Remembering – Josh Malihabadi ‘Poet of Revolution’

Josh Malihabadi. (Photo Courtesy: University of Pennysylvania)

kaam hai mera taghayyur, naam hai mera shabaab
mera na’ara: inqilaab-o-inqilaab-o-inqilaab

(My task is change, my name is youth!
My slogan: revolution and revolution and revolution!)

These are the words of Shaayar-e-Inquilaab (Poet of the Revolution), Josh Malihabadi who was remembered by admirers of Urdu literature on his 112th birth anniversary on Sunday (5 Dec.)

“He was a prolific writer, he wrote about religion, history and politics. He fought for the independence of the Indian subcontinent with his pen. Many of his poems are against the British rule,”

said Dr Naqvi, a researcher and a visiting faculty member at Pakistan Study Centre, Karachi University.

Literary and research work on ‘Josh Malihabadi’ efforts from some experts have become a movement of ‘Josh Shanasi’ in Pakistan.
The main objective of the literary movement is to authentically discover the hidden but luminous features of the great poet especially among the admirers of Urdu literature.
Prof Dr Hilal Naqvi under the supervision of Dr Naqvi, Alfaz Foundation Karachi is regularly publishing ‘Josh Shanasi’, a literary and research based quarterly book series.

Josh Malihabadi’s real name was Shabir Hussain Khan. He was born on December 5, 1898, in the Malihabad area of Uttar Pradesh, India. He acquired his early education in Lucknow and passed the Senior Cambridge exams from St Peters College, Agra in 1924.

Shiraz Hassan, a journalist and progressive writer highlighted

“There was sufficient corruption even in 1950 to inspire Josh Malihabadi to write his poem “poem ‘Rishwat Khori’ (bribery). Josh’s satire is directed at businessmen who had fattened their bellies with the corrupt instruments of the state while the common men suffer.”

“Tond walon ki to ho teemardari!
Aur hum chaata karein imandari?”
(The fat bellied and the corrupt are pampered;
While we lick the sweetener of honesty.)

Josh’s punch line on rising prices he also underpinned corruption:
“Hum agar rishwat nahin lenge.. tau phir khaen ge kya?”
(How will we feed ourselves without taking bribes?)


Josh was fluent in Urdu, Persian, Hindi and English and his poetry collections include the Paighambar-e-Islam, Shula-o-Shabnum, Fikro-Nishat, Sumbul-o-Salasal, Maujood-o-Mufakir, Aroos Adab, Awaz Haq and Dewan Josh. He also wrote prose and published works include Auraq Zareen and Muqallat Josh.

He is remembered by many as the greatest revolutionary poet of the pre-independence period. Some of his revolutionary poems were even broadcast by German radio during the Second World War.

Josh is reputed to have had a masterful command over Urdu and was quite strict about respecting the grammar and rules of the language.”

A Nazm by Josh Malihabadi

aye malihabad ke rangiiN gulistaaN alvidaa
alvidaa aye sarzamiin-e-sub’h-e-KhandaaN alvidaa
alvidaa aye-kishvar-e-she’r-o-shabistaan alvidaa
alvidaa aye jalvagaah-e-husn-e-jaanaN alvida
tere ghar se ek zindaa laash uTh jaane ko hai
aa gale mil leN ki aavaaz-e-jaras aane ko hai
aye malihabad ke rangiiN gulistaaN alvidaa

haai kyaa kyaa nemateN mujhko milii thiiN be-bahaa
yeh khamoshi yeh khule maidaan yeh Thandi hawaa
vaae, ye jaaN bakhsh gustaahai rangiin fizaa
marke bhi inko na bhuulega dil-e-dard aashnaa
mast koyal jab dakan ki vaadiyoN me gaayegi
yeh sub’h ki chhaoN, baguulon ki boh’t yaad aayegii
aye malihabad ke rangiiN gulistaan alvidaa

kal se kaun is baagh ko rangiiN banaane aayega
kaun phooloN ki hansii par muskuraane aayega
kaun is sabze ko sote se jagaane aayega
kaun in paudoN ko siine se lagaane aayega
kaun jaagega qamar ke naaz uThaane ke liye
chaandni raatoN ko zaanuu par sulaane ke liye
aye malihabad ke rangiiN gulistaaN alvidaa

aam ke baaghon meN jab barsaat hogi purkharosh
meri furqat mein lahuu royegi chashm-e-mai-farosh
ras ki buundeN jab uRa dengi gulistaanoN ke hosh
kunj-e-rangiiN mein pukarengi hawayeN Josh Josh
sun ke meraa naam mausam ghamzada ho jayega
ek mahshar sa gulistan mein bapaa ho jayegaa
aye malihabad ke rangii gulistaaN alvidaa



aa gale mil leN Khudaa haafiz gulistaan-e-vatan
aye amaniganj ke maidaan aye jaan-e-vatan
alvidaa ai laalazaar-o-sumbulistaan-e-vatan
assalam aye sohbat-e-rangiin-e-yaaraan-e-vatan
hashr tak rahne na dene tum dakan kii Khaak meN
dafn karna apne shaayar ko vatan ki khaak meN
aye malihabad ke rangiiN gulistaaN alvidaa

In 1925, Josh began to supervise translation work at Osmania University, in the princely state of Hyderabad from where he was exiled for writing a nazm against the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Soon thereafter, he founded the magazine, Kaleem (meaning: interlocutor), in which he openly wrote articles in favour of independence from the British Raj in India. As his reputation spread, he came to be called Shaayar-e-Inquilaab (Poet of the Revolution).

Josh wrote poetry on wine and nature, elegiac verse, quatrains, film songs, an epic poem on Genesis, as well as an impassioned and outspoken autobiography, Yaadon ki Baaraat (‘A Cavalcade of Memories’).

Poets remember Josh as a ‘man who was an institution in himself’. Professor Sahar Ansari, poet and scholar, said,

“Be it a nazm or ghazal, he [Josh] would add some of his cultural philosophy into all these styles. You could talk about him on any topic and you would realise that there was probably no one of his stature among his contemporaries”.

He was also a noted journalist and commentator and edited several literary journals, including the distinguished Aaj Kal.

Josh migrated to Pakistan in 1956. He first stayed in Karachi and rigorously worked for Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu with Maulvi Abdul Haq. Later he moved to Islamabad and stayed there until he died on February 22, 1982 in Islamabad. During this period Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Syed Fakhruddin Balley both were the closest companions while his son Sajjad Hyder Kharosh also accompanied Josh.



3 thoughts on “Remembering – Josh Malihabadi ‘Poet of Revolution’


  2. assalamoalikum,i would like to know the year of his poem “aye malihabad kay” as i thought that he wrote when he was migrating to pk but it wasn’t as the last lines showed DECAN.if somebody know the event behind this poem pls share.i shall be thankful.

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