Professor Faruq Fayaz is a veteran historian who served at the Department of History, University of Kashmir, for more than three decades. His areas of interest range from Kashmir History to Folk Literature of Kashmir to Kashmiri Literature in general. Za’l Dabb (Al-Hayat, Srinagar: 2019) is an important anthology of research papers by Professor Faruq wherein he has attempted readings of some of the most important prose writers and poets of Kashmiri literature; therefore, the work should be treated as an important academic contribution to the history of criticism in Kashmiri literature and critical readings of its different genres.
As the author of the book is himself a trained historian and sociologist, readings of different samples of Kashmiri literature in Za’l Dabb show it in almost all the papers that his approach of reading is rooted in his background of modern theories of historiography, literary theory and sociology. While trying to understand the personality of a writer and his writings, Prof Faruq has successfully and effectively used all the internal and external sources and available data for arriving at a logical conclusion about the writer and his/her writings. All this would not have been possible without his engagement with modern theory and perspectives of criticism, particularly his formal training in using literary data for understanding historical and sociological perspectives carried by a piece of writing.
The book is divided into two sections: part one has nine papers commenting on and analysing different prose writers including Mohi- ud Din Hajini, Ameen Kamil, Akhtar Mohiud Din, YousfTaing, Iqbal Nazki, G N Aatash and Aziz Hajini, and part two discussing poets like ZindaKaul, Mahjur, Josh, Samad Mir, Abdul Ahad Azad, Rasa Javidani, Dina Nath Nadim, Fazil Kashmiri, Firaq, Rehman Rahi, Margub, Khayal, Nasim Shafayi, Shahnaz Rashid and many others. All the studies and readings are academic in nature and follow a proper method and approach for analysing the select samples of prose and poetry.
These prose writers and poets are no less than milestones and signposts of modern Kashmiri prose and literature as any discussion on modern Kashmiri literature and culture without reference to these icons would be incomplete. Mohiud Din Hajini, Rahi, Kamil, Khayal, Akhtar Mohiud Din, Margub and others define the twentieth and twenty-first century cultural and literary landscape of Kashmir, hence the word “milestones” in the title of this article.
Well-equipped with modern theories of reading history and literature, Prof Faruq’s collection of papers includes readings which are historical, sociological, comparative and philosophical in nature, and has also such readings which study stylistic features of different Kashmiri writers and are also about the art of translation in some of them. Prior to his analysis and interpretation of any select sample, Prof Faruq Fayaz has successfully and effectively theorised his subject and processed the data well for analysis. His objectivity and fairness of judgment is through and through visible in Za’l Dabb, something which is generally missed in books of criticism in Kashmiri language.
Having said this, Za’l Dabb as a book of readings and criticism offers a wide range of perspectives on Kashmiri language and literature and could be counted among the best pieces of academic writings available so far on Kashmiri literature, given the systematic and coherent coverage of writings and writers backed by theory and praxis. While having done all this successfully, the perspectives of Professor Faruq Fayaz are more important as his own voice and perspective throughout the book demonstrates it to the reader what Professor-(ly) readings of literary data and samples is all about; therefore, Za’l Dabb transcends academic writing and becomes a literary piece of writing itself as the author has presented his readings in a very chaste, clear and aesthetically appealing and heart-touching language.
The Introduction part of the book titled “Panani Kath” is an important piece of writing as it not only sets the stage for whatever one expects to read in the forthcoming pages but it also builds a theoretical idea of reading literature or attempting criticism of a literary piece of writing; this is something which writers in Kashmiri very rarely do. Faruq Fayaz emphasises on the need of “familiarising oneself with the modern approaches and trends of criticism and theory” (10) if one steps into the field. He conducts a surgery of the weaknesses that the genre of critical appreciation in literature in Kashmiri faces. He says, “The second reason behind the absence of a healthy criticism in Kashmiri language is the dominance of the creative language in this field here which most of the times is poetic, full of affectation and symbolic”( 9); therefore, minimising the scope for proper internal and external evidences in a text. What, however, is very appealing about the book is that Prof Fayaz has shown total loyalty to the theoretic principles developed by him in the Introduction throughout the book.
No reading or act of critical appreciation could be perfectly set in motion if the reader/ critic does not have good research objectives/questions in his mind. Za’l Dabb could be read by the scholars and students of Kashmiri literature for developing the skills of asking valid questions and exploration of the same for arriving at a conclusion thereof. All the papers in the book have set objectives and grounded in some of the best questions ever asked by critics in Kashmiri language and literature. In his paper on Mohi-ud-Din-Hajini, Fayaz asks these questions to actually process his analysis: 1) Was Mohiud Din Hajini a patriot or a nationalist? 2) Was he the flagbearer of Kashmiriyat in political sense of the word? 3) Why were the boundaries of his cultural and political thought different and conflicting? and 4) Was he a sympathiser of the Islamic movement or a well-wisher of Arab Nationalism? (38). When a researcher has questions like these at his disposal, answers are bound to follow through a proper analysis of the select data and its exploration.
While some readers attempt to force meanings upon writings, Prof Fayaz follows the method of demonstration backed by a systematic approach. Was Amin Kamil influenced by the Psychological Theories of Freud or the literary exploration of the instinct of sex by D.H. Lawrence? Prof Fayaz has an opinion that is rooted in the culture of Kashmir. He, after raising the above-cited question, writes: “After the WW2 (1939-1944), although sex was the dominant theme/ subject of the world literature, yet Amin Kamil has been his own cultural and regional self while writing about such themes and issues. He is the advocate of a healthy sexually balanced life instead of just focusing on the animalistic side of human nature. He represents the feelings of Kashmiri females in such a way that it instead of becoming the representative of sexual hunger becomes a delicate and aesthetic condition of human psyche. Kamil neither talks about sex as if it were a religion as was done by D.H. Lawrence, nor does he portray the parts of women body in such a way that they create a sexual storm in the mind of a reader as is found in the writings of Manto; he, rather, creates impressions through his characters in such a way that promote healthy social values instead of causing a sexual commotion in the society…”(57). What is important in comments like this is the attitude of the critic towards literature and reading becomes quite evident but the stand that he takes is not without a justification from the text being analysed.
History and Literature have a relationship, though History has a scientific approach of dealing with events and developments in a period of time or with reference to a particular space. How do we treat literary data produced in a particular time and space? Would a historian be comfortable with using the literary data for his understanding of different events and developments of that time and space? Prof Fayaz has raised this question in his paper on Akhtar Mohiud Din’s writings and discussed his short stories as the mirror of Kashmir history. He writes: “Any standard literary creation is not a direct eye-witness account/narrative of some historical events/ conditions; it is rather a creative representation and the personal attempt of a writer aimed at creative representation of the historical and contemporary truths associated with the events.” (67)
In other words, what Fayaz shows in this paper is that while a piece of literature is not History in the formal sense of the discipline but literary data may always be treated as a symbolic, metaphoric and literary representation of all the personal, collective and national events and historical developments that a particular time and space has experienced as poets, prose writers, playwrights, novelists and essayists can hardly ever escape the mindscape and socio-political/economic landscape of their times.
Almost all the papers show the same pattern of approach and analysis and show it to the maximum that Fayaz Sahab has benefitted from writings across the disciplines for writing Za’l Dabb. However, one would appreciate if Eastern Critical Approaches (Persio-Arabic, Urdu, Sanskrit) would also have been used as Kashmiri language and literature is after all closer to these literatures in terms of culture and sensitivities.
As it is not within the scope of this article to cover all the papers of Za’l Dabb, it would not be out of place to say that Professor Faruq Fayaz has produced one of the finest samples of readings and criticism in the history of criticism in Kashmiri literature. His method and approach of reading shall definitely help students, scholars and writers working on Kashmiri literature. It would be, according to my limited knowledge on Kashmiri criticism, perhaps the first such book that would formally acquaint Kashmiri readers with modern theoretic insights and tools and techniques thereof as generally criticism becomes the victim of overuse and abuse of adjectives in Kashmiri writings.
Concluding, Za’l Dabb is definitely in the league of writings of Jiyal Lal Kaul, MohiUd Din Hajini, G N Gawhar, Moti Lal Saqi, RehmanRahi, Khayal and other great critics in Kashmiri language and literature who read from global literature but chose to produce knowledge in their mother tongue. As they say that some books carry information, some books convert information into knowledge and some convert knowledge into wisdom about a subject, Professor Faruq Fayaz has all the three in Za’l Dabb.
Thank you, Professor for such a wonderful gift to Kashmiri language and literature.