Ali Khan:

                           Ali Khan:

                    Khurshid Iqbal Khattak

     Ali Khan, as a poet, is one of the four recognised and es­teemed pioneers of romanticism. As a person, his life is, howev­er, not only obscure but confusing. Even his name and family have created conflicts of opinion among the scholars. Some consider him a Khattak from the family of Khushal Khan, while others think that he was a Mohmanzai of Charsadda. These controversies over his name, family, dates and place (s) of his birth and death have, thus, become topics of discussions. But Ali Khan has left a Diwan of resplendent and forceful poetry which would not let him be ignored. Most of the scholars search his life from his own Diwan. So far there is not known any dependable external evidence to throw some light on these aspects of his life. The Diwan, having discussed many things, offers little help in identification of its creator. Throughout, the poet has mentioned his name Ali Khan; only once in a riddle:
     The riddle of my name is seven hundred,
     Still less if two laams are added.
     By abjad (counting by values of Arabic letters) 700+30+30 are equal to 760 whereas the total numbers of Ali Khan becomes 761, i.e. one more than that. It should, therefore, be taken for granted that the name was nothing else but Ali Khan.
     Whatever the scholars have gained shows that Ali Khan was born in a small village of Hashtnaghar on the bank of river Jeenday, which he remembered and admired in his poetry for its sweet potable water, as a mark of his deep attach­ment with his homeland. Jeenday is flowing through Hasht-naghar and drops in Landay (Kabul river), near Charsadda.  He has expressed emotional inclination toward the beauty of Hashtnaghar.  However his beloved was not there, rather far away, and, perhaps, it was due to this reason that he spent his life in pain and restlessness of his fruitless journeys, and his poetry is a basketful of lugubriousness, pains, yearnings and self‑reproach.
     Ali Khan's love and passion could not be considered as worldly being. Some doubts of his worldly love could be con‑ ceived, but there the language is not that of poetic submis­sion and meekness. It is feudal. In his early age, Ali Khan might have felt the pinch of love. But when he sings "O, the lord of heart!", it is, definitely, not for a pretty jilt or a handsome unfaithful boy, but a master of soul and spirit. Who is this master of soul and spirit? This is again a sub­ject of controversy due to his ambiguous references to "O, the lord of heart" of "Sahib".
     The Diwan reflects his unsuccessful, but hopeful, voy­age insearch of reality.  The mention of his beloved as `Sahib' or `the lord of heart' denote his spiritual person­age, a highly reverend and learned man. Was he Mohammadi Sahibzada or his father saint Mian Umar of Chamkanni? Most probably the former. If so, then he might have taken part, under the command of Mohammadi Sahibzada, in the revolt against Timur Shah (1772‑93) and might have suffered the consequent hardship of exile. He might have helped Mohammadi Sahibzada in his movement of renaissance of Pashto. He has, however, not made any mention of Timur Shah, but has men­tioned his son Mahmood (1800‑03, 1809‑1818) when Mohammad Akbar, nephew of Ali Khan, joined the lashkar being "pre­pared for an Islamic war".
     Only in one eulogium, he has mentioned  clearly that he was a follower of Jaami (Abdur Rahman), saying:
     I am a follower of Mohammad (PBUH),
     And obedient of Jaami, the pure,
     Therefore, I (am bound to),
     Follow these two.
     Ali Khan translated in Pashto,
     The verses of Jaami,
     As if the beauties are changing,
     New garments.                                           
     Ali Khan will praise in Pashto,
     Qualities of your beauty,
     It's a very fine art,
     Like honey or sweats.
     It also reveals that Ali Khan has translated some works of Abdul Rahman Jaami which has not yet been traced.
     He has written a parody on a Ghazal of "the Sahib" and in another invokes "the Sahib not to forget Ali Khan" who is known as his servant. In one forceful and fulgent ode, he addresses "the lord of heart". He has not mentioned any name or a clue to iden-tification of his `Sahib'. But he was, definitely, not Jaami, but someone who was a good Pashto poet also. This clue directs his attachment with Mohammadi Sahibzada. This hypothesis is confused by his four Marxas (elegies); one for his son (p.16), one for Saadatmand, Habibullah, Rasul Khan and Faizullah (p.8), one for Hawas of Khwaze (p.61), and one, most probably, for his wife (p.63). If he were really a disciple of Mohammadi Sahibzada, then he should have written a Marsia for him also. But he has not written anything about Mohammadi Sahibza who had passed away in 1200 AH. Had Ali Khan died before that? No. His famous Ghazal which `does not bear any dot' mentions the period of Mahmood, as cited earlier. A Ghazal of Ali Khan dated 13th Zil Hajj 1180 AH is considered to be one of his early age. Because the pattern of his Ghazal of last period shows his devotion to religion. Then, it raises a question. Was there any other `pir' who was also a man of knowledge, and a poet, to whom he was so much devoted. Who was he and where was he living? Ali Khan has not given any hint to that, too.
     In the history of Pashto literature, Ali Khan belongs to the golden age, starting with Khushal Khan Khattak, and stands out in the front row of romanticists such as Hameed of Masho, Kamgar Khattak and Kazim Khan Shaida. The history of Pashto literature was, then, put on such a track that on every turn new inlets were opened. The spirit rejuvenated and enlightened by Khushal Khan Khattak and Rahman Baba was, in later ages, elated perpetually. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the ever green valley of Pashto literature blossomed so much fragrant flowers that their fresh smell is felt even today and will be felt in all times to come. The scholars of Pashto literature call it romantic period. 
     The kaleidoscopic poetry of the romantic period re-flected various colours, inspiring reader and listener. Let us have a look at the poetry of Ali Khan in this rosy pic­ture of the romantic age, and discuss it with analytical approach.
     According to Muqadema appended to Diwan‑i‑Ali Khan, written by Taqweemul Haq, the poetry of Ali Khan could be divided into three phases. First of his worldly love or Ishqi Majazi. He pays rich tributes to the beauty of his beloved. Long black hair, snowy forehead, eyelashes and eyebrows, attractive eyes, floral cheeks, rose‑petal lips, gem‑like teeth, all these similes used normally for worldly love, along‑with complaints of unfaithful‑ness, ridiculous behaviour of adviser and preacher, painful circumstances of hijr and excitement of wisal. All such feelings are clearly perceptible in Ali Khan's poetry. As a rule of love, as it happens in youth, the poet gives his beloved a place upper­most than anything else, and considers the love as the only and eternal bliss of this world.
     Ali Khan gets annoyed by those who want to exert force on him to cut off his rich fibre of link with beauty, when he says;
     That who advises me in riddles
     Is not aware of the secrets of love.
     But he does not remain patient with such bitterness, he becomes so scornful to condemn the adviser:
     Many are they who advise me in day light,
     Whom I see in the night at doorstep of the beloved.
In other words:
     Bowing head in meditation like a rosebud,
     Or, the saint was bewildered by your small mouth.
     Like any other poet, Ali Khan is also very much dis­gruntled by indifference of his beloved. This is a common character­istic of a lover's temperament. He wails in such a way:

     Those who fall in love like me,
     Would be sad even at the moment of happiness.
     What a sin of mine, sans the love,
     That the beauties flee from me.
     Not by willingness Ali Khan,
     Beloved has snatched my heart by force.
     But the knot of love is so tight that it could not be unfastened.
     That the love of beauties condemned me to exile,
     Yet the smear of love did not efface.
     And when he has realised that he was in real love, he addresses himself:
     The true lovers won't brag,
     Ali Khan brace your character rather than speech.
     For this purpose he does not hesitate even to sacrifice his blood.
     Let other beauties ask for colourful dresses,
     Your dress is red with Ali Khan's blood.
     If we scrutinise the flamboyant expression of Ali Khan's verse, we can easily establish the fact that Ali Khan was a metaphysical poet. He could be compared with the lead­ing English poet John Donne (1573‑1631). The history of English literature divulges that metaphysical school of thought emerged after Elizabethan age. In trends, the meta­physical school of poetry proved a revolt against the Eliza­bethan poetry. The metaphysical poets brought about revolu­tionary changes in the theme and technique of Elizabethan poetry. The conventional Elizabethan diction was trans‑sub-stantiated into analytical and logical.
     In Pashto, the situation was different. The poetical genius in Pashto literature had reached its Zenith before the age of Ali Khan. Khushal Khan Khattak and Rahman Baba had done exuberant and plausible experiments and the age of Ali Khan, which was subse‑  quent, was not a revolt but substantiation thereof. However, it can be safely said that romanticism was institutionalised in this age of Ali Khan, Hameed, Kamgar Khattak and Kazim Khan Shaida.
     Ali Khan was acquainted with  qualities and require­ments of metaphysical poetry. He was a man of excessive intellects and possessed great knowledge of religion. We may make a brief attempt to analyse his poetry for the pur­pose of his meta­physical verse. In comparison and con­trast, we would quote and explain the relevant verses of English meta-physical poets such as John Donne and Abraham Cowley.
     The subtle wreath of hair, which crown my arm,
     The mystery, the sign you must not touch,
     For it is my outward soul,
     Except she meant that I,
     By this should know my pain,
     As prisoners then are manacled,
     When they are condemned to death. (The funeral: John Donne)
Ali Khan says:
     The soul has returned to my body,
     Marked with the fire of your love.
     When entered my body it became selfish,
     Therefore, it has been tied by your hair.
     Both Donne and Ali Khan have used beloved's hair as a mark of punishment to the lover's soul.
     Metaphysical poets use figure of speech to a farthest stage, for example, Abraham Cowley, another leading meta­physical poet uses metaphor to which we can give the name of geographical metaphor. Read his verses:
     Hast thou not found each woman's breast,
     (The land where thou has travelled),
     Either by savage possesst,
     Or wild, and uninhibited?
     What joy could'st take, or what repose,
     In countries so civilised as those.
Listen to John Donne:
     Where can we find two better hemisphere,
     Without sharp north, without declining west?
     Love, so alike that none do slacken, none can die.
Ali Khan says:
My dark fate is like the black hair of Turks (Turkish                                               beauties),
     Will drive me ultimately to exile in India.
     If your black hair were spread over the white face,
     Rome will become Negroes‑land and India be Khurasan.
     Cowley has used the conceit of travelling in different countries, Donne has used north and west and Ali Khan has used Rome, Negro‑land, India and Khurasan for their geo‑phy-sical significance.
     Metaphysical poetry is broadly divided into two i.e. amorous and religious. Ali Khan being a metaphysical poet has tested his pen in love, religion and life. Apart from love and religion, he has also touched the broad canvass of practical life; ethics, social philosophy, fatalism and humanity. At some places he has superbly demonstrated logic and philosophy which in fact ascend him further to the apex of his poetical genius.
     So far his religious poetry is concerned which is, in fact, a stage where his thought and feeling, having been knotted with the golden thread of his metaphysics, culminat­ed into spirit and ultimately transplanted in the ethereal realm of divine poetry. In the closing stage of his transi­tory period he feels about worldly love in the following manner:

     It means, never is there,
     Any substance in worldly love.
     Ali Khan from mortal love,
     Pulled out himself.
     Now concentrate on religion,
     Give up others' love.
And when he crosses the threshold into religious feelings, he says;
     Ali Khan is a slave of Muhammad (PBUH),
     Who guarantees his salvation on Doomsday.
     Love is that object Ali Khan,
     Which was loved by the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
     Ali Khan hopes for Your mercy,
     O, Lord Forgiver of the sinners.
(courtesy: daily Frontier Post, Peshawar 07 November 1992)


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