Remembering Iconic Poet Sheikh Ayaz On His 100th Birth Anniversary

Remembering Iconic Poet Sheikh Ayaz On His 100th Birth Anniversary
Literati and poetry aficionados across the country will commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of an iconic poet of Sindhi and Urdu language, Sheikh Ayaz, today (2 March). Sindhi Adabi Sangat has scheduled different events across the province to pay homage to the great poet.

A cultural treasure who who took Sindhi literature to new heights through his innovation and creativity, Ayaz rejigged Sindhi poetry with his phenomenal literary work, and was perhaps the most influential Sindhi literary figure of the 20th century.

Mubarak Ali Sheikh, aka Sheikh Ayaz, was born on 2 March 1923 in Shikarpur, a historic city of Sindh with a rich and vibrant history. The literary aura of Shikarpur persuaded young Ayaz to dive into the ocean of literature. As a young lawyer, he would have never thought that people would remember him for his majestic poetry.

Ayaz's poetry comprises multiple genres: he did not confine himself to romantic poetry, but also infused hope and courage among the people through revolutionary poetry as well. His vast study of human history, society, and culture, enabled him to create awareness about the 'social norms' that were prevalent at that time, and unfortunately still exist.

Throughout his life, he campaigned against the evil feudalistic mindset, injustice, intolerance, extremism, and violence against women. Keeping in view his contributions to literature and reputation as a lawyer, the-then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto appointed him as vice chancellor of Sindh University.

As an academic, he took steps to create interest among the students for literature and poetry. Furthermore, he left no stone unturned in his efforts for developing the university's academic culture during his tenure.

Kehaldas 'Fani' was among his early mentors who played a vital role in his grooming as a poet. 'Fani' introduced Ayaz to different aspects of poetry and literature; Ayaz capitalised on the teachings of his mentor for the rest of his life.

Ayaz brought forward different dimensions of Sindhi poetry. "He carried the legacy of Latif," said Jami Chandio. The exuberant poet was always optimistic for the bright future of Sindh, and wrote relentlessly to keep the young generation aware of upcoming challenges. The eminent poet is also credited for translating 'Shah Jo Risalo' into Urdu. His Book 'Bor Bare Akash' is considered a literary marvel of the Sindhi language.

His demurring slant against the feudal lords led him to imprisonment several times. He was often criticized by his contemporaries for his grim perspective against a particular class of the society.

Eminent Urdu poets Faiz and Faraz used to eulogize his contributions to Sindhi language. The legendary poet authored around 50 books of his poetry along with it he also wrote novels and short stories in the Sindhi language.

Notable Sindhi vocalists sang his poetry, prominent among whom are Sadiq Faqeer, Sajan Sindhi, Mumtaz Lashari, Ustad Mohammad Yousif, and Waheed Ali. Sadiq Faqeer was the one whom Ayaz reportedly liked most; Ayaz had even termed Sadiq's voice "the most suited" to his words. Ayaz was awarded with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz civil award for his contributions to literature.

Shaikh Ayaz started his poetry in Urdu. His Urdu collections are
بوئے گل نالۂ دل
کف گلفروش
نیل کنٹھ اور نیم کے پتے

In 1985 when Progressive Writers’ association انجمن ترقی پسند مصنفین
was being observed, he wrote the Urdu anthem for the launch ceremony while brutal dictator Gen Zia was ruling Pakistan. The anthem carried clear taunts against Zia likening him with Pharaoh:
میرے دیدہ ورو میرے دانشورو
پاؤں زخمی صحیح ڈگمگاتے چلو

The singers who sang him the most include Alan Faqir who sang his
ٽڙي پوندا ٽارئین
جڏھن ڳاڙھا گل۔ تڏھن ملنداسین

When roses will blossom, we shall reunite.

Bedil Masroor, a former PTV producer and a prominent singer and musician, popularized his revolutionary songs all over Sindh. One of his most popular songs was:
مان ڏوھي ھان مان ڏوھي ھان
مون ڪیئي ڏوھ ڪیا آھن

I plead guilty, I have committed too many sins.

Shaikh Ayaz also wrote several prose books, scholarly articles. His last prose book was titled 'Days and nights of Karachi', or:
ڪراچي جا ڏینھن
ڪراچي جون راتیون

The towering literary figure departed this world on 28 December 1997, and was laid to rest next to the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Sheikh Ayaz will be remembered for his eminent work in the field of literature, and for his lasting contributions to Sindhi language.

The author is a practicing lawyer and freelance journalist. His areas of interest are cultural diversity and socio-political issues of Sindh.