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Hamza Shinwari - The Father of Pashto Ghazal

Hamza Shinwari is invariably called “The father of Pashto Ghazal”. In this all his critics are unanimous. It is not
because he is the exponent of the Ghazal form in Pashto litrature. The Ghazal is as old, in fact older than Pashto
literature itself. It is because he has given it new dimensions and a new sense of perfection; which was somehow
lacking in the entire Pashto Ghazal before him. As it might have been pointed out before, the Ghazal form as
such came to Pashto via Persian. It was originally an Arabic literary form, which was borrowed by Persian. It
quickly superceded a number of indigenous literary forms, as it proved to be more suitable for the poetry of not
only love and beauty but also ethics and metaphysics. It was found out to be more suitable for the expressions of
the innermost feelings and esoteric experiences. It turned out to be ideal for expressing abstractions or apparent
contradictions and paradoxes of the mystic or metaphysical poets; because of its inexhaustible paraphernalia of
ingenious metaphors, similes, hints and allusions, signs and innuendo, imagery and symbolism. It can aptly
convey and shade of finer feeling or delicacy of thought or any intricacy of expression.

Originally the word Ghazal meant talking to women and, lexically, it also had an element of the soft, glossy
beauty of the deer or more particularly its large, dreamy but alert eyes. But the latter poets broadened its scope,
each successive age making its own demands on it. They introduced not only highly complex metaphysical
concepts through it, it was also used or equisitioned (if I might use this rather mundane expression), for the
expression of the day-to-day experiences of natural love, sorrow, loss or pain. Some pashto poets, from Khushal
Khan onward, also made it a vehicle for the expression of their feedings of patriotism or even their undisguised
urge for freedom from the existing oppressive polity.

‫ډير خبر ې م ې په ز ړه د ې خو سل ګئ ش ې‬
‫او طوفان ې‬
‫ستر ګو ته ستا چ ې په کاته شم‬

Pointing out the antiquity and classical nature of the Ghazal form, Professor Afzal Raza has pointed out: “No
change has taken place in the technical aspect of Ghazal; but it has assumed new colours on various stages of its
evolution from the point of view of subject matter and thought content. It might be said that Ghazal has now
extended its bosom for not only the expressions of the woes of love but also the cares of the world. In the way it
has adapted its delicate nature to the demands of the time. We can find out this difference by comparing old and
modern Ghazal.

Two dominant passions seem to be the mission of his life; Tassawuf and Pakhtoonwali. On the one hand, like
Rehman Baba or Allama Iqbal, he preaches divine love and moral reformation while on the other hand, like
Khushal Khan Khattak and Ali Khan, to some extent, he projects in the them the Pakhtoon unity.. And we come
across both these recurrent themes in his poem after poem. Unlike Khushal Khan he has never grown restless
and pessimistic. His message is always a message of hope. The meters of his poems may vary, their rhythm may
now be swift now sluggish, their wording may be different; different metaphors and similes might have been
employed; but the unmistakable themes remain the same; the purpose and the passion behind it seem be
constant. We might again quote Farooq Shinwari in our support. “There was no purpose or object in Ghazal
before Hamza; whether it was Persian Ghazal or Urdu Ghazal, its axis was beauty and its untiring praise from
various angles, a mere gratification of the aesthetic impulse. Hamza did not adopt a contrary course from the
main stream Ghazal and its inherent spirit but he did insert Pakhtoon elements into it”.

This point of view has also been corroborated by Zarin Anzor when he says, “Pashto Ghazal had degenerated
after Khushal Khan, Rehman, Hamid and Ali Khan. Hamza felt that as long as it was not given a direction or a
transfusion of an aim or object there could be no question of a healthy literature in Pashto. When he looked at
Ghazal with the eye of an artist, he soon came to know that as long as the spirit of Pakhtoon was not infused
with its spirit, it could not be called a Pashto Ghazal of Hamza.”

It is interesting to see how Abdur Rahim Majzoob has compared Hamza Shinwasri with Khushal Khan, Rehman
Baba and Ali Khan and has pointed out their certain shortcomings which he claims to have been rectified by
Hamza. He writes, “In the Ghazal of Khushal Khan there is amorous pleasure, cheerfulness and romance; but his
Ghazal sounds incomplete, imperfect and artificial. The love that Khushal has depicted belongs to the lower,
carnal attractions. His beauty is nude although his Ghazal is well polished. He is the founder of rhymes and
rhythms, yet his Ghazal is incomplete from the point of view of subject matter. On the contrary, the love and
beauty that have been extolled in the Ghazal of Hamza Shinwari are pure and divine. His Ghazal is in reality
Ghazal; it is complete and well rounded from the point of view of structure as well as subject matter.

‫ستا په انن ګو ک ې د حمزه د وينو سره د ې‬

‫ته شو ې د پ ښتو غزل ځوان‬
‫زه د ې بابا ک ړم‬

Similasrly he writes about Ali Khan, “The Ghazals of Ali Khan are full of love and beauty and poetic effusions.
The thing that is missing from Khushal but is there in Rehman and the art that is lacking in both Khushal and
Rehman can be found in Ali Khan. His Ghazal is perfect. But Ali Khan is lacking mysticism or the sufi dimension
because life itself did not provide a chance to the inner beauty in his heart to have fully germinated, to have
made it a part of his Ghazal. But this lack of mysticism on the part of Ali Khan was more than made up by

It was Ghazal which bestowed upon Hamza this coveted title of Baba-e-Ghazal but only because it was Hamza
who established Ghazal in Pashto literature so firmly that it sounds on more alien, a mere borrowed entity,
encumbered with a host of artificial conventions. It now more than seems a part and parcel of pathan psyche,
reflecting his own surroundings and his own inner urges in a forthright, faithful manner. He gave it such a perfect
finish and such a glittering glass that it can now be said to have become the envy of both Urdu and Persian
Ghazal. In this process he also happened to erase a recurrent inferiority complex from the mind of subsequent
Pathan poets. Professor Pareshan Khattak says more or less the same thing when he declares in his typical
debonair fashion.” Whatever Hamza has done for Pashto Ghazal from technicasl point of view can not be denied
by even a confirmed Hamza denier. He has more than proved that Pashto has vaster ground for Ghazal than all
those languages which alone have been boasting about good Ghazal so far. Of course he means Urdu and

At the end, we will quote this highly amusing criticism of Hamza and the Ghazal form by Abdur Rahim Majzoob.
He writes, “It was perhaps Hamza who stretched his old muscles in the beginning of the twentieth century. He
dressed the bride of his Ghazal in new metres and made new ornaments for her with new similes and new
metaphors. When the connoisseur of art lifted her Cashmere Shawl it turned out to be the same widow who had
buried many husbands in the moldering graveyard of Persian literature. It had now come over (or having been
brought over) to Pakhtoonkhwa. At every step the coquette in her would look at herself in a mirror and would
renew her waning make up every now and then. It was not Hamza alone who shed his respectable Pathan tears
for her and sent the Jargas of his morbid sighs for her enticing hand. Even the Shinwari youth rabbled about her,
burnt themselves like the wild rue (Spelane) and jingled the hains of self-imposed madness. Hamza is old; he is
not to blame. But it doesn’t become the raw Shinwari youth with their young, energetic spirits and their strong
nerves to be swayed, as they are, by this ill-fated, alien widow”.