Iftikhar Arif: Whispering to Eternity
By Professor Dr. Saadat Saeed
Free verse, now a fully established form in Urdu has already passed through various challenging phases. Besides its parodies in Mudawa, a sarcastic score by Furqat Kakorwi, we find its anathema in various articles written by Andleeb Shadani, Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi, Niaaz Fateh Puri, Ali Abbas Hassaini and Jafer Ali Khan Asar. They refused to accept free verse as poetry and opened attack on it by the help of the categorical laws of traditional poetics. However N.M Rashed, Mira Jee, Tassadaq Hussain Khalid, Zia Jalandhri and several other poets adopted this form for their poetic speculations and made it sure that it will continue in future and numerous new poets would adopt it in their own style. And now when in this established form Iftikhar Arif has precipitated a phenomenal style the demand for writing prose poetry from him won't be unwarranted. He has the capability of refuting the critics like Wazir Agha by creating a style of his own in this new form of poetry in Urdu.
Itfikhar Arif has played a vital role in creating new metaphors and symbols for the reflective and emotional expansion of modern Urdu poetry. He has declared a poet of new solitaries by Gopi Chand Naarang a prestigious Urdu critic. Late Saleem Ahamad a profound critic and skilled poet wrote, "Iftikhar Arif's voice is extremely operative and vibrant in modern Urdu poetry. These truths can't be ignored. In his ghazals and poems Iftikhar Arif seems a dexterous poet. He has launched his anxieties, skepticism, melancholy’s, doldrums, distaste’s, strains and infatuations creatively in his verses. His style is vivid. In his ghazals he has striven to compose a saga of his years. He is fighting against darkness, displacement, opportunism, injustice, lust, starvation, fear, tyranny, helplessness, enmities, impositions, wars, and unwanted situations people of the world are facing in their daily business.
Living in big cities, Iftikhar can well imagine that now people are behaving in affluent societies. So it was not difficult for him to explore city-oriented psyche. He is well versed with the commercial attitudes emerging from the big plazas and skyscrapers. His sharp sensibility inspires him to write a sort of poetry charged with socio political analysis.
When we flip through the pages of "Mehar-e-Do Neem" an important opus by Iftikhar Arif, we find in its verses flickering idiom, encountering with a kind of restlessness and discontent. It is common in the poetry, created in the circumstances of exploitation of the third world by the imperialists and their descendants. His supplicating tones and lamenting expressions for the betterment of altruism in humanity make him a philanthropist who is inspired by the humanitarian propositions of progressive movement as well as of modernists in Urdu literature. In one of his poems entitled pas Navisht Iftikhar Arif craves for those live words, which have the potential to change the existing vista of the world. From Iqbal to N.M. Rashed all the poets of weighty echelon hankered for the birth of nervous homo. Iftikhar also covets for new man. He wishes for the complete metamorphosis of vicious human behavior. For him it is not scrupulous in the fields of politics, sociology and ethics, to subjugate human liberty and natal intentions.
In his poem named "Akhri Admi Ka Rajaz" his sardonic confrontation against those reckless tyrannies which demoralize the unprotected masses governed by the fascist rulers, seems to be an its peak.
Iftikhar is distinguished for his unique symbolic and metaphorical style. Creative shades of his pensive lingo in "Mehar-e-Do Neem" are varied and unequivocal. Several young poets grope satisfaction in copying his style. In "Intibaah" an expressive poem to his credit he indicates that one should not become alien to earthly quandaries. For him it is essential for a conscious person to gain absolute free will. Freedom from unearthly apprehensions and illusions is a prerequisite to pass a life fraternal to real existence. A mere pedantic faith in materialistic world does not count for much in his code of conduct. He feels truly that the global peace is at stake. His philanthropic doctrine indicates that New Man should strive for an up-to-date mundane order based upon wide and generic theory of birthright and equity. In "Iltija" (solicitation) Iftikhar voices"
O the hunters who have hunted me
I want immunity the only desire I have now is a safeguarded flight my hunters! I want immunity
Once, before during the shoot for fruitful days I have been ensnared.
Acquit me now
Prior to this day, in quest of protection, I have been victimized frequently, too. Acquit me now
My hunters! I want immunity
The only desire I have now is a safeguarded flight. The only desire I have now is a lodge amidst earth and sky. My hunters! I want immunity.
Due to his sagacious creative impulse Iftikhar Arif dawned exuberantly on the horizon of Urdu poetry in early Eighties. In Pakistan it was the profound decade in terms of creative poetry and literature. In those days prose poets were in search of the formative principles of prose poetry. However Iftikhar opted to write in more authentic forms.
Beside ghazal he expressed his passions in the form of free verse. It was quite challenging for him to etch on a setting for himself in the compendium of modern Urdu poetry at that time under the influence of the Progressive, Modern and new poets had already made a substantial headway. Iftikhar's poetry is based on conscious views and convictions. Although a number of free verses are using the technique of free associations in their poems and expressing their unshackled dreams and cloudy impressions emerging from their subconscious or unconscious yet Iftikhar has managed to reveal his disciplined conceptions poetically,
Brenda Walker a poetess from London has translated in English a few of Iftikhar's poems and published those under the title of "The Twelfth Man". This book introduced him in the widespread literary spheres. Brenda chose distinct poems from his collection Mehar-e-Do Neem and translated them under the titles have "And the wind was silent" "The hindola." "How wrong I was." "Declaration". The hindola. " "How wrong I was." "A knowing ignorance." Double shift". "Mirage "Scandal". "Declaration". "Memories". "Balance Sheet". "To a blind City "Sons of pharaoh" "Post script." These translations are expressive and have the spirit of the poet's vision and style.
In her preface to this volume Annemarie Schimmel writes about Iftikhar's style "He is modern in his use of language, but classical in the way he hides his burning concerns in allusions, symbols and metaphors - an art preferred by classical Persian and Urdu poets."
Anna Suvorva a professor from Moscow state "And the path of Iftikhar Arif leads him past the desolate resting places of his ancestors, their "thirst" their "deserts" their "caravans" and burning tents are the same now as the ages ago. The poet contemplates his own identity through a looking glass of national tradition, gaining strength to face the challenge of mundane existence. "She points out about another aspect of his poetry and terms it existential. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Gopi Chand Narang and Abdullah al Udhari in their weighty articles appreciate his artistic diligence.
Despite the fact that love for past has played a significant role in Arif's literary comprehension. He could not be placed among obsolete writers. He has sketched his hope, hatred, love, loneliness, anguish, alienation, inspiration and sensibility in view of the urgencies of the current time.
In poetry obviously modern, Iftikhar Arif has created a style of his own. It is said "Modernism is less a style than a search for a style in highly individualistic sense; and indeed the style of one work is no guarantee for the next." It is yet to be seen that how far Iftikhar Arif would be successful in creating another dawning style for his expected discourse.
Poetry searches and composes through imagination hidden beauties of the universe. In new era of prose ugliness depicted in poetry is too harsh, too direct that it can not capture delicacies and natural beauties of life. The empiricist or logical positivistic attitudes of modern sciences have swept away the romantic myths of poetry. It now doesn’t inquire where from the grass and flower came? What are the mysteries of clouds and winds? Poetry in old times had close ties with instinctual life. It was wild enough to be simple and original. Modern poetry is resolutely opposed to the expressions of simple emotions and rotten one dimensional metaphors.
As a modern poet Iftikhar Arif chooses negation to denounce the anti-poetry aggressiveness prevailed in prosaic poems. His poetic experience is pure and dimensional. Many poets living in fools paradise think that poetry is a diary containing details of their daily activities. They are destroying a way of life meant for the guidance of human hoards. Poet for Majeed Amjad is a ‘foreteller among the caravans of aunts’. He never abides by inhuman order, and conventions. He has always tried to feel the pain and sorrows of scattered human beings. He discovers new sensitivities of subjective-objective life. we can still imagine another world. His personal utopia guides him for further guidance of humanity. Iftikhar Arif knows well that in spite of modern facilities at his service Man in our age has become more unhappy and restlessness. O God! Man is great. (Qasmi) or as Zaheer Kashmiri cried ‘ We know we are the candles of last hours of the night. After our end morning shall dawn. Iftikhar Arif opposes the idea of making Man its own goal. He for him is not an end in himself. Eugenio Motale the Nobel Laureate says: "Millions of human beings long for love, but the word is only uttered in the most sordid realms of journalism. Newspapers and books, pamphlets and reviews, visions fixed on a canvas or a piece of glass, sounds put together to give us a dynamic impression of physical motion, news and notions showered on us in abundance combine to constitute a vociferous spell intended to inform the lonely man: We are here, too; you are not as alone as you think. Today an enormous number of individuals want to express themselves, to exist, to burgeon individually. They want to live their own lives on the level which is accessible to them—that of emotions and sensations. And on this level there is no question of privilege: the man in the street has the same rights as the man of distinction and he can even delude himself that his penetration of reality is more authentic than that achieved by the intellectual. But the man of the masses is subject to the ill of the masses, from which none of us can escape. And the most dangerous aspect of present-day life is the dissolution of the feeling of individual responsibility. Mass solitude has done away with any difference between the internal and the external, between the intellectual and the physical.
Our epoch has substituted excitation for contemplation, and numbers are no longer the secret of divine laws but the subject of statistics. Why, then, should we not draw the due conclusions from the altered living conditions of the man? First he was called homo sapiens and faber (then ludens, and now destruens). These conclusions would be to the advantage of the universal nullity which we are on the verge of forming. What we find in the so-called civilized world (something that has been developing ever since the end of the Enlightenment but is now accelerating at an ever faster pace) is a lack of interest in the sense of life. This has nothing to do with activity: on the contrary. The void is being filled in with uselessness. Man no longer takes much interest in humanity. He is becoming appallingly bored."
Iftikhar Arif and other poets like him do not try to fill the void with uselessness. They have taken ample interest in life and humanity. They do not feel appalling boredom. Montale further suggests "For many years now the best artists in the fields of painting, music, and poetry have been basing their art on the impossibility of speaking. Those who speak are the worst artists, the false artists. It is very unlikely that such a state of suffocation can be cured by remedies of a social order or by further neo humanistic disciplines.
The new man is born too old to tolerate the new world. The present conditions of life have not yet erased the traces of the past. We run too fast, but we still do not move enough. In other words the new man is in an experimental phase. He looks but he does not contemplate, he sees but he does not think. He runs away from time, which is made of thought, and yet all he can feel is his own time, the present, while regarding the expressions of the individual feeling of his time as ridiculous and anachronistic."
Real poets contemplate through looking. They see the world philosophically. They don’t run away from thoughts, They are bound to feel beyond their own time. Through their poetic contemplation they gather real truths from the bottom of absurd and anachronistic. Munir Niazi once wrote "O Munir is this country under the shadow of evil-spirit. Movement is faster but the travel is slow." For Montale contemporary life has not yet erased the traces of the past. People run too fast, but do not seem to move enough. Iftikhar Arif understands this phenomenon fully.
Iftikhar Arif's Harf-e-Baaryab is essentially a notable poetic collection. Mehr-e-Doneem has already exalted him to a high place. Through black and blue acclimation of his poetic genius by serious readership and prominent literary circles Iftikhar arif has borne the palm. The style and matter of Harf-e-Baaryab suggest that the poet is fully endowed with great creative qualities. He has fully guarded against the dangers of widespread romantic nausea to his mystical humanism. Iftikhar Arif seems fully dissatisfied with the poetry fluent in storm in the tea cup. He always has remained resolute in his struggle to achieve creative fertility, careful thoughts and pondering notions. Living with the paraphernalia of the current century he has tried to set down the terms of new human Magna Carta. He analyses the contemporary sickness and prays for divided humanity. Col Sarwar truly writes
‘Some critics are of the view that Iftikhar Arif's creative nature has withered under the impact of alienation. This is certainly not true. In fact it expands in the fullness of its powers. He is receptive to poetic suggestions and acknowledges the claim of heart and discovers in everything around him an unsuspected wealth of ideas and thoughts. His highly intellectual figure is imbued with the warm glow of a moral radiation to be felt in his work. His poetry grows animated and his honesty of mind and sincerity of heart often reveal a touch of sober charm.’
Iftikhar Arif follows and improves in the context of his current situations the mystical traditions set by Siraj Aurangabadi, Khawaja Mir Dard, Khawaja Hyder Ali Atish, Momin Khan Momin, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Asghar Gondvi and Allama Iqbal. Iftikhar Arif is known for his emotionally strong poetic imagination, and feelings of pious consciousness.
In Harf-e-Baaryab he has portrayed in dimensional colors and sounds the entreaties of dying humanity. His imagery depicts well I mean with full poetic impressions the hues of separation. Irrespective of his religious faiths readers fully enjoy his idealistic and sound meaning properties. His poetry has the capability of moving everyone regardless of their religious creeds.
Harf-e-Baaryab depicts too the restless soul of a vigilant poet who has full lyrical and melodious command on his subjects and expressions.
Modern poets who perceive what is going on around them feel humanity is being shelved by depression and an unexplainable gloom. They read monotonous poetic notions consisting of, sorrowful obscurity. A sweet melancholy is accompanying them consistently. Man around them seems to be discontented with himself. They too have experienced their inability in giving any meaning or symmetry to his life. Iftikar Arif through his mystical content tries to provide the readers a kind moral remedy. He attacks the phenomenon of lust and fear. Every man in the world in one way or another is facing them. He has been drowned in the swamp of moral degradation. Iftikhar Arif has rebelled against these attitudes in a sober, metrical style. He has a universal message containing the content of content. This message builds crisis not only for himself but also for serious readers of literature. After reaching or knocking at the doors of transcendence he has used his "self" for depiction of universal truths.