By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
21 May 2019
Qazi Nazrul Islam was the most important poet and writer of Bengali after Rabindranath Tagore. He injected a new life among the people of Bengal through his speech and writings. He rebelled not only against the British government but also against social evils plaguing the society. He campaigned against superstition, illiteracy, exploitation, religious fanaticism and communalism. For this reason he was called VIdrohi Kavi (rebel poet).
During the period Qazi Nazrul Islam began writing, Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore dominated the literary scene of Bengal and most of the Bengali poets of the period were influenced by his thought and style. They could not come out of the shadow of Rabindranath Tagore. His poetry was mostly mystical and spiritual with Vedantic undertones. Therefore his language and diction was soft and tender.
But Qazi Nazrul Islam refused to be influenced by Tagore's style and diction as he was of a rebellious nature. He adopted a different style and diction according to the demands of the time. He had revolutionary thoughts and was against the British government. That's why he adopted a style and language that best conveyed his revolutionary ideas and messages. He used a language that reverberated with life and his words were full of sound and fury. Since he had served in the army for three years, his poems also have rhyme and meter giving impression of sounds of military boots and drums. He adapted a language that was replete with Persian Arabic and Urdu words which was called Mussalmani Bangla. This language appealed a larger section of people and soon he became the most popular poet of Bengal.
Qazi Nazrul Islam wrote his path-breaking poem "Bidrohi"(rebel) in 1922 when he was only 23 years old. The poem was published in Bijli and all the copies of the weekly newspaper were sold within hours and the poem had to be published again in the next issue of the newspaper on public demand. The poem made him a star overnight.
To liberate the country from the British Empire, Nazrul Islam not only wrote poems and songs but also joined politics and published newspapers and periodicals.
Qazi Nazrul Islam was also worried over social evils, superstition, growing communalism and exploitation of gullible masses by the mullahs and pundits and fought against them through his speech and writing. He strived to bring awareness among the masses about their rights and their strength.
Qazi Nazrul Islam was a liberal and secular minded poet and writer. He especially tried to remove superstition and illiteracy from among them and tried to rid them from the clutches of mullaism. He had in-depth knowledge of both Islam and Hinduism. Thanks to his knowledge of Islamic history he could write poems on Islamic personalities like Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Khalid bin Walid, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Haji Mohammad Mohsin (great philanthropist of Bengal). He also wrote poems on liberal Islamic personalities like Mustafa Kamal Pasha, leader and reformer of Turkey and King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan. The purpose behind writing these poems was to bring Renaissance among the Muslims of Bengal. His poem "Amanullah" is based on the liberal ruler of Afghanistan; Amanullah Khan had tried to bring social and educational reforms among Afghan Muslims. His wife Soraiya Tarzi was an educated lady and was instrumental in establishing schools and colleges for girls. Amanullah also planned to bring legislative reforms in Afghanistan.
These reforms antagonised the mullah community in the country who enjoyed power and influence over the Afghans. Mullah Shorebazaar was the most respected religious leader. Therefore, the religious community that had exploited the Afghan Muslims for centuries feared that the reforms would bring an end to their power and position. So, one tribal leader called Baccha-e-Saqqa (son of a water carrier) revolted against him and his ten year long rule came to an end. Probably he had visited India and Qazi Nazrul Islam had written the poem on that occasion. In this poem he praises Amanullah’s reforms and his good treatment oh Hindus. He says, "In your rule, Hindus are not called kafir but "Birader-e- Hind"(Brothers from India) and their temples and idols are not demolished in your country. You have proved that Afghanistan is not only the country of Abdalis and Nadir Shahs but of love and brotherhood."
Nalzrul Islam's another poem is on Turkey's leader and reformer Mustafa Kamal who fought bravely on behalf of the Ottoman Empire against the Allies including Britain. In this poem he praises the military prowess and valour of Mustafa Kamal. He writes,"Kamal tuney Kamal Kiya Bhai."
Qazi Nazrul Islam also wrote good poems on Muslim festivals like Eid, Baqrid, Moharram, Fateha Dowazdaham etc. In these poems, he reminds Muslims of the true message of these festivals. He rues the fact that Muslims celebrate these festivals as a routine event oblivious of their duties and responsibilities. They celebrate Eid but forget it's message of brotherhood; they celebrate Baqrid but forget that it asks Muslims to develop the spirit of sacrifice for the welfare of the society and the community; they celebrate Moharram but have lost the spirit to fight against oppression and die for the sake of truth; they celebrate Fateha Dwazdaham but do not obey the prophet and do not lead their lives according to the injunctions of the Quran and Hadith.
Qazi Nazrul Islam fought against religious exploitation in both Hindus and Muslims. During 1925, poets, writers and political activists had launched a movement against the highhandedness and sexual exploitation by the priests of Tarakeshwar temple in Hooghly in Bengal. The movement was led by Desh Bandhu Chittaranjan Das. Subhash Chandra Bose and Nazrul also participated in it. Nazrul wrote the campaign song for it.
Rise, rise O Bangbashi
Chandals have ruined Bengal's Kashi
End to their lust there ain't
And we call them saint
The dignity of our mothers and sisters
Is sacrificed at mother's alter
His writings against conservatism, religious narrow-mindedness and obscurantism created awareness among the Muslim masses of the undivided Bengal and a group of Muslim writers and intellectuals emerged and challenged mullaism and high-handedness of religious leadership. Women started asserting their position in society much to the chagrin of mullahs. During this period a Muslim woman called Fazilatunnisa became the first Muslims. Graduate of Dhaka University and later went abroad for higher studies. In Dhaka, the movement for liberalism gained momentum. On 18th April1929, "Mullaki Nibaran Sangh"(Mullaism Prevention Committee) was constituted in Albert Hall of Kolkata. Many liberal ulema and intellectuals joined the committee. An excerpt from the resolution of the committee is presented below:
"Since Mullaism is against the basic principles of Islam and is based on 'Purohitvad' and since Mullahs have been misusing the Quran and Hadith to fulfil their personal aspirations, if Muslims are not freed from the clutches of these mullahs, educating them and bringing social and economic independence among them and bringing them at par with other communities in scientific development would not be possible. Therefore, in order to rid Muslims of the influence of the Mullahs to lead them on the path of development in the light of Islamic teachings, it is proposed that a "Mullaism Prevention Committee" should be constituted.”
In short, Qazi Nazrul Islam was the driving force behind the wave of Muslim Renaissance in undivided Bengal.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com