Rashid Nazki is arguably the most influential exponent of tradition in the Kashmiri Literature. Adored by his followers and loathed by his opponents he left a deep mark in the literary history of Kashmir and continued enormously to broadening the appeal of Traditionalist ideas of Kashmiri literature. To uphold the Traditionalist ideas he has always clearly differentiated the Sacred from Profane and till last remained intellectually engaged to apply sacred-centric criticism on diverse issues. Nazki is being considered as the last symbol of Traditional Literary thought in Kashmir who had extensively worked on Rishi thought, Kashmiri Mysticism and Naatiya Adab(eulogy).Nazki was a poet, author, translator, Researcher and a scholar of religions. He was multifaceted personality and doyen of Kashmiri literature.
Nazki was born in 1931 in Bandipora and started his career as primary school teacher in government school. Later he served in J & K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages and his pursuit of knowledge drove him to the State's highest seat of learning-Kashmir University where he spent most of his intellectual days of the life. His doctoral thesis 'Mystic Trends in Kashmiri and Urdu poetry' was a detailed study of mysticism vis-a-vis Kashmir and Urdu poetry.
In 1977 having moved to the University of Kashmir, Nazki first encountered the scholars propagating Western and Progressive thought. During his university time, Nazki keenly felt the need of literary decolonization in the valley which was growing strongly with the youthful journey of largest literary organization Adbi Markaz Kamraz founded by him.
While upholding the Traditional ideas Nazki closely engaged with the literary and philosophical developments of the period. He had familiarity with the works of Sartre, Albert Camus, Jaspers and was a veritable scholar of Persian poetry and sabaki-hindi. Indeed his life was marked by his literary relationships (bordering on friendship in certain cases) with figures like Anameri Shimmile, Masood Husain Khan, Alaam Khunmeri, Shaleek-ul-Rehman, Shamim Hanafi, Shams-Rehman Farooqi, Gopi Chand Narang, Aali Ahmed Suroor, Ismat Chugtaie and Jagan Nath Azad.In that sense, Nazki has taken very seriously the ideas of sacred tradition wherever he finds.
Nazki's discourse is a sustained encounter between modern western literary trends and Traditionalist thought and he sought, both through his creative output and critical writings to challenges the assumptions of crude or uncritical importation of prevalent western literary trends. Nazki during his times was considered as inalienable part of muted traditionalist community. He had to suffer costs for his commitment to unfashionable critical ideas. When stalls of literary capital coated with tags of 'modernism and progressivism' were dominating the literary market Nazki arrived with traditional poetic collection like Wahraat. Wahraat the first collection of poems from Nazki's pen invited writers and poets of the times to think on traditional lines to realize the importance and relevance of Traditionalist Literary thought. Earlier natives of the literary world in Kashmir were profusely taking the influence of modern literary trends writings but Nazki's Wahraat and Zikir-i-Habib-a reconstruction of tradition- hark back literary community to the importance and relevance of Traditionalist Literary thought. Instead of assimilating the influence of alien ideas Nazki upheld the truth of Kashmir's Tradition. Nazki was committed to the thought and idea of his progenitor. When the Literary scene across the globe witnessed sloganeering and ideological advances in the form of postmodernism, Structuralism, Marxism and Socialist Realism etcetera Nazki in the sidelines was busy in protecting his sacred tradition from such influences. As a writer commit his art to the cause of proletariat in Marxian literary thought Naziki commits his art to the safeguard of tradition and ideas of his forbears. Terry Eagleton says that Literature may be an artifact, a product of social consciousness; a world vision but is also an industry. When the pieces of literature were crafted according to political and economic market, when the words were chiseled in view of interests and slogans Nazki remained committed to age old asset of Tradition which apparently was losing the attraction under the impact of thunderous sponsored heroic and ideological literary sloganeering. Nazki used to say that 'intellectual temper of the 80's was very different, in some ways better but in many ways worse. There was no longer among the young men any preoccupation with the details of the traditionalist thought'. During the Nazki's time literary scene in Kashmir had witnessed the birth of novels with Western Taste, Short stories with Marxian inflection and poetry with ideological or sentimental rhythm but his words and passages have sacred origin and traditionalistic taste. Be it wahraat or Zikir-i-Habib a reader feels transcendental ecstasy.Nazki's writings had a unique taste and effect. Nazki's writing had obvious mystic flavor and takes a reader into realms of the mystic world. Be it a poem on ascension in Wahraath or justification of Rishi Thought, one feels as if Nazki is deeply conversant with from the world of Sufis.
Nazki's deliberations on Kashmir's Traditional Rishi Thought advocated by saints and our forebears like Shah-i-Hamdan and Alamdar-i-Kashmiri (RA) is a great contribution to Sacred traditional Literature. He is among the few scholars who has prolifically written and discussed the Rishi thought of Kashmir. His legacy includes a detailed scholarly treatment of many aspects of the thought including its history, theological authentication and lineage. He has authored two books A reading on Rishiyat and Rishyiat and our Rishis on the Rishi thought.
Nazki's intellectual profundity and scholastic depth can be gauged from his book Seeriyat (in which he discusses comparative study of different global mystic traditions. Nazki is the only poet of note in the history of Kashmiri literature who had made an in-depth study of religion. As a scholar, poet and critic Nazki made an enormous contribution to the Kashmiri literature. Rashid Nazki left this world last year on 06 January and will be remembered as his generations' most significant Kashmiri advocate of sacred centric literary criticism in Kashmir.
(Mir Tariq Rasool is Patron Kashmir Comparative Literary and Philosophical Foundation)