Muslim Saleem: An analysis
By Dr. Shahzad A. Rizvi, Washington
Muslim Saleem belongs to the generation of people who were born shortly after the independence of India and grew up as this independent nation grew and became a big power on the world scene Creation of Pakistan, two-nation theory, "communal politics," separate existence of Hindus and Muslims, was never part of ethos of this generation. This generation was basically caught up in soul-searching, ascertaining its identity - where it fitted in the scheme of things - what role it could play as the twentieth century was whizzing by and the twenty-first was knocking at the door. For this generation national and international issues of great magnitude loomed larger on the firmament of their psyche than the petty and inane diurnal issues.
While the new wind blew in the post-independent India shaping the young minds - Muslim Saleem, who was getting his education at Aligarh Muslim University and Allahbad University, honing his prowess in Arabic, Persian, Hindi, English, and, of course Urdu, and understanding the new dynamics - was among them. As the new waves co-opted Muslim Saleem in its objectives and the ambitious goals it set for itself, Muslim Saleem co-opted the new waves for his personal agenda - how he could use language and literature in the service of mankind.
It is often said that literature holds mirror to the society; i.e., literature is the medium through which we familiarise ourselves with multifarious elements and forces and currents of our society. And now the question arises whether we should just passively subject ourselves to the whims of literature or put it to our service as a visionary. Muslim Saleem chose the later route as is reflected in his writings published in a host of Urdu periodicals including Shair, Ahang, Asri Adab, Agai, Naya Daur, Sada-E-Urdu etc. Unfortunately because of the constraint of time and space I cannot delineate my point by giving examples from his specific writings in detail.
As is exuded by the writings and life-work of Muslim. Saleem that Urdu language is not a property of holders of one religion or the other. He truly believes that the domain of Urdu cuts across communal and religious lines. If anything is the true creation of Hindu-Muslim unity is the creation of Urdu language. Urdu has Hindi grammar and syntax, Persian script, and a literature which is the true SANGAM or meeting of rich Hindu and Muslim religions. In my view the analysis of Muslim Saleem's work reveals this belief. If his career is not an example of this view, what else can be? He is the only journalist known to us who writes in Urdu, Hindi, and English and moves seamlessly and effortlessly from one linguistic zone to another. He began his career in Aftab-e-Jadid, Bhopal in Urdu and now he has moved to leading English newspaper Hindustan Times as Chief Copy Editor..
Muslim Saleem is doing yeoman's service in the cause of Urdu: he has prepared directories of Urdu writers and poets, who are currently spread all around the world. If it were not for him and his indefatigable efforts, many Urdu litterateurs would have been working obscurely and anonymously in the literary vignettes scattered around the world unknown to each other. In this area, in my view, his service to Urdu - a real sister of Hindi - is unparalleled and can place him with Baba-e-Urdu – Maulvi Abdul Haq.
THREE GREAT COUPLETS (ASH’AAR) OF MUSLIM SALEEM
kaun hai is shahr mein mujh se zyaada baakhabar
mujh ko saare bewafaaonke patey maloom hain
Literal translation: "Who is more well-informed than me in the city? I know the addresses of all the faithless."
Analysis: In this couplet Muslim. Saleem is saying that I am familiar not only what good things this life and this world has in store for us but, also, all the difficulties, obstacles, and challenges we have to face.
Taqdeer ki mujh se yunhi takraar chalegi
Main saae mein baithoongaa to deewar chale gi
Literal translation: "My destiny and I will be so loggerheads with each other that my shelter would move away as soon as I would sit down and find refuge from the sweltering sun."
Commentary: Though Muslim Saleem approaches this issue of destiny from totally a new and fresh angle, though this is an age-old issue and other poets and philosophers have dealt with for a millenia. Allama Iqbal has touched it along with the issue of SELF; he has asked his fellow human beings to raise the level of self to such a point that before each destiny is ordained, God asks his creation, the human being, as to what his pleasure
is. Mr. Saleem is saying in his couplet that arguments between him and destiny go on; he wants it to do one thing and the destiny in its stubbornness does something else; it continues to be a source of grief for him and for other human beings. And this state of affairs is not going to change till human life on this planet is intact.
Deo qaamat wo shjar jab tez aandhi mein gira
pasta-qad jitne they paudey sad qad-aawar ho gaye
Literal translation: "When that tall tree fell as a result of heavy wind, all small trees became huge."
Commentary: I can say with some confidence that it is a truism that only a poet knows what he is trying to say in his couplet. I believe what Mr. Saleem is saying that vagaries of life can bring down the strongest person from his lofty position. At the same time the lowly and the weak can rise to the occasion and achieve as high a position as others held, and and kept them overshadowed.