“Polymath” is a word derived from Greek roots and literally means “to have learned a lot,” according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.
A mathematician is someone who has studied a wide range of subjects and has a deep knowledge of each one. This exhibition enables mathematicians to deal with problems requiring multidisciplinary expertise and is useful when a new approach is required to bridge the gap between different fields. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult these days to find someone in our society who is equally comfortable in different disciplines at the same time.
Polymath is a word that can be applied to Jabir Ali Syed. He was a critic, linguist, prosodist, researcher, translator, poet, prose writer and expert in Iqbal studies. He knew many languages and had devoured great classical works in different languages from an early age.
A recently released book on Jabir Ali Syed covered his life and work in detail. Despite its old-fashioned title – Jabir Ali Syed: Hayat Aur Adabi Khidmaat – the doctoral thesis written by Aneela Saleem and published by Dastavez Matboo’aat ‘from Lahore takes an in-depth look at the literary works of Jabir Ali Syed. Its various chapters assess the literary status of Jabir Sahib as a critic, linguist, lexicologist, prosodist, poet and expert in Iqbal studies.
But modern Urdu doctoral theses are not limited to such monographic studies and such titles are no longer favored. It would have been much better if the title and thesis were a bit broader, to include other aspects of the subject, such as the social, linguistic, theoretical and / or ideological significance of Jabir Sahib’s work. The book is well written and well produced, but if the typos had been corrected it would have been more useful.
The autobiography of Jabir Sahib Aik Adabi Khud Navisht, published in Funoon – a literary magazine in Urdu edited by Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and published in Lahore – contains important clues about the life, works, literary ideas and opinions of Jabir Ali Syed.
Aneela Saleem, the author, says that Jabir Ali Syed was born in Sialkot on July 27, 1923. He graduated in Urdu and Persian and started his career as an OTS instructor in Belgaum, Maharashtra, where he studied. been hired to teach Urdu to the British. officers. Jabir Ali Syed drowned in the study of Western and Eastern literature during his stay in Belgaum. Jabir Ali Syed was also a voracious reader later in his life.
He had started writing quite early and while in Belgium he started contributing to prestigious literary magazines, such as Adabi Dunya, Naya Daur, Asia, Saqi, Adab-e-Lateef and Humayun. It was in the early 1940s.
At the end of the 1940s, Jabir Sahib decided to give up his job and do a Masters in Persian in Lahore. Living in Lahore for her MA at Punjab University Oriental College was as exciting as it was fruitful. Here he met many bigwigs from the Urdu literary world and began attending literary sessions at Halqa-e-Arbaab-e-Zauq, a literary circle that has left indelible marks on the Urdu literary world.
After obtaining the first post in Persian MA, Jabir Ali Syed was offered a scholarship for research on the Persian novel. But he left it unfinished and joined the education department as a lecturer. He served in different educational institutes in the Punjab and was eventually assigned to Multan, from where he was prematurely forcibly retired, although at that time his actual retirement date was around one year, writes the author.
Although considered a critic with an emphasis on formalist and aesthetic theories as well as a considerable expert on the works of Allama Iqbal, Jabir Ali Syed is best known for his work on prosody, lexicography and linguistics. His book Kutub-e-Lughat Ka Tehqeeqi-o-Lisani Jaiza, published by the National Language Authority (NLA) in 1984, critically evaluates two very important Urdu dictionaries: Dictionary of Classical Hindi, Urdu and English by John T Platts and Farhang -e-Asifiya by Syed Ahmed Dehlvi. Jabir Sahib meticulously examined the two dictionaries and scholarly highlighted the weaknesses and strengths of these important works. He also analyzed Farhang-e-Asifiya’s long preface and criticized certain aspects of it, especially those concerning the genesis of Urdu.
His book Lisani-o-Aroozi Maqalat was published by the NLA in 1989. It deals with the origin of words and some issues relating to Urdu prosody. Here, too, he proved his courage, pointing out glaring errors in some of the well-known works on prosody.
Jabir Ali Syed’s other books are: Iqbal Ka Fanni Irtiqa (1978), Tanqeed Aur Liberalism (1982), Iqbl: Aik Mutal’a (1985), Tanqeed-o-Tehqeeq (1987), Isti’aare Ke Chaar Shehr (1994), Mauj-e-Aahang ( 1998) and Usool-e-Intiqad-e-Adabiyat: Aik Tanqeedi Mutal’a (2012).
Jabir Ali Syed died in Multan on January 3, 1985.
Posted in Dawn, le 10 January 2022