Faiz in terms of essence that emanates from his poetry shoulders the responsibility of those chosen few social intellectuals who out of their mystic and not sadistic predisposition have endeavored to reform collective social conscience. Brass of such humanists could be Persian poets Saadi and Rumi in particular and Iqbal in general, whose poetry in all its peculiarity of modes has culminated to one point that is need for consolidation of ‘individual inner-self’ and ‘spread of social justice’. In that social justice though should be prevalent but if not then inner self should be self-restrained enough to absorb discomforts posed by social injustice in the very sense that is in accord with mystical tinge as manifested by absorption against social cruelties. In the very sense, Faiz is remembered as ‘Malaamati Sufi’ or the lamenting Sufi by an intellectual of our own times named Ashfaq Ahmed (late).
Faiz’s social sensitivity was though considered akin to socialist outlook, and socialism in turn was mistaken as atheism; yet his premise abetted to that of Iqbal’s where the latter asserted ‘jis khait se dehqan ko muyassir na ho rozi, us khait kay her khosha-e-gandum ko jala do’ (set at fire each bunch of cotton of the field that fails to yield bread for the cultivator). Talk of socialism or Marxism in other version, if it were the only other name of atheism; Marx could have never been found saying ‘we portray God in our own image’; or phrasing his belief in the life hereafter asserting ‘the life in hereafter is where man will be unmanned’. Naturally, one talks of existence of God or certainty of the hereafter affirmatively only when one believes in these two phenomena; especially in God. However, His existence might not be felt in its fullest implication of Muslims’ Allah or omni-present for that matter.
Probably, as Marx by some of his cruel critiques was charged of some mental illness whereby he was found forced to remain intellectually intoxicated. Intoxicated seeing misery of English labor toiling in factories serving like ‘stomachs’ haply that they could eke out bread; a peanut for their children meanwhile that their capitalist paid tax to government largely composed of ‘negative wage’ (Marxian terms in inverted commas). Same wise, Faiz while demonstrating sympathy for the working class ‘jab kabhi bikta hay bazaar mein mazdoor ka gosht’ (whenever laborer’s flesh is auctioned in the open market) or through his ‘lahu ka suragh’ (inkling of blood) and also for his connections with Masco was taken to be as Marxist or socialist; simply an atheist by a handful of critical Mullas. Well, an atheist could never address God in the words ‘o Rabba sacheya’ (o the truthful God)! This is apart from his Mersiya (mournful poem) in favor of Hazrat Imam Hussein which might have been written on request.
Faiz though maintained a far smaller intellectual canvas than Iqbal did, but unlike Iqbal, Faiz followed a universal approach. Iqbal like Maulana Altaf Hussein Hali sounded constraining himself to Muslims of the sub-continent except for a couple of Persian poems addressed to Arabs or Afghans. Whereas, Faiz cried for every crippled soul; yet he practiced a sublime pedigree of self-absorption at the same time (Iqbal never had an interface with such scenario though). For instance, during early fifties when Faiz was imprisoned for a number of times, he was found calm and composed though through his poetry as an unstoppable expression, lamented the cruelty against him in ‘Zindaan Naama’ (to the jail) or in poems like ‘aaj bazaar mein pa bajoolaan chalo’ (let’s tread in the market with chained feet today) or ‘hui phir imtehaan-e-eshq ki tadbeer bismillah’ (blithe, here comes stratagem to test my passion). So much so, his elder brother Tufail went to see Faiz in Hyderabad jail and instantly expired in the hands of poised outlook of once much pampered son-like younger brother. Much of Faiz’s poetry was composed either during imprisonment (Montgomery and Central jail) or in hospitals which very well validates his insurmountable endurance.
What rendered Faiz second most popular poet after Iqbal was his diction, peculiarly unique expression and the message behind his verse. Faiz ascended from the love for the beloved to the passion for the ‘unloved’; ‘mujh se pehli see muhabbat meray mahboob na maang’ (o my beloved, do not require from me the passion that I once endeared and endured). Iqbal did the same decades ago by mounting from individual self to the collective self of the whole Muslim community; from ‘Naala-e-yateem’ (cry of the orphan) to ‘Masjid-e-Qartaba’ (mosque of Cordova, Spain). Accidentally, he like Iqbal was a great admirer of Hafiz Sherazi and Ghalib; except that Iqbal opposed theological connotations of Hafiz in Asraar-e-Khudi (mysteries of self). This preference could be discerned from Faiz’s vote for Hafiz’s verses to be inscribed in the beginning of almost each of his books. For the latter, Faiz chose the name of his first ever book ‘Naqsh Feryadi’ (beseeching emblem) from Urdu verse of Ghalib ‘naqsh feryadi hae kis ki shoakhi-e-tehreer ka’ (whose alacrity of diction presents this beseeching emblem?).
Some critiques fruitlessly assert that whole of the remaining poetry of Faiz is just a paraphrasing of his first book ‘Naqsh Feryadi’. If so, these critiques ought to be reminded of Iqbal whose entire poetry gravitates around a single concept called ‘self’ in Asraar-e-Khudi (mysteries of self) or inversely around ‘no-self’ in Ramooz-e-be khudi (inklings of no-self) yet the common denominator after all remains to be self! As a result, Faiz reckoned Iqbal a great Sufi through his poem ‘Iqbal’; ‘aya hamaray dais mein ik khush nawa faqeer’ (emerged in our abode a humble-voiced dervish).
Simply, to pay tribute to Faiz, one could just read between the lines what that social intellectual worded in his poetry; lest true humanism evokes in our selves. In capsulation, our nation and especially our leaders need to contextualize his poem ‘Subh-e-Azaadi’ (dawn of freedom) where he laments that the objective of obtaining this piece of land has not yet been achieved; present drone attacks is one noisy and bloody evidence!