Razi Haider did not utilize his poetic talent until the fourth decade of his life when an argument over poetry with a friend led him to composing verse. Like many other poets, he too started by writing ghazals. He published his first collection Baydeyar Sham in 1995. But at a later stage, he developed a taste for free verse which, he says, has unlimited boundaries.
“You are at liberty with whatever you write in free verse. Limitations in poetic expression spoil the thought to some extent,” he says. His hobby is to play with metaphors and similes while his profession (research) demands concrete words enveloped in hardcore truth. But the truth cannot be found alone. It is woven into fiction, which he exposes through his professional acumen. When asked how he copes with these two different levels of expressions, he says, “I take turns writing poetry and doing research.”
Born on February 5, 1946, in Peeli Bheet, a small city of Uttar Pradesh, he comes from a family of religious scholars and writers. His great grandfather Maulana Wasi Ahmad Muhaddis-i-Soorti was a Gujarati who travelled from Surat to Delhi to Kanpur and Farangi Mehal to quench his thirst for knowledge. Later, in 1882, he decided to settle in Peeli Bheet. His great grandfather was a writer too. He has written 22 books regarding Hadith. Razi Haider’s father, Maulana Hakim Qari Ahmad Peeli Bheeti, who has written 27 books on history and Hadith, migrated to Pakistan in 1947 when Haider was a year old.
Razi Haider received Quranic education from his father. He passed middle school from Irania Technical High School and matriculated from Hussaini High School, Nazimabad, Karachi. During his graduation from Jinnah College, he started writing articles for daily Hurriyat and Anjam. He proved to be a prolific writer. After graduation, an opportunity took him to the Hurriyat where Maulana Hassan Musanna Nadvi recommended him for the post of sub-editor. Trained under the tutelage of Afsar Azar in Hurriyat he excelled in the art of translation. His interest in Pakistan studies arose when he was assigned interviews of people related to the freedom struggle and the Quaid-i-Azam.
In 1981, Razi Haider joined the Quaid-i-Azam Academy as a research fellow and carved out his way to the post of deputy director of this prestigious institution. He says his training as a newsman played a vital role in his success. He chose 90 years of the freedom struggle (1857-1947) for his research. The first of his 10 books, Quaid-i-Azam Kay Bahattar Saal won him the Presidential Award in 1982.
His other books include Qarardad-i-Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam: Khatoot Kay Ainay Mein and Ruttie Jinnah (a biography), which are masterpieces that speak volumes about his talent and hardwork in collecting the facts.
He is not only a writer but also a resource person for many media organisations. The TV serial “Jinnah Se Quaid” was based on his original research.
Books & Authors recently had a brief chat with Khwaja Razi Haider:
Q: It is being said these days that the Quaid-i-Azam wanted to establish a secular state while some oppose this. How do you see it?
A: Those who call it a secular country, specifically quote the speech of Mr Jinnah, which he delivered on August 11, 1947. “They take a secular state for a country without religion, but I take it for multi religious establishment.” For the Quaid-i-Azam, it was a way between the two extremes. Let me tell you one thing that now the controversy has lost some ground to a research by Professor Sharif al Mujahid. He has proved that the controversial part of the statement was a verbatim for a clause of the Meesaq-i-Madina (the Pact of Madina) and referred to a book of Dr Hamidullah, Wasiqajat-i-Nabvi as proof of his claim.
Q: How come Pakistan is not what the Quaid-i-Azam and other freedom leaders had conceived it to be?
A: From the very beginning of the freedom movement, we were not disciplined. We were scattered in groups lacking a common platform. The Quaid-i-Azam was the first leader who gathered the Muslims on a platform with a unified stand, introduced them as a nation and got them an independent country. He had achieved the basic target, but time snatched Mohammad Ali Jinnah from the newborn nation, leaving a gap between the physical and spiritual realities of the nation. His flourishing idea could not take roots in the newly-established Pakistan. We failed in keeping intact the spirit of the freedom struggle in Pakistan.
Q: Why did Quaid-i-Azam’s companions lag behind in managing this post-independence crisis?
A: One of the main reasons for this was the internal conflict in the Muslim League, which, after Jinnah’s death left little space for people to establish themselves as a true nation. Liaquat Ali Khan too was assassinated in the early days of Pakistan. Khwaja Nazimuddin was removed from the governor-generalship and the Muslim League was divided into small groups.
Q : What happened after the crisis of political leadership?
A: The civil bureaucracy took up the reins of the country, but they could not continue for long and the role of the civil bureaucracy ended with the dissolution of parliament by Ghulam Mohammad. Since then no democracy could be established in its true spirit because the rulers have been demanding public loyalty to them and not to the state. This approach has weakened the democratic spirit of the people. Unfortunately, our post-partition politicians followed in the footsteps of the bureaucracy. They served their vested interest and exploited the nations for their personal gains.
Q: What was the role of the Ulema after this political disintegration?
A: It is history that when in May 1936, the Quaid-i-Azam set up the first parliamentary board in Lahore, the Ulema of Deoband, including Maulana Ahmad Saeed Dehalvi, Mufti Kifayatullah, Maulana Ahmad Hussain Madani, opposed him and left the Muslim League.
However, at the end of 1938, when the Patna Session was held, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi sent a delegation to assure the Quaid of their support in the reorganisation of the League. But after that there was a long silence. Meanwhile, Maulana Shaukat Ali had announced his support to Mr Jinnah. The Khilafat Movement activists, including Maulana Jamal Mian Farangi Mehali, Maulana Allah Bakhsh Yusufi of the Frontier and Maulana Abdul Hamid Badayuni followed suit and joined the Muslim League.
In 1945, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani called a conference in Meerath and Maulana Abdul Hamid Badayuni, Pir Jamat Ali Shah and the others held a moot in Banaras. So the scholars remained divided from the very beginning and failed to play an effective role in this regard. They are still divided.
Q: Some quarters allege that the inclusion of East Bengal in Pakistan was not a wise plan and link it to the fall of Dhaka. What was the logic behind that plan?
A: Bengal was not a part of the Pakistan Resolution of 1940. It was included in 1947 when the Muslim Legislature Convention demanded it at a convention in April 1946. Thus, through an amendment, Bengal was included in the scheme. It was not the fault of the people who drafted the plan. Bengali Muslims chose to be part of that resolution.
Q: how can we now overcome our shortcomings to come together as a true nation?
A: There is no other way except for a revolution from the grass roots. The death of merit has paved the way for personal interests. Only a revolution like that which took place in Iran can unify us as a nation.