Art & Culture

Why Urdu poetry is anti-Islamic

Markandey Katju
Markandey KatjuSep 13, 2018 | 13:48

Why Urdu poetry is anti-Islamic

I had once been invited to an Urdu poetry function in Lucknow, where a young Muslim woman said that she wants her children to learn Urdu, so that they could read the Quran. To this, I told her, "Ma'am, the Quran is in Arabic, not in Urdu. And there are more Ramayanas in Urdu and Persian than Qurans."

It was obvious this woman knew nothing about Urdu.


It is a common misconception that Urdu is the language of Muslims, and many Muslims think that Urdu is their jagir (fiefdom), though they know little of this great language. 

I have written two articles on Urdu which can be seen online: 'What is Urdu' and 'Great injustice to Urdu in India'.

In fact, Urdu poetry is anti-Islamic.

For instance, Mirza Ghalib writes:

  • Imāñ mujhe roke hai jo khīñche hai mujhe kufr
  • Ka.aba mire pīchhe hai kalīsā mire aage
  • (Faith is blocking my path, but atheism is pulling me forward
  • Ka.aba is behind me, the church is in front)

Here, 'Ka.aba' represents feudalism, and kalīsā (church) represents modernity. So, Ghalib is rejecting religion as it represents backwardness and feudalism, and is approving of modernisation.

  • Masjid ke zer-e-sāya ḳharābāt chāhiye
  • (Beneath every mosque there should be a wine shop)

Now, Islam forbids drinking, but this is what the greatest Urdu poet says.

Mirza Ghalib, arguably the greatest Urdu poet that ever lived. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

He also writes:

  • Kahan mai-Khane ka darwaza ghaalib aur kahan waiz
  • par itnā jānte haiñ kal vo jaatā thā ki ham nikle
  • (A pub and a religious scholar are poles apart/but yesterday when I entered the pub he was leaving).

The great Urdu poet Mir writes:

    • Mīr' ke dīn-o-maz.hab ko ab pūchhte kyā ho un ne to
    • qashqa khīñchā dair meñ baiThā kab kā tark islām kiyā
    • (Why do you ask the religion of Mir? He has put a kashka (tilak) on his forehead
    • Sat in a (Hindu) temple, and has abandoned Islam long ago)

Another great poet Sahir Ludhianvi writes:

  • Aqaid waham hai, mazhab khyaal-e-khaam hai saaqi Azal se zehen-e-insaan basta-e-auhaam hai saaqi 
  • (Faith is superstition, religion is an inferior idea)

The bard of love and revolution, Sahir Ludhianvi. (Credit: YouTube)

Since the dawn of time, human imagination has been imprisoned by these falsehoods.

And here are a few verses from the Urdu Ramayana of the great Urdu poet Chakbast:

  • Ruḳhsat huā vo baap se le kar ḳhudā kā naam
  • Rāh-e-vafā kī manzil-e-avval huī tamām
  • Manzūr thā jo maañ kī ziyārat kā intizām
  • Dāman se ashk poñchh ke dil se kiyā kalām
  • Iz.hār-e-be-kasī se sitam hogā aur bhī
  • Dekhā hameñ udaas to ġham hogā aur bhī
  • (He [Rama] said goodbye to his father taking the name of God
  • The first step to fidelity's tough path his feet had trod
  • Now for a meeting with his mother he began to plod
  • Wiping his tears he spoke inward keeping his shoulders broad
  • I dare not let her see my pain it will cause her unbearable grief
  • Better I show a smiling face that may give her some relief)

Pandit Brij Narayan Chakbast was an Urdu poet, critic, editor and researcher. (Credit: Twitter)

I can quote from this Urdu Ramayana on and on. One feels he is reading Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas, it is so touching. I also can quote countless shers by revered Urdu poets like Mir, Ghalib, Faiz, etc., attacking Islamic fundamentalism, just like Kabir did.

Urdu poetry follows the tradition of Kabir and the great Sufi saints who believed in universal brotherhood and humanitarianism, and attacked religious extremism and bigotry. Urdu poetry is largely a poetry of protest, protest against the afflictions of the common man, and against injustice, both by human despots and by inhuman rigid social and religious customs.

An 1825 CE painting depicting Kabir at his loom. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I venture to submit that no poetry in the world expresses the voice of the human heart in the manner, and with the elegance, as Urdu poetry does.

By attacking religious bigotry of the Wahabi type, or the kind currently being preached by religious fanatics and bigots in our sub-continent (both Hindus and Muslims), Urdu poetry is even more relevant in India today.

As Kabir wrote:

  • Kankar pathar jod ke, masjid liye banaye
  • Ta chad mullah baang de, kya behra hua khudaye?
  • (With stones and bricks a mosque was built
  • From its top the mullah has to shout [the azaan]
  • Has God become deaf?)

Last updated: September 14, 2018 | 11:47
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