The poet as witness: Reading our man of the people

Read Sultanul Haq Shaheedi and you bear witness to the glory and beauty, mystique and majesty, profundity and Catholicism of  Kashmir. Faith, mysticism, hope and what you deeply aspire for and value in Kashmir and its culture find a voice in his pages. Conversing with him is a treat as it connects you to the great rhythms of spiritual and literary life in Kashmir. With rare combination of literary gifts and training in classics and major languages, he weaves for us a tapestry of verses that illuminate dark horizons looming around everywhere in a world that is battling nihilism  and violence of all kinds  and fictive idols that have been erected to help.  Taking full look at the worst, as Hardy would advise, takes him close to despair as the world appears out of joint and he has no clue.  However, the poet in him soon finds a meaning in the chaos. He sings songs of redemption and celebrates. He has written one of the best nature poems and tributes to Dal in Chandni Rat mei Dal Jheel ka Manzar. That poem is studded with scores of vivifying and unforgettable images. Some of its verses  are worthy of being displayed on the banks of the lake or sideways of Bullward  and they will help enjoy that great beauty better. After reading Shaheedi one can’t look at Dal with old eyes.

​Shaheedi is a poet of many hues and all seasons. His early mastery of the art and craft of verse writing and translation and wide readings in classics contribute to his immense output and significance for the history of contemporary gazal and nazm. He has made great use of azad nazm. He is a poet of future as his more recent work, one feels, will have to wait for a publisher.


​Steeped in classics, every inch a poet, a brilliant translator, Shaheedi is a treat to meet and converse with. Deeply influenced by religious and mystical lore, Shaheedi has given us some memorable poems and gazals and scores of verses that shall adorn pages of literary magazines and anthologies. Published in first rate journals as a poet, he has been able to carve for  himself a permanent niche in the annals of Kashmiri writers. He has translated almost all key poets from Khayam to Saadi to Shaykh al-Alam and Iqbal. Let us note some of his verses that show his range, dexterity of phrase and great lucidity. 

About his affirmative attitude or yes saying

Meri hasti who gul hae jis ki raynayi nahi jati

Ghaeyrta jeb bhi dard o gem aa ker/chedta raag kayf o masti ka, 

About Azad

One of the best tributes to Azad (his hand was dast-i Eesa and  he had Asa-i Moosa) is his poem “Abul Kalam Azad.” Just see

Narnm raw unki garm guftari

Jis mei poosheda goahar-i nayab

Ab kaha who abul Kalam Azad

Mazhar-I soaz o saz-I insane.

About contemporary civilization

Qamqamay/roshni/aur shifaf ten/phir bhi kala hae tehzeeb-I hazir ka men (Khulasa)

Dil kae sada bahar chaman per hae naz muj ko

Zoaq-i kharash wa lazat-I aalam pay bi pay

Kis kis ko rah-I shoaq ka saman bana diya

Although he thinks himself the Mir of current doar-i gem, he has mastered the art of laughing at absurdities thrown by life all around us. Although most of his poems in Barg Barg are laments and pensive meditations on life’s incongruities, one can’t miss the underlying affirmation of life and resistance against forces of death and decay.

Hamari zindagi ka hae sahara

Tumhara gem tumhara gam nahi hae.

Thee na kis kis ko zamanay mei masarat ki talash

Ek hem thae ki faqt tohfa-I gem layae haen

Daymi lazat kasha kay wastay kafi hae gem/tayiran-I khushnawawo gulstan kuch bhi nahi

Jada-I rah-I mohabat per hoay haen gamzen/fikr-o andeesha gem sood o-ziyan kuch bhi nahi

Jawan jawan hae miri mohabat qadm qadm raqs-I moaj-I ulfat

Khushi khushi gem qubool ker kay gamoo ka ab koi gem nahi hae


Hae taqazayey muhbat zindagi

Bay basi mei bay kasi mei bhi jiyaen 

Fasl-i gul bhi ho jis sae sharminda

Woh miray dil ki lalo kari hae

​Self avowedly “jaanisar,” “haq parast, “ khud-dar” Shaheedi has only to blame himself – as these qualities are incompatible with most of power structures and mass mentality – for being disregarded by general public and some institutions that have responsibility for promoting or recognizing such talent. He is also conscious of his literary and linguistic gifts and calls himself Bulbul-I Kashmir who is rooh afroz and khush maqal. Hailed for “matanet, pukhtigi and shuguftigi,” “woh taez gam bhi haen aur buland parvaz bhi” and described as “ fana fil Urdu”  Shaheedi is a gifted translator as well and has enviable list of contributions to both Urdu and Kashmiri – he has bequeathed us  treasured translations of Payam-I Mashriq (in Urdu and Kashmiri), Armagan-i Hijaz , selections from Mathnawi of Rumi, Shaykh al-Alam, Mehjoor, Habba Khatoon, Rubaiyat of Khayam, Musadas of Hali.  He is a cultured man  who breathes classics and has devoted his life in creatively appropriating them in his own works.

Attempting to imbibe the best of great literary figures in diverse languages and  thanks to this benign influence and cognizance of great predecessors, one reads echoes of Masters in him in a diction that is worthy of great ideas. One may well say about many verses in Shaheedi that it is as if we are reading Iqbal in Kashmiri and the best of Romantics on love, Mir on sorrow and Ghalib on life’s great questions.  Shaheedi has versified some ideas of his great predecessors in a creative way so that they look fresh. His knack of stealing from the great writers is quite impressive. He impresses equally with his art and personality.

Shaheedi’s work is informed by traditional philosophical ideas that come handy in different situations  and may as may be gleaned from the following:

Tamanaoo kay taray toot ker hi

Sakoo ki subh paida ho gayi hae  

Irfan-I hasti maqsood-I insaan

Itni haqeeqat baqi fasana

Zulmat-I batil mei to yeh ek jahanam zar hae

aur nor-I haq mei firdos-o jina hae zindagi

Dil nae lapaet mei liyaaalam-I sesh jihat ko

Daer-o harm ki qaed sae shoaq ko bay niyaz ker.

​What is most remarkable about Shaheedi is his unpublished work that is mostly a lament and chilling meditation on such problems as violence. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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