A call to revolution by Faiz

There are so many examples of poems and songs emerging as chants of a revolution, or as a form of protest. The tradition spans right from the famous socialist, communist,  and anarchist anthem ‘Internationale’ to ‘We Will Overcome’, associated with the US civil rights movement (and throughout the world in various translations) to Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin in the Wind’ to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.

However, the tradition has a strong resonance in Urdu poetry, due to – most recently, the efforts of the poets of the Taraqqi Pasand Tehreek and other imbued with a socialist or revolutionary outlook, right from Allama Iqbal himself. Leave alone all this, the translation of ‘We Shall Overcome’  used in India is in Hindustani…. the first line is Urdu, in fact.

Here I will cite a particularly stirring call to action by Faiz Ahmed Faiz – Ham Dekhenge (We will See) – which does use some specific Islamic imagery but is no less revolutionary for all that. However, this worked to its advantage as I will tell in a minute.

Faiz had mostly an adversarial relationship with the government of Pakistan since his arrest on suspicions of involvement in the 1951 Rawalpindi Conspiracy case, and spent four years in prison. In the following two decades, he spent a lot of time in exile – in India and the Soviet Union chiefly.

Apart from his Communist Party background, Faiz was also an avowed supporter of Sufism and is credited with making the Sufi credo:  An-al Haqq (I am the Truth) – the utterance in public of which led to Mansur ibn Hallaj’s execution for heresy – as a political slogan…… as can be seen in my example.

One further fact about this ode. Most of Faiz’s works – those with even a revolutionary tinge – were banned in Pakistan during the reign of General Zia ul-Haq, which is not surprising. No dictatorship could countenance something like this anthem, visualising the day when tyranny would fly away like clouds, crowns would be tossed up and thrones would crumble.

However, in a spirited display of defiance, ghazal queen Iqbal Bano became a cult figure in the 1980s when she sang the banned revolutionary songs of Faiz.

The chants of a 50,000-strong audience in a concert of her in Lahore in 1985 as she  performed Ham Dekhenge have become a symbol of resistance. Those who listen to the bedlam as she came to the penultimate lines of the second stanza have been heard to be believed….. and they are available in the recording. And until they are heard…. you can read the anthem yourself and try to visualise the scene.

So without further ado, here is is it. Pay attention to the last two lines – before the refrain – in the third para. They are the ones that created the furore when she sang them. Its a pity that Faiz was not alive then to witness the effect, but then one can imagine him nodding with approval from some heaven for poets.

Ham dekhenge
Lazim hai ke ham bhi dekhenge
Woh din ke jis ka waada hai
Jo loh-e-azal men likha hai
Ham dekhenge

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-i-garan
Rui ki tarah urh jayenge.
Ham mehkoomon ke paoon tale
Yeh dharti dhar dhar dharkegi.
Aur ahle hakam ke sar upar
Jab bijli karhkarh karhkegi.
Ham dekhenge.

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke Kaabe se
Sab but uthwaye jayenge.
Ham ahl-e-safa, mardood-e-haram
Masnad pe bithaye jayenge.
Sab taaj uchale jayenge,
Sab takht giraye jayenge.
Ham dekhenge.

Bas naam rahega Allah ka
Jo ghayab bhi hai hazir bhi.
Jo nazir bhi hai manzar bhi.
Uthey ga An al-Haq ka naara,
Jo men bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho.
Aur raaj karegi khalq-e-Khuda
Jo men bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho.
Ham dekhenge.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Aravinda on February 20, 2011 at 16:43

    Stirring rendition of a beautiful poem. Glad to see this note about it.


  2. inqulab zindabad


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