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First of all I would like to thank my dear friends Syed Azeem, Sara Ebraham, Hameed Bashani, Ameer Jaffri and Ashfaq Hussian for inviting me to this memorable Faiz Mela. I feel honored to be one of Faiz’s admirers and become part of this wonderful celebration, which is for Easterners and Westerners alike.

I never met Faiz but I still feel as if I know him. It is not different than my feeling that I know Meer Taqi Meer, Asalullah Khan Ghalib, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre although I never met any one of them. That feeling comes from my having read their poetry, studied their masterpieces and read books about their personal and creative lives. I spent long evenings contemplating their philosophy and tried to integrate their insights into life into my own lifestyle. But in one way my knowing Faiz is different than my knowing Meer, Ghalib, Freud, Russell and Sartre, because I met many people who had met Faiz. Such people ranged from my father Abdul Basit who was Faiz’s student in Amritsar India to my friend Ashfaq Hussain who became the editor of an Urdu magazine Urdu International after his consultation with Faiz. Urdu International played a significant role in the development of my friendship with Ashfaq. When he was compiling an anthology of all the writings about Faiz created in the West, I not only wrote an essay about Faiz’s poetry but also interviewed Ashfaq in detail about his encounters with Faiz, an interview that later on became part of his anthology about Faiz.

          All those people I encountered who had met Faiz had wonderful things to say about his philosophy and personality. The more I listened to their stories and their interactions with Faiz, the more I came to believe that he was a socialist saint. I found that an interesting synthesis because I know many socialists who are not saints and many saints who are not socialists. It seems that Faiz was able to integrate a wide range of such characteristics that usually do not co-exist. It was like a miracle, but then Faiz was able to perform many creative and political miracles in his lifetime.

          Faiz was a revolutionary in his philosophy but a teacher by personality. He was successful in sharing his ideas in a gentle, kind and compassionate way. As a student of human psychology I am as impressed by his personality as his philosophy. I have met many revolutionaries and communists who are angry young men and who are always willing and ready to get into angry debates and bitter fights with people from other philosophies and ideologies but Faiz always kept his composure. In my opinion it was because he had not only a humanist philosophy but also a humanist personality, which is a rare combination. His personality was motherly and nurturing. That might be one reason that he is respected by people from all walks of life.

          The thing that impresses me the most about Faiz Ahmed Faiz is his diversity. He was a versatile genius. Although he was a poet in Urdu, he was a great scholar of English and Arabic. Although he lived in India and Pakistan he had a keen interest in the works of European, Latin American and African writers.  Faiz had discovered the secrets of human existence and knew how a minority belonging to the privileged class has been exploiting the majority of the deprived people for centuries. In his gentle tone he wanted to inspire downtrodden people to speak up and fight for their rights. He knew that whispers could be as effective as screams.

          It is not surprising that Faiz became a symbol of human rights and the struggle against exploitation. He knew that peace could not be lasting if it was not married to justice. He is admired and adored not only by Asians but also by people from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. He has become an ambassador of Pakistan to the world.

          Faiz was a shy and humble man but his poetry was so powerful that people from other disciplines promoted his message. When his poems were sung by famous singer Noor Jehan and his verses painted by the famous artist Saadeqain, he became known to people from all religious and cultural traditions. He became so famous in his lifetime that when a European woman asked his address he said, “Just write ‘Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Pakistan’ and I will get the letter.” She did not know that he had won the hearts of Pakistani postmen by writing poems for them when they were on strike and every postman in the country knew him.

          Now that Faiz has been introduced into Canada, I hope more and more people become inspired to read his poetry, which has been translated into English. For me Faiz is a symbol of justice and peace and we need poets like him more now than ever before, as human exploitation is unfortunately increasing rather than decreasing and millions of innocent children are dying all over the world every year because of lack of food and health care while billions of dollars are spent on war. Even in Canada many children live below the poverty line and many single mothers suffer because of poor living conditions.

          In the end let me share with you one of my favourite poems of Faiz. This is Azfar Hussain’s translation from the book Reading about the World.


Speak, your lips are free

Speak, it is your own tongue

Speak, it is your own body

Speak, your life is still yours


See how in the blacksmith’s shop

The flame burns wild, the iron glows red

The locks open their jaws

And every chain begins to break


Speak, this brief hour is long enough

Before the death of body and tongue

Speak , ‘cause the truth is not dead yet

Speak, speak, whatever you must speak


After reading this poem, I realized that Faiz was not only a socialist saint, he was also a social therapist and knew that speaking and sharing one’s truth is the first step towards healing and liberation. Like a psychotherapist helps his patients to share their truth in the therapy hour, the poet inspires his readers to share their truth publicly. As each human being achieves liberation by breaking their inner chains and opening their hearts, all of humanity liberates itself. Faiz belonged to that group of poets and philosophers who dreamt of liberating all of humanity. He could not only see drops in the ocean but also see an ocean in each drop.

          Faiz was not only a socialist saint but also a social therapist.


Thank you.