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Waheed Akhtar
--: Biography of Waheed Akhtar :--


Syed Waheed Akhtar (August 12, 1934, Aurangabad (Deccan) - December 13, 1996) was an Urdu poet, writer, critic, distinguished orator, and one of the leading Muslim scholars and philosophers of the 20th century.

Waheed Akhtar was born at Aurangabad in the erstwhile Hyderabad State of Nizam (present day Maharashtra), to a family which had migrated from Nasirabad - Jais (Jais-birth place of poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi), boroughs of Sa'adat inhabitants in Raebareily (or Raebareli) district of Uttar Pradesh. His father's name was Syed Nazr-e Abbas, and mother's name was Syeda Aliya Begum. They had seven children. Waheed Akhtar was the second child, among six sons and one daughter. After spending his childhood in Aurangabad, and completing high school and intermediate, he went to Hyderabad, to enroll at Osmania University as a bachelor of art student. He was in Hyderabad for eight years until he completed his Ph. D. and got appointment as lecturer at Aligarh Muslim University. Years in Hyderabad were crucial for moulding his personality as a poet and writer. Although, after police action, Hyderabad acceded to the Dominion of India, it was still a very strong feudal society, dominated by rich and elite. At the same time, lot of Muslims who held positions of importance had become defeatist, thinking they had lost their voice and authority in the conditions prevalent at that time. Hyderabad was still, the only University in subcontinent to teach modern sciences including medicine and engineering in Urdu, which was the fruit of Allamah Shibli Nomani's hardwork. Waheed Akhtar was not the one to resign to defeat, nor overwhelmed by the times and existing system. He was a born fighter and he made his ideas and voice heard in his writings. He was independent minded, freedom loving man who was well aware of Political and Literary Movements of his times around the world. He wrote prolifically in Urdu from very early age. During his initial years he adopted the pen name "Barq".

He got married to Indo-Iranian lady Syeda Mahliqa Qarai in Hyderabad in the year 1962 and had four sons: Hasan, Husain, Haider (who died due to polio in the fifth month of his birth) and Mohsin. Mrs Mahliqa Qarai was killed in the USS Vincennes attack on Iran Air Flight 655 - an Iranian civilian airliner on Sunday, July 3, 1988, in the Persian Gulf during the 8-year Iran-Iraq War. After his wife's death he suffered 5 heart attacks and 3 cardiac arrests. Finally died on 13 December in 1996 at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi one year after his retirement at the age of 61

His early education took place at Chelipura High School, a government school in Aurangabad. He was educated at Osmania University, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh and received his bachelor's degree in arts, and master's and Ph. D degrees in Philosophy. He was appointed lecturer of philosophy at Aligarh Muslim University and went on to settle in Aligarh for the rest of his life, where he retired in 1995.

He passed all examinations from Osmania University, Hyderabad in first division with distinction. He completed High Schoolin 1950; B.A. in 1954; M.A. (Philosophy) in 1956; Ph.D. in 1960 in Philosophy, on the thesis titled "Khwaja Mir Dard's Contribution to Sufism."

He was appointed Lecturer in General Education in 1960 at Aligarh Muslim University and Lecturer in Philosophy in 1962; became Reader in Humanities in 1970; Reader in Philosophy in 1975 and became Professor in 1979. He headed the Department of Philosophy at AMU from April 1987-1990 & 1992 till 1995 until his retirement and also served the University as Dean Faculty of Arts from 1990-92.

He specialized in Sufism, existentialism, aesthetics, literary criticism and Muslim philosophy and Shi'ite thought. More than two hundred articles, besides eight books in Urdu and English published.

His research and creative work has been quoted and referred to by a number of scholars in philosophy, Islamic studies and literature, such as Annemarie Schimmel, Dr. Abid Husain, Prof. Aale Ahmad Suroor, Prof. Ehtisham Husain, Prof. Majnun Gorakhpuri, Ali Sardar Jafri, Prof. Muhi-al-din Qadri Zor, Prof. A.Q. Sarwari, Dr.Vazir Agha, Khaleel-Ur-Rehman Azmi, Prof. Mumtaz Husain, Prof. Qamar Raees, Prof. Mohd. Hasan, Prof. Gopi Chand Narang and many eminent literary critics.

His published collections of poetry comprise mainly ghazals and nazms, but he also mastered other forms of poetry, like Marsia- elegy in the musaddas format; Qasida (Panegyric), [Hajv] (lampoon), Manqibat, Salaam Rubai (quatrain). He was one of the few to tread his own path independent of "tarraqipasand tehreek" (Progressive Writers' Movement) and questioned revolutionary ideals of the progressive movement, when most of the writers of subcontinent were looking towards communist Soviet Union for inspiration and guidance. He argued and predicted that a system which is devoid of individual, political and creative freedom is bound to fail. These ideas were penned down in late 1950s in 'Saba'- a literary Urdu journal edited and published by Sulaiman Areeb from Hyderabad. This article evoked a harsh criticism from founder of the Progressive Writers' Movement, Sajjad Zaheer. Impact of the article was such that controversy raged for years in the literary journals of the sub-continent. His following verses from one of his ghazal is a satire on that era.

"Jisko mana tha khuda khak ka paiker nikla, Haath aya jo yaqeen waham sarasar nikla."

Waheed Akhtar was a strong proponent of freedom, and stressed for the commitment to ideals rather than adopting them as 'fashion' or a 'cliché' for creativity. His poetry is classical as well as modern. His poetry has elements of Islamic mysticism or Tasawwuf, existentialism, contemporary issues related to the problems of man, politics etc. His poetry is more revolutionary and freedom inspiring than poets considered revolutionary in Urdu, another couplet from the same ghazal is an example of this,

Kal jahan zulm ne kati theen saron ki faslein, nam hui hai to usi khak se lashkar nikla

According to Shamshur Rahman Faruqi, "Waheed Akhtar, regarded by many as a Modernist and by many others as Progressive, wrote that Modernism was really an extension of Progressivism"

Waheed Akhtar is also considered to be among the few successful modern Urdu poets who took Marsia to new heights and gave new direction to it in this age. "Waheed Akhtar, Professor of Philosophy at Aligarh Muslim University, had been crucial in keeping the tradition of marsiya dynamic in present-day South Asia. His marasi rely on the images, metaphors, and nuances inherited from nineteenth century masters like Anis and Dabir, and on the values invested in this genre by socio-religious reformers like Josh. On the back cover of his recently-published marsiya anthology, for example, is the famous Arabic saying: "Every place is Karbala; every day is Ashura." By positing a similarity between Hussain's historic battle and the present day struggle of human kind against renewed forms of Yazidian oppression, Akhtar deflects the interpretation of the martyrs of Karbala as mere insignia of Islamic history; they are instead posed as the sinews for the revival of an ideal Islamic state of being.

His following collections of poetry mostly comprise of nazms and ghazals

. Patthron Ka Mughanni 
. Shab Ka Razmiyyah 
. Zanjir Ka Naghma 
. Karbala Ta Karbala (collection of Elegies on martyrs of Karbala- Urdu) -1991- consists of eight marasi (plural of marsia) 
. Mariam se bhi siwa hai fazilat Batul ki: Chadar-e-Tatheer, Marsia on Hazrat Fatima, has 168 bunds. 
. Qale tameer kiye daste havaskari ne: Qala Kusha, Marsia on Hazrat Ali ibne Abi Talib-135 bunds in total. 
. Barsi nahi naghmon ki ghatayen kai din se: Shaheed-e-Atash, Marsia Hazrat Ali Asghar ibn al-Husain-107 bunds. 
. Ai saqi e hayat o masiha e kainat: Alamdar-e-Amn, Marsia on Hazrat Abul Fazl al-Abbas, 134 bunds in toal. 
. Hai qafila e jara'at e raftar safar mein: Salaar-e-Qafila-e-Shauq, Saiyid al-Shohada Hazrat Imam Husain ibne Ali, 143 bunds. 
. Raat yeh haq ke chiraghon pe bahot bhari hai: Tegh-e-Zaban e Zainab, Marsia Hazrat Zainab, 188 bunds in all. 
. Ya Rabmeri zuban ko qudrat bayan ki de: Shahadat-e-Nutq, marsia Ali Akbar ibn al-Husain, 192 bunds. 
. Karbala! ai Karbala! Ai Karbala! ai Karbala!: Karbala ai Karbala, marsia matlooban-e-shahadat (Zuhayr ibne Qayn, Habeeb ibne Mazahir, Hur ibne Yazid Riyahee and Musayyab khuzayee), 191 bunds.

Books in Urdu

Besides his collections of Urdu poetry Shab Ka Razmiyah, Paththaron ka Mughanni, and Zanjeer ka Naghma. He has published a collection of Elegies (Marsia) of the martyrs of Karbala by the name of Karbala Ta Karbala. He contributed to numerous talks, discussions, and poetry recitations at All India Radio Stations. 
. Patthron Ka Mughanni - 1966 
. Shab Ka Razmiyyah - 1973 
. Zanjir Ka Naghma - 1982 (dedicated to his brother in-law-Syed Ali Quli Qarai & publisher Hasan Waheed) 
. Karbala Ta Karbala (collection of Elegies on martyrs of Karbala- Urdu) - 1991. 
. Khwaja Mir Dard-Tasawwuf aur Shairi; published by Anjuman Tarraqi-e-Urdu Hind-1971 
. Falsafa aur Adabi Tanqid (Literary Criticism in Urdu) - 1972

Books and other scholarly articles in English

In English, in addition to The Early Shiite Imamiyyah Thinkers and Iqbal In Modern Perspective, he wrote numerous articles on various philosophical subjects, besides several translations from Persian to English, and book reviews. His later work was mostly published in Al-Tawhid a journal for Islamic Thought published from Iran, Aligarh Journal of Islamic thought (a journal published by the department of philosophy, of Aligarh Muslim University- which was revived during his chairmanship of the department with him as its editor) and Message of Thaqalayn -another English journal published from Iran. 
. Iqbal in Modern Perspective (English) - 1987. (Also translated into Arabic) 
. Early Imamiyyah Shi'ite Thinkers (English) - 1988


About one hundred features, talks and reviews on various philosophical and literary issues in Urdu and English broadcasted from All India Radio. 
More than five hundred articles - critical reviews and write-ups published in outstanding journals of India and Pakistan, such as Saba (Hyderabad), Sabras (Hyderabad), Chiragh (Hyderabad), Gajar (Hyderabad), Shi'r wa Hikmat (Hyderabad), Ham Qalam (Karachi), Mashrab (Karachi), Adab-e-Latif (Lahore), Awraq (Lahore), Adabi Dunya (Lahore), Sha'ur (Delhi), Shabkhoon (Allahabad), Sha'ir (Bombay), Ahang (Gaya), Sharah & Atkar (Delhi), Ajkal (Delhi), Indo-Iranica (Calcutta), Mankind (Hyderabad), Fikr-o-Nazar (Aligarh), Islam aur A'sr-e-Jadid (Islam and Modern Age) (Delhi), Funun (Lahore), Iqbaliyyat (Lahore), Fikr-o-Nazar (Lahore), Guftugu (Bombay) and Urdu International (Canada).

List of selected articles in English

. "Waves of Unreason, Mankind" (Hyderabad), 1961 
. "Man: A Problem for Himself" (presented in the Seminar on 'Concept of Man') A.M.U, Aligarh, 1967 
. "Foundations of Modernity" (presented in the Annual Conference of All India Philosophical Association) Poona, 1968 
. "Existentialism concept of Man" (presented in the 43rd Session of All India Philosophy Congress) Dharwar, 1969, (Published in the Proceedings of the Congress) 
. "Dilemma of Modern Man: Science versus Religion" (presented in a Seminar on 'Religion and Science') A.M.U Aligarh 
. "Aurobindo's Theory of Poetry" (presented in Sri Aurobindo Centenary) Seminar organized by Sahitya Academy, Delhi and Bombay, 1972. Published in Sri Aurobindo Centenary Commemoration Volume 
. "Critical Review of Iqbal, Poet-Philosopher of Pakistan" 
. "Nature and Function of Reason" (presented in the Seminar on Reason) Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy, B.H.U, Varanasi, 1973 
. "Sufi Approach to the Problem of Alienation, with particular reference to Chishti Saints" (Presented at the Baba Farid Octocentenary Seminar) at Ajmer, 1974. Published in Islam and Modern Age, Delhi. 
. "Iqbal and Western Thought", (to be published in a book: Iqbal's Philosophy, All India Iqbal Centenary Committee) 
. "Existentialism Elements in Iqbal's Thought" (published in the book ed. by Prof. Asloob Ahmad Ansari, Ghalib Academy, Delhi. 1975) 
. "Iqbal and Aurobindo" (Iqbal Centenary Volume & Aligarh Journal of Muslim Philosophy) 
. "Sabzwari's Analysis of Being", Al-Tawhid. Vol.2.1 (Tehran) 
. "Among the Believers" (A review article on V.S. Naipaul's book, Al-Tawhid) (Tehran) 
. "Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni: Life and Works", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Shaykh al-Saduq: Life and Works", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Shaykh al-Mufid: Life and Works", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Al-Sharif al-Radi: Compiler of Nahj al-Balagha", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Al-Sharif al-Murtada, 'Alm al-Huda': Life and Works", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Shaykh al-Ta'ifah al-Tusi: Life and Works", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Modern Political Thought in Islam" (A review article on Hamid Enayet's book of the same title), Al-Tawhid (Tehran) 
. "Freedom in the Islamic Framework of Human Rights with special reference to Nahj al-Balaghah", 1986 Aligarh Journal of Islamic Thought, A.M.U, 1989 and Thaqalayn in Urdu, English and Persian (Tehran) 1993 
. "Tasawwuf: The Meeting Ground of Tasannun and Tashaiy'uh", Al-Tawhid (Tehran) and Aligarh Journal of Islamic Thought (A.M.U) 1990-1991

Articles in Persian

. "Anasir-e-Existentialism dar Fikre-e-Iqbal", presented at the International Iqbal Seminar, Tehran University, Tehran, 1986 (Published in a book from Tehran (1988). 
. "Naqshe-e Zaban-e Farsi dar Wazehha Wa Mustalihat-e Urdu" presented at the International Seminar on teaching of Persian in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Nashr-e Danishgahi, Tehran, 1986. (Published in Persian, Tehran). 
. "Hafiz wa Ghalib": presented at an International Seminar on Hafiz's 8th centenary, 1988, at Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran. 
. Presented a paper on Sabzwari's Philosophy and its contemporary relevance at an International seminar, Sabzwar, Iran, 1993.


. Four quartets by T. S. Eliot (Burnt Norton), Urdu Adab, Aligarh, and Shabkhoon, Allahbad. 
. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. AIR, Hyderabad. 
. Letter on Aesthetics by Schiller. 
. Mutual Services of Islam and Iran, by Murtada Motahhari, (Published in installments in Al-Tawhid, Tehran).

Participated and presented papers in the following national and international conferences and seminars

. All India Philosophical Congress, 43rd Session, Dharwad, 1969. 
. All India Philosophical Congress, 47th Session, Simla, 1973. 
. Philosophical Association Annual Conference, Pune, 1968. 
. National Seminar, Sri Aurobindo Centenary, Delhi, 1972. 
. Seminar on 'Reason' Advanced Centre of Philosophy, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, 1973. 
. National Writers' Camp, World Book Fair, Organized by the National Book Trust of India, Delhi, 1972. 
. Annual Conference of Hindustani Academy, Allahbad, 1972. 
. All-India Cultural Conference, Hyderabad, 1954. 
. All-India Urdu Conference, Hyderabad, 1956. 
. All-India Urdu Conference, Hyderabad, 1961. 
. Osmania University Golden Jubilee Celebration, Hyderabad, 1963. 
. National Writers' Meet, Academy of Culture and Languages, Srinagar, 1960. 
. Seminar on Problems of Criticism, A.M.U. Aligarh, 1964. 
. Seminar on Teaching of Language and Literature, A.M.U., Aligarh, 1966. 
. Seminar on 'Modernity and Literature', A.M.U., Aligarh, 1967. 
. Seminar on 'Concept of Man', A.M.U., Aligarh, 1968. 
. Seminar on 'Urdu Literature after 1947', A.M.U., Aligarh. 
. Ghalib Centenary Seminar, A.M.U., Aligarh, 1969. 
. Seminar on 'Urdu Fiction', A.M.U., Aligarh. 
. Seminar on Iqbal, A.M.U., Aligarh, 1972. 
. Seminar on 'Sir Syed and his Relevance to our Age, A.M.U., Aligarh, 1972. 
. Seminar on 'Science and Religion' A.M.U., Aligarh. 
. Sri Aurobindo Centenary Seminar, A.M.U., Aligarh, 1972. 
. Baba Farid Centenary Seminar, Ajmer, 1973. 
. 'Jashn-e-Firaq' Seminar, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur, 1972. 
. Iqbal Centenary Seminar, Calcutta, Delhi, 1974. 
. All-India Iqbal Centenary Seminar, Hyderabad, 1974. 
. All-India Iqbal Centenary Seminar, Srinagar, 1975. 
. All-India Anis Centenary Seminar, Delhi, 1975. 
. Seminar on 'Creative Use of Language in Contemporary Literature' held at Jamia- Millia, Delhi, 1975. 
. All- India Iqbal Centenary Seminar, Calcutta University, Calcutta, 1976. 
. Indo-Pak Seminar on Urdu Fiction, Jamia-Millia, Delhi. 
. All-India Seminar on Firaq, U.P. Urdu Academy, Lucknow, 1983. 
. All-India Seminar on Josh Malihabadi, Shia College, Lucknow, 1984. 
. International Seminar on Al-Ghazali, Tehran University, Tehran, 1986. 
. International Seminar on Teaching of Persian in the Subcontinent, Tehran, 1986. 
. International Seminar on Iqbal, University of Tehran, Tehran, 1986. 
. International Seminar on Eighth Centenary of Hafez, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran, 1988. 
. International Seminar on 'Concept of Time: Ancient and Modern', IGCNA, New Delhi, 1990. 
. International Seminar on Mullah Hadi Sabzwari, Sabzawar, Iran, 1993. 
. International Seminar on Muslim Education, Aligarh, 1993. 
. International Seminar on Sufism, Delhi, 1992. 
. International Seminar on Abul Kalam Azad Centenary (A.M.U. Aligarh,1992). 
. International Seminar on Abul Kalam Azad (Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, 1992). 
. International Seminar on 'Islamic Culture and Civilization: Past, Present and Future', Tehran 1994. 
. Conference on Imam Khumayni wa Farhange Ashura, (Imam Khumayni and the culture of Ashura), held on June 1-2, 1995 at Tehran.

Delivered lectures and presided over seminars on various occasions

. Delhi University 
. Calcutta University 
. Osmania University 
. Patna University 
. Andhra University 
. Ghalib Academy, Delhi 
. Ghalib Institute, Delhi 
. Indo-Iranica Society, Calcutta 
. Kashmir University 
. Jammu University 
. Mysore University 
. Bangalore University 
. Marathwada University 
. Jamia Millia, Delhi 
. Sahitya Academy, Delhi 
. Tehran University, Iran 
. Shiraz University, Iran 
. Sabzwar University, Sabzwar, Iran 
. Annual Conference of Progressive Writers Association, Hyderabad 
. Annual Conference of Progressive Writers Association, Delhi 
. Islamic Radical Centre, Jaipur 
. Sufi Conference, Jaipur 
. Hindustani Academy, Allahbad 
. Institute of Objective Studies, Delhi 
. Institute of Objective Studies, Aligarh. 
. West Bengal Urdu Academy, Calcutta. 
. Vishva Bharti, Shantiniketan. 
. J.N. University, Delhi. 
. Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Culture and Art, Jammu, Srinagar several times. 
. Max Muller Bhavan, Hyderabad 
. Henry Martin Institute, Hyderabad - many times. 
. Abdul Kalam Research Institute, Hyderabad. 
. Aiwane-e-Urdu, Hyderabad. 
. Iran Culture House, Delhi. 
. Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal. 
. Represented Urdu in All India Multilingual Symposia organized and broadcasted by All India Radio, Delhi on four occasions, 1965, 1973, 1983 and 1995. 
. Participated in hundreds of Mushairas and Kavi Sammelans all over India. 
. Member I.C.P.R (UGC) 1995-1996.

Foreign assignment

Editor of Al-Tawhid (English) a journal of philosophy and culture, Islamic Propagation Organization, Tehran, Iran - May 1984-April 1987.

Awards and honours

1960: Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Academy Award 
1967: Ghalib Award of the Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy - for the best Urdu Book 
1972: Uttar Pradesh & Andhra Pradesh Urdu Academy Awards on Khwaja Mir Dard's Sufi Doctrines and Poetry. 
1973: Uttar Pradesh & Andhra Pradesh Urdu Academy Awards, on Philosophy and Literary Criticism 
1974: Uttar Pradesh & Andhra Pradesh Urdu Academy Awards 
1983: 'Makhdoom Award'-the Highest National Award in India for Literary Criticism in Urdu by Andhra Pradesh Urdu Academy Hyderabad

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