WE are not a nation of bookworms and never have been. Still, there’s a sizable percentage of the population that enjoys reading, even in this age of tech-based distractions.
Despite a general decline in reading habits in the country and a less than desired level of reader interest in research work, new research-based Urdu books continue to flow. One reason is a recent trend among Urdu students to pursue a higher degree – an MPhil or PhD. This has certainly increased the demand for books based on research and/or critical studies.
A positive sign indeed and the scholars who write such works are usually a committed group who do not care whether they are appreciated or not, but serious readers, especially those whose butter and bread are the search and teaching, should take at least some interest in new published research.
So here are three new books that present some aspects of research and Urdu and Persian:
Ghulam Muhammad Nazr Sabri (1923-2013) was apparently a librarian at Attock College, but was in fact a large traveling library himself. He was also an Urdu and Persian scholar and poet. Sabri had spent almost 60 years of his life tracing, discovering, reading, editing and appraising rare books, especially Persian manuscripts.
Dr. Arif Naushahi, a well-known scholar of Persian, was very close to him as they both shared the same love of Persian books and manuscripts. For about 37 years, the two scholars were in contact by mail and exchanged hundreds of letters. Today, one hundred letters written by Nazr Sabri and addressed to Dr. Naushahi have been carefully collected, edited and annotated by Dr. Abdul Aziz Sahir.
Most of the letters deal with issues related to manuscripts, their copies in different libraries and museums around the world, their publishing, authors and calligraphers of rare works. In his scholarly introduction, Naushahi states: “Although Nazr Sabri was a poet and librarian and lived in Attock, a town not particularly known for its scholars or scholarship, Sabri was immersed in reading, writing and research on questions that even the professors of the universities of the big cities could not think of.
Dr. Sahir in his preface succinctly described the life and works of an erudite scholar that was Sabri. But the way Sahir Sahib compiled and annotated these letters speaks volumes about his own scholarship. Since the letters contain many scientific points that need to be explained, Dr. Sahir has discussed them in detail for the readers. The notes on the personalities whose names appear in the letters are very instructive and valuable. Even the sources and contexts of the verses and poetic lines that appear in the letters have been amply explained and clarified.
Although Dr. Sahir is a professor teaching Urdu at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Islamabad, he is also fluent in the Persian language and its manuscripts. It’s safe to say that even scholars can learn a thing or two about how to edit and annotate literary works from Sahir’s work. The book is published by Nizamiya Dar-ul-Isha’at, Attock.
This is another research work written by another faculty member of AIOU, Islamabad. The book, published by Rang-e-Adab Publications of Karachi, is a collection of research papers. Dr. Arshad Mahmood Nashad, the author, teaches Urdu at AIOU and is known as a poet and scholar with a dedication rare among scholars today.
The book has three sections and the first contains research papers that deal with the genre of naat. The second contains articles on some classic works of Urdu and the third part presents articles on various topics, such as rare manuscripts, palaeography, grammar, impact of globalization on Urdu literature, unpublished commentary by Soofi Tabassum on certain Persian texts by Allama Iqbal. verses and problems in versified translations.
As can be seen, the topics are unique and new researchers can learn a lot from these articles as they are full of rare information.
Dr. Ayoob Sabir: Shakhsiyet Aur fan
The Pakistan Academy of Letters has published very useful works in the series Pakistanis Adab Ke May’maar, or the builders of Pakistani literature. So far more than 150 books have been published on poets, writers and intellectuals who have helped shape Pakistani literature and they include writers from different Pakistani languages and the national language.
The latest addition to the series is the book about Dr. Ayoob Sabir, a well-known researcher and scholar, who did tremendous research on Allama Iqbal.
Posted in Dawn, June 20, 2022