Mohammad Din Taseer
Mohammad Din Taseer and Mohammad Iqbal
December 1, is death anniversary of literary critic and man of letters, Mohammad Din Taseer
Mr MD Taseer was a first-rank literary personality. He was a poet of distinguished accent, a writer with a unique style and an authentic critic of his time. In the history of Urdu literature he is known as one of the pioneers of the progressive-movement. He was among the first to introduce the genre of scientific analysis in literary criticism of Urdu literature.
Taseer was interested in Mohammad Iqbal and his poetry since his childhood. Iqbal regularly paid visits to Mian Nizam Din’s house and Taseer was honoured to meet Iqbal in his childhood. About his school days Taseer writes: “In those days it was usual to make a comparison between Akbar and Iqbal. Allama Iqbal used to visit our house off and on. I remember once having over eulogized Akbar before him, where upon he expressed admiration of my poetical taste.” (Mera ‘Ahd-e-Tifli, Crescent, Feb-Apr 1951, p 28). With the passage of time, Taseer’s relationship with Iqbal was strengthened and after entering college Taseer began to call on Iqbal frequently and attended his sessions late into the nights. Taseer writes: “In those days I was a college student. Then I was twenty-three. I had the honour to visit Iqbal and benefit from his inspiring personality. His kindness motivated my daring thinking.” (Nasr-a-Taseer p 171)
At the same time, Taseer began to write about Iqbal’s poetry and personality. His first article entitled “Falsf-a-Iqbal” was published in the monthly “Narang-a-Khial” (a prestigious journal) in July, 1923. In 1933, Taseer launched a unique and grand literary and art journal by the name of “Karwan”. Iqbal blessed Taseer with his valuable suggestions and also with his latest poetic-creations for publication in this journal. When Taseer left for Cambridge, Allama Iqbal gave him letter of recommendation. In this letter Iqbal appreciated the literary taste and creative abilities of Taseer. Iqbal wrote, “I am glad to learn that Mr MD Taseer, MA, Assistant Professor of Islamia College, University of the Punjab, Lahore, intends to go to Cambridge for a PhD in English.
He has already won a name in the domains of arts and letters in his own country and a young man of such exceptional parts is bound to make his mark wherever he goes. He is in the vanguard of our young literati and combines a real ability for literary criticism with genuine creative faculties. He has an extensive range of sympathies in fine arts and is widely read in English and oriental literatures. He is just the man for Cambridge and is pre-eminently suited for post-graduate research work in English. Considering his brilliant academic career, his experience as a teacher of degree and honours classes in English and quality of literary work already done by him, he deserves preferential treatment and should be granted every legitimate concession.” (Crescent, Feb-April 1951, p 56).
During his stay in London Taseer remained in touch with Iqbal and his poetry. He continued to study and write on Iqbal. In London he read the following papers on Iqbal in the sessions of different literary societies: “A New Divine Comedy” (Paper on Javeed-Nama, read before Philosophical Society of Cambridge University in 1934); “Iqbal and Roomi” (Read before People’s Society London in Nov 1934.); “Lecture on Iqbal and Poetry” (Delivered in Cambridge University under the Presidentship of Sir Abdul Qadir on 6th April 1935.)
Iqbal realized that Taseer had an excellent taste for literature and art. He was also convinced of Taseer’s insight into criticism. Also, he gave importance to Taseer’s opinion and used to look ‘foreward’ to Taseer’s criticism on his poetry. In his letter to Taseer, Iqbal wrote: “You had intended to deliver a lecture on ‘Javeed-Nama.’ Have you written this lecture or is its writing still pending? When it is written, please do send me a copy.” (Iqbal to Taseer-Anwar-a-Iqbal p 207)
Iqbal had full confidence in Taseer’s talent and sound judgment. There are many evidences that Allama Iqbal felt great joy and satisfaction at Taseer’s insight and talent for writing. SA Waheed reports that: “Whenever Allama Iqbal wanted any of his verses translated into English, he used to ask Taseer to do it.” (Glimpses of Iqbal p 94). Taseer himself narrates: “Once Asghar Gondvi sent from Aligarh a copy of his poems to me and desired me to obtain Iqbal’s opinion on them. In the meantime Asghar himself arrived in Lahore. He met the Allama and requested him to give his opinion in writing. The Allama replied: “Let Taseer write what he will, I shall put my signature on it.” (Crescent Feb-April 1951. p 155).
Taseer had also opportunities of working closely with Allama Iqbal. During the Allama’s election campaign for the Punjab Council, Taseer was in charge of publicity and office work. He was also a member of “Chapan Fi-sad-Tehreek” and “Ghazi Ilm Din Committee”, of which Iqbal was the prime mover. Taseer also used to write the proceedings of the “Kashmir Committee.”
Taseer was so dear to Iqbal that Iqbal took special interest in Taseer’s marriage and wrote Taseer’s marriage-deed himself. Taseer and Begum Taseer enjoyed the unique distinction of being the only couple whose Nikah Nama in the form of a legal document was written by Allama Iqbal. It is also signed by him. The Allama himself fixed the date of Nikah and recited the Khutba of Nikah.
This close association with Iqbal helped Taseer to understand his person and poetry in its true perspective. Taseer wrote on Iqbal both in English and Urdu. Apart from his hundreds of articles on different literary topics of radical importance, thirty-one articles have been written on Iqbal’s poetry and personality. Afzal Haq Qarshi has compiled these articles in two separate volumes entitled “Iqbal the Universal Poet” and “Iqbal Ka Fakr-o-Fun” (Containing English and Urdu articles respectively.) The titles of some important articles are: Iqbal had cosmopolitan callers; Introduction to Aspects of Iqbal; Iqbal and Modern Problems; Iqbal the Universal Poet; Iqbal’s theory of Art and Literature; Iqbal Ka Siasi Nizam; Iqbal Ka Shairana Fakar; Iqbal Aik Afaqi Shair; Lalam-a-Iqbal; Mera Piam Aur Hay
Even a cursory glance at these topics shows that Taseer had touched on all the fundamental aspects of Iqbal’s art and philosophy. In these articles Taseer provided useful guidelines for future critics and most of them lit their candles of thoughts from Taseer’s “Theory of art” and “Iqbal ka Nazria Fun-o-Adab” are especially reputable. Taseer is also the first sub-continental intellectual to coin the term “Poet-Philosopher” for Iqbal.
The real contribution of Taseer in Iqbal studies is that his writings on Iqbal do not offer merely a one-sided study of Iqbal but also provide fundamental concepts crucial to understanding Iqbal’s personality, thought and poetic potentiality all at once.
The writer, Dr Riaz Qadeer, is Associate Professor at the Government College of Education for Science, Township, Lahore