Arshad, New Age Islam
21 May 2019
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).
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
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.
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
the country from the British Empire, Nazrul Islam not only wrote poems and
songs but also joined politics and published newspapers and periodicals.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
have ruined Bengal's Kashi
their lust there ain't
And we call
of our mothers and sisters
sacrificed at mother's alter
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:
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.”
Qazi Nazrul Islam was the driving force behind the wave of Muslim Renaissance
in undivided Bengal.
Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com
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