Thursday, 9 December, 2021

Remembering an Urdu and Persian Poet of Bengal

Syed Faizanul Hussaini

Remembering an Urdu and Persian Poet of Bengal
Picture of Syed Sharfuddin Sharf Al Hussaini in the first edition of his book “Gulistan-e-Sharf”

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Syed Abul Fatah Sharfuddin Sharaf Al Hussaini was among the elite of the city and a notable Urdu poet of Dacca, British India (Now Bangladesh). He was born in 1876 in Dacca.  Poet Sharful Hussaini lived in Begum Bazar now situated in Old Dhaka, which was adjacent to the then Hakim Habibur Rahman Road. He was generally known as “Suba Mian” in the locality.

His father was Faqihuddin Hussain. His family belonged to the oldest aristocratic families of Dacca. His forefathers were Hussaini Syeds and came from Medina. The first of his traceable progeny, Syed Fida Hussain, settled in Delhi during the reign of 4th Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his son Syed Golam Hussain and his grand sons Syed Faizuddin Hussain, Syed Mozaffar Hussain lived in Delhi and Kolkata and finally, Syed Faquihuddin Hussain settled in Dacca. Faizuddin served as a Kotwal for the Naib Nazim of Dhaka. Sharaf’s grandfather Syed Muzaffar Husain had such close relations with the Nawab family of Dhaka that he was often considered a part of the family and was eventually buried in the Nawab family graveyard in Begum Bazar. Abul Ghafur Nasakh, the noted historian of Urdu literature, wrote his name as Abul Fatah Sharfuddin.

His mother, Fatima Khanam, devoted special attention to his upbringing. He learned his primary lessons from his father Faqihuddin Hussaini whose erudition in Arabic and Persian was established. After the death of his father he went to Nawab Syed Muhammad Khan Bahadur alias Nanhe Syed, the cousin of his mother at Patna for further education. He was a famous correspondent of the humorous newspaper “Audh Punch” of Lucknow. He was the writer of some of his books. The company of Syed Muhammad Azad infused the poetic spirit in Sharaf. In those days Azimabad was the centre of literary activities. He had the company of the celebrated poets and scholars namely, Shad Azimabadi, Nawab Hussain “Khiyal”, “Asar” Azimabadi, Syed Abul Ghafur “Shahbaz” etc as a constant source of inspiration to him. This literary environment led him to the “valley of poetry” and he started composing poems. In the early stages he consulted Syed Muhammad Azad on his verses. He is the disciple of “Shahbaz”, the author of “Life of Nazeer”, etc. He often went to Delhi, Agra and Lucknow. As a result he had a close friendly relation with Altaf Hussain Hali, Nawab Sail Dehlavi, Arzoo Lucknavi, Safi Lucknavi and Bekhub Dehlavi etc.

Syud Hussain had very close relations with Sharf and used to stay over his residence in Begum Bazar while he visited Dhaka. Syud Hossain was born in Armanitola, Dhaka in 1888, the son of Nawab Syud Mohammed Azad (1850-1915), a member of a prominent Dhaka aristocratic family. His mother was the daughter of Faridpur’s illustrious Nawab Bahadur Abdul Latif (1828-1896), Bangladesh. Hossain was the great-great grandson of Mir Ashraf Ali Khan, a prominent aristocrat and a notably wealthy zamindar in 19th-century East Bengal, who was only second in fortune, reputation, and social standing to the then-Nawab Naib-Nazims of Dhaka. On his Episcopal visit to Dhaka in 1824, Reginald Heber (1783-1826), Metropolitan Bishop of Calcutta, identified Mir Ashraf Ali as “the chief Mussulman gentlemen in the district of Dacca.” Hossain’s brother-in-laws were Sher-e-Bangla A K Fazlul Huq (1873-1962) and Sir Hasan Suhrawardy (1888-1946).

His first collection of poems was published in Kolkata, “Gulistan-e-Sharaf ‘’ was printed in Sitar-e-Hind, Press, Beniapukur, Kolkata in 1937. Gulistan e Sharaf contains 120  pages which includes 87 ghazals, 6 Qasidas, 1 Mussadas, 3 Musnaya, 6 Sehra, 2 Rubaiya, 5 Noha, 6 Salams, 5 articles/ Qata, and some Nazams. His Persian poem “Sair-e-Kolkata’’ is also included in it. The entire collection has been compiled in metric order. The collection contains a “Foreword” by Syed Akhtar Hasan, M.A (Alig.) and an “Introduction” in Persian by the author himself. The last pages of the Anthology consists of attributes from Nawab Sail Dehlavi, Arzu Lucknavi and Bekhud Dehlavi, etc. who admired his poetic talent and appreciated the maturity of his verses.

About Sharaf Allama Arzoo Lucknavi wrote :

“In the anthology of Sharaf all sorts of poems have been compiled. It shows that the poet has the ability of expressing himself in all forms of poetry. Study of the entire anthology reveals two more characteristics:

Sharaf’s taste and temperament continued to change to fit in with the revolutions taking place in the country.

His poems manifest the gradual evolution of his poetic genius from preliminary stages to the stages of perfection and consummation.

Thus, Gulistan-e-Sharif is the mirror in which the evolution of his poetry has been fully reflected, from the very outset. In this regard he is the poet of the selective and distinctive calibre.

During his stay at Patna, the late Sharful Hussaini had the opportunities of seeing Mir Anees and Mirza Dabeer reciting their respective poems. On the occasion of Muharram Mir Anees used to come to Vilayat Ali Khan at Patna to recite his “Marsiya”‘ and Mirza Dabeer to Nawab Imambandi Begum. Sharaful Hussaini attended these functions punctually and regularly. The manner of his reciting poems resembled that of Mir Anees. He was proud of it that he was the only one person in Bengali, correctly imitating the reciting manner of Mir Anees.

As mentioned in the foregoing lines, his first anthology, “Gulistan-e-Sharaf” was published in his lifetime. The compilation of the second anthology, entitled “Dabistan-e-Sharaf” was complete. He himself compiled the anthology and got it written beautifully by a calligraphist. The “Forward” was by the pen of  late Sher-e-Bangla Maulvi A.K Fazlul Huq.

He did not limit himself to writing poems only. Rather he took part in governmental and social affairs of Bangladesh as well. By the authority of Dhaka Commission he served as an Honorary Magistrate of Bangladesh from 1907-1928, for almost 22 years.

He passed away on 30th March, 1960 at the age of 84. He was buried in the family graveyard, situated at the back yard of his residence in Begum Bazar. One of his grandsons Syed Zafrul Hussaini and great grandson Syed Faizanul Hussaini are still trying to compile his works and republish them to fill the void of Urdu poetry in Bangladesh.


The writer is the great grandson of Syed Sharfuddin Sharf Al Hussaini and undergoing Bachelor’s degree at Independent University, Bangladesh.