose the way to portray collective problems.

Khalil-ur-Rehman was one among them. A poet who attacked the inhuman way of life bravely.

He wrote many poems about the "terrible storm of murder and loot, rape and abduction of women, which followed in the wake of partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan."

His poems "Thought and Vision" and Revenge show his resistance against inhuman criminal practice during the exchange of population between two countries. He expressed his spirit in effective similes, ranging imagination, unused expressions and dejected modes. We present here few excerpts from his poems;

As for as the eye can reach,

There is nothing in sight

But an endless waste of desert sands;

Nothing green to meet the eye;

Not a flower wild, nor shrubs;

Nor even straggling cactus;Not a single blade of grass! (A prayer)


In the silent shadows

Of dark despair

These waves heave and swell,

and roll without an end;

They flow through the interminable Length of sleepless nights. (Tears)


The night perhaps

Is cold and dark

But it isn't desolate:

For desire come shining

Through the gloom

Like a gleam of heaven (Desire)


On the stillness

Lying like a polished mirror

There is not a faintest

Breath of a sound

What stirring voices were these

Which the withering hand of Death

Has turned into vague and haunting


But courage thou brave moth!

For in the general darkness

Of Human History,

The truth of freedom shows

That pitted ogainst the Tyrani

Man, at last, has always

Risen in firm Revolt !

Blood, blood

Blood, blood blood!



Swelling and rolling

As swell and roll the waves

Of an irresistible flood,

Comes the strains of Martial music.

(Martial Band)

A major portion of Khalil's poetry has its origins in social inequity, economic tyranny and political severity.

Though at times he expressed his dejected passions in verses but because of his Ideological commitment he consciously rejected nihilism and concluded his poetic thought at the note of hope. His strong thoughtful approach forced him to strike harmony with universe at large.