A prolific Kashmiri writer
Who left unwept & unsungHANAFI SOPORI: 1867
1937DR. JAVID IQBAL
Hanafi Sopori was born eight years before Allama Iqbal and he died a year before poet-of-the-east
left for his eternal abode. The sheer volume of Hanafi’s poetry, and the quality of it should have
qualified him for at least a fraction of fame that c
ame Iqbal’s way. Instead, he left unwept and
unsung. But for the efforts of later day scholars, the literary experts, Hanafi would have remained aname unknown. Scholars like Prof. Mohi-ud-Din Hajni and Saifi Sopori brought forth the literaryexploits of Hanafi Sopori.
Pir’, Hanafi Sopori belonged to a family of ‘Madrasa’ teachers, in an age where‘Madrasas’ were sole centers of learning in a sea of illiteracy. Apart from leading the prayers, he
would as was the practice impart lessons in Quran in his locality. And in the process continue withhis monumental literary work. The work that encompasses 27 books in 42 years of literary work. Theworks are mainly a poetic composition of popular tales of yore like Jang Nama Amir Hamza, whichrelates exploits of Amir Hamza [pseudonym not relating to uncle of Prophet Mohammad (SaW)] AlifLaila [an account of famous Arabic series of tales related over one thousand and one nights]. Nearer
home, Hanafi relates the saga of Habba Khatoon…the poetess queen of
Kashmir. There are scores
of other books, relating other popular tales of the past…Hatam Nama, Laila Majnoon, Gul
-e-Sonober.These poetic compositions might not have been original works. These tales were known, relatedwith relish by the story tellers of the past. They were related in every land amongst varied religious,
cultural, linguistic and ethnic groupings. The ones prevalent in vale of Kashmir over half a millennium
of post-Islamic era related in part to Islamic lands, though not religious in essence. Instead thecultural essence remained the main element. And there were many stories which were Kashmirspecific like the legend of Habba Khatoon and Ak-e-Nundun. There was fair element of fantasy. Thestory tellers of yore were a prized entertainment of the days when the mechanized audio-visual
displays of modern times were not in sight. These story tellers had an audience who wanted to
enliven an evening. They could render the stories like the ones written by Hanafi out of memory inan artful manner.
The sheer size of Hanafi Sopori’s work is amazing. It was over two decades after his death that Prof.
Hajni in an essay entitled Kashmiri poetry in a Sahyita Academy publication introduced Hanafi
Sopori’s work in wider literary circles. Bringing forth the
literary exploits of Hanafi fell on the dexterity
of Professor Mohi-ud-
Din Hajni, and the ever caring nature of Saifi Sopori. Prof. Hajni’s literary grace
remains, though his physical remains have mingled with mother earth. His literary exploits hardlyneed a mention. Very few in the recent past have unearthed the literary treasures of Kashmir as
Prof. Hajni. And Saifi Sopori incapacitated with advancing age, remains a part of Kashmir’s literary
milieu. Way back in fifties of 20th century, he was my English teacher in Sopore High School, during
a period when my father---Prof. Saif-ud-Din was Principal of Sopore College [1952
59]. I have notseen a better exponent of English language than Saif-ud-Din Saifi in my worldwide travels. The wayhe would expound the poetic tunes of Keats, Byron, Wordsworth or the Shakespearean dramareverberates over half a century ahead of those good old days!
Along with these literary giants, it may not remain without a note that Hanafi’s grand
ji has a major role
in stoking literary interest in her grandfather. Atiqa ji’s role in providing the pride of place to the relics of Kashmir’s past has to be seen to be believed. It is a matter of surprise, asindeed anyone who visits her museum of Kashmir’s heritage would
be, as to why it has not becomea center of pilgrimage for Valleyites. The museum has literally everything that a valleyite would like