The battle of Karbala has undergone a major historical, legendary and metaphorical transformation over the years. In the sub-continent as early as ~1100 AD, the Sufi thinker, Chishti portrayed Karbala as a struggle between evil and virtue, as the essence of faith, raising it above the sectarian divide. Poets during the heyday of the influence of the Progressive Writers’ Association and later further metaphorically raised the event above religion, region and time using it as a symbol of an epic struggle between good and evil, justice and injustice and even painting it in a socialist hue. There are examples of such use in mohammed iqbal, maKhdoom, ali sardar jafri, shaz tamkanat and most powerfully in josh malihabadi.
mojid o mufakkir-josh malihabadi
mojid o mufakkir is “inventor and thinker/philosopher” … Josh makes an argument that technology has made life easier for human kind but the philosopher/thinker has raised mankind to new heights of an amorphous combination of “values, culture, ethics, humanity”. The rigor of the argument aside, the language is so awesome, powerful and beautiful that (especially if you allow yourselves to be seduced by Josh) you forget about the argument but simply get lost in admiring the composition. I invite you to that journey …
tamaddun 1-10 In 10 stanzas Josh describes how sophistication and culture developed among human beings. Please remind yourselves that there is no anthropological rigour in this. The development of civilization/settlements, of speech and writing, of social behaviour is described in the most lyrical and beautiful phrases.
eejad 11-29 In stanzas 11-29 Josh describes the inventions of technology. It is joyful to read his description of the timepiece or of the satellite or cinema/TV and of sentient machines. The metaphors and the language are incomparably beautiful.
ehsan 30-42 Josh takes 13 stanzas to pay tribute to scientists and inventors in very beautiful and powerful language and then begins to wonder why humanity is not beholden to them. He goes on to answer that it is one thing to take us to the “dome of the skies” but another to make us understand the meaning of life.
mufakkir 43-53 Explaining the meaning of life is what a mufakkir does and Josh goes on the re-affirm why the mufakkir is foremost in human thought, not the mojid.
husain 54-68 Having described the qualities and contributions of the mufakkir Josh proceeds to say that Husain is an exemplary mufakkir who rose to do all this for humanity … he rose carrying a flask of his own blood on his shoulder i.e. ready to sacrifice his own life.
Khoon 69-74 These stanzas are an unadulterated, highly emotional praise of Husain. The terminology of “Khoon” is used not only to say that Husain was ready to sacrifice his own blood but also in the sense that in common parlance the word “Khoon” is used to imply character, heritage and the like. Even if you not inclined to shii belief, you will find this composition extremely enjoyable and emotionally charged.
karbala 75-84 Josh uses these few stanzas to describe the prevailing conditions before the battle of Karbala which led Husain to lay down his life in principled resistance.
tarGheeb 85-90 This comes close to incitement and calls upon the audience to resist injustice.
Khiraj 91-107 Unadulterated tribute to Husain. It is beautiful and powerful composition with rich metaphors. Enjoyable even when read with a completely secular viewpoint.
almadad 108-116 A resounding call for help from the spirit of Husain while calling upon the audience to act on the principles that impelled Husain to resist present day injustice. His call on Husain for water is a most dramatic climax to this marsia.