A prolific Kashmiri writer

Who left unwept & unsung HANAFI SOPORI: 1867—1937 DR. 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 came Iqbal’s way. Instead, he left unwept and unsung. But for the efforts of later day scholars, the literary experts, Hanafi would have remained a name unknown. Scholars like Prof. Mohi-ud-Din Hajni and Saifi Sopori brought forth the literary exploits of Hanafi Sopori. Called ‘Mam-e-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 with his monumental literary work. The work that encompasses 27 books in 42 years of literary work. The works are mainly a poetic composition of popular tales of yore like Jang Nama Amir Hamza, which relates exploits of Amir Hamza [pseudonym not relating to uncle of Prophet Mohammad (SaW)] Alif Laila [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-eSonober.

These poetic compositions might not have been original works. These tales were known, related with 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 the cultural essence remained the main element. And there were many stories which were Kashmir specific like the legend of Habba Khatoon and Ak-e-Nundun. There was fair element of fantasy. The story 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 in an 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 hardly need 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 not seen a better exponent of English language than Saif-ud-Din Saifi in my worldwide travels. The way he would expound the poetic tunes of Keats, Byron, Wordsworth or the Shakespearean drama reverberates 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-daughter---Atiqa 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, as indeed anyone who visits her museum of Kashmir’s heritage would be, as to why it has not become a center of pilgrimage for Valleyites. The museum has literally everything that a valleyite would like

to be acquitted with of his past. Virtually everything from ‘Manzul’ [cradle] to ‘Taboot’ [bier] of the past that fell to the lot of a Kashmiri could be seen preserved in their original form. The Sopore museum deserves attention, encouragement of civil society and scientific support for preservation measures, so that nothing what the grand lady—Hanafi’s grand-daughter, Atiqa ji has painstakingly collected over decades gets lost. On Hanafi Sopori’s commemorative day, a few months back, the guests including Ghulam Rasool Sofi---the RTI chief commissioner, the literary exponent---Mohammad Yousuf Taing, besides several others from civil society were dazed by the spectacle of artifacts of our past. We all left humbled by the effort of an aging lady simple in her appearance and demeanor, however on a grand errand, a great mission. And yet the humble lady is hardly heard of, where as she ought to have been accoladed and awarded. Her effort largely neglected is indeed a blot on our collective social consciousness, yet she takes it all with a smile---marked by its innocence! Along with the relics of our past, a spectacle worth remembering, we were fed with what we needed to know about Hanafi Sopori by the literary elite of Zinda Dilan-e-Sopore. A Hanafi Sopori we need to know, as it adds to our pride in someone like him being in our midst in years of yore. Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival] Feedback at iqbal.javid46@gmail.com

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