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Momin Khan Momin “An Observant Poet”, his Life and his Times

Momin Khan Momin, Urdu poet
Mureez-e-ishq par rehmat khuda ki,
Marz badta gaya jun jun dawa ki.

~Momin Khan Momin
Hakim Momin Khan Momin [b.1800 (01)- d.1851] was born to a family of tabibs (traditional Islamic doctor) that originally belonged to Kashmir and that had moved to the Mughal capital Dilli. He not only learnt Persian, Urdu and Arabic at an early age but also attained mastery in Hikmat (medicine of the age), hence the title of ‘Hakim’ in the name. Momin’s father, Hakim Ghulam Nabi Khan, was a court doctor and could afford all the comforts for his son. His education had been thorough and systematic, as is proved by the embarrassing profusion of technical terms pertaining to music, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, etc. in his qasidas. Momin grew up in a luxurious household; later he was to refuse a professorship offer from a Delhi college because he found the salary “peanuts”. The other prominent feature of this household was: Religion. His father was a follower of Shah Abdul Aziz, son of the Shah Waliullah of Delhi.

Momin Khan Momin in his time became an ardent follower of Sayed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly even though he did not directly participate in the Wahhabi movement (although teachings of Syed Ahmed were a combination of the teachings of Shah Waliullah and Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Wahab). Syed Ahmed Shaheed, a warrior who under the influence of Shah Abdul Aziz, toured Afghanistan and the areas under the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh (at that time his kingdom included Kashmir), raising the banner of Jihad and rallying the Pashtun tribes to his banner, recaptured Peshawar, Mardan and surrounding towns and villages.

The influence of religion just doesn’t end there. Momin married a woman who was related to the family of Khwaja Mir Dard (b. 1721 – d. 1785), the sufi saint of Dilli who is regarded as the first truly mystical poet of Urdu language.
Dard had three children; the names of his three surviving children are given as Alam, Barati Beham, and Zinat un-Nisa Begam. Mir Alam, who lived for a long time in Begal, became leader of the convent after his uncle Athar. His son, Mir Muhammad Bakhsh died during his father’s lifetime; a daughter, Amani Begam, had a daughter Umda Begam, who, in turn had a daughter Shams un-Nisa Begam. Her son, Nasir Nadhir with the pen-name Firaq, is the author of the Maikhana-yi Dard, the only comprehensive description of Dard and his family. As to Barati Begam, she died without issue; Zinat un-Nisa was the mother of the poet Muhammad nasir Ranj(d.1845), one of whose daughters was married to the poet Momin Khan Momin(d.1851) who, besides writing charming love poetry has also praised and encouraged the followers of the tariqa Muhammadiyya under Ahmad of Bareilly and Ismail Shahid in their struggle against the Sikh.
~Annemarie Schimmel, Page 91, Pain and Grace A Study of Two Mystical Writers of Eighteenth-Century Muslim

“Momim” literally means a practicing or an observant Muslim.He got that name at the instance of his father's spiritual guide, Shah `Abdul' Aziz. Momin would later exclaime:
Dushman-i-Momin hi rahe buth sada
Mujh say mere naam nai ye kyah kiya

Momin complains that the idol has always been his enemy; this is what his name had done to him.

Momin was primarily a poet of romantic disposition with a lifestyle that matched this very nature. Momin lived a life of a playboy, a role and a journey that started at the tender age of nine. His life was a journey of infatuation and lust. He soaked himself in sexual exploits and indulgences. Momin’s most celebrated romance was with a woman of disrepute, Saheb Ji (who was in herself was acclaimed to be a poet of substantial merit), it is believed that she came to Delhi from the city of Lucknow.
Umar to sari kati ishq butan mein Momin,
Akhiri waqt mein kya khak musalman hongey
[Momin, you spent your entire life loving idols(women)
How then would you become a Muslim at the end (of life).]
Momin composed six masnavi poems, of which three are better-known: Shikayat-e-sitam, Qissa-e-gam, Kause-sami. His poetry is always about —love, beauty, passion, and encompassing suffering. Masnavi-e-Jahadiyya is the one where one can see his religious influences at work. Ab-e-Hayat (Parnassus literally, but water of paradise figuratively) is claimed to be his best work. Momin was an influence on other poets of his time too, Nazir Ahmad an early 19th century urdu poet used to seek literary advice first from Momin and then later from Ghalib.
Momin does not seem to have the depth, the penetrating revelations and enormous range of Ghalib, and yet, Ghalib did famously pay Momin the definitive accolade when he offered to give up his entire kalam (works) in return for just one particular couplet of Momin:
Tum merey pas hote ho goya
Jab koi dusra nahein hota

(You, verily, are with me/when no one else is)
Momin was also a najoomi (astronomer-cum-astrologer) and it is said that he predicted his death in a verse, saying he would end up with broken arms and legs ("dast-o-bazu"). Years later the prediction came true, not in metaphoric sense but ironically in the literal sense, when he fell from a ladder and died nine days after the accident.

The mazar of Momin is located behind the Maulana Azad Medical College on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi. Mir Dard Road leads to the grave of the great Urdu poet Momin and that of Khwaja Mir Dard. A small plot of a mazar surrounded by dodgy palatial buildings and the grave of. The grave of Momin is within a boundary wall, along with the graves of Shah Walliullah.
And so at his final resting place, Momin finds himself in the comforting or discomforting company of all the familiar names, an observant poet among the faithfuls.


Some of the lines penned by Momin:

Na sabar-o-sakun ka ghar mein yaaraa mujko,
Ne kucha-e-yaar mein guzaarzz mugjko,
Seemaab ki tarah ek dam chain nahi,
Betaabi-e-dil ne, aah, maaraa mujko.

Parwaane ko kis liye jalaayaa, ai shama,
Be jurm ko khaak mein milaaya, ai shama,
Sar katne se bhi zara shararat na gai,
Tu ne tau ghazab hi sar uthaaya, ai shama.

Ahsaan kiya agar sataaya tu ne,
Qissa se nibaah ke chhuraaya tu ne,
Karne lage phir wohi samajh ki baaten,
Baare hamen aadmi banaaya tu ne.

Momin, laazim hai wazaa marghub bane,
Jo rung ho aadmi khush-aslub bane,
Kya khirqa-o-ammaama hai Allah, Allah,
Jab shakal bigar gai tau tum khub bane.

Main kya kahun apne muh se kaise tum ho,
Tum aap hi jaante ho, jaise tum ho,
Harjaai aur naa qadar adu ko na kaho,
Kah bethe koi mubaadaa aise tum ho

Yeh hokum Khudaa ka ke qatra mai ka na peeun,
Aur marzi-e-jaanaana ke paimaana peeun,
Tu bhi hai aziz-ekhaatir, Saqi bhi,
Hairaan hun ke phir baada peeun yaa na peeun.

Ab hum pe jo harghari woh jhunjalaate hai,
Altaaf-e-qadim,ah, yaad aate hain,
Thaa yaa to who lutaf, yaa yeh nafrat, Allah,
Log aise bhi duniya mein badal jaate hain.

Momin,nahin zuhad-e-be-riya se umeed,
Kya sheikh hoti kisi duaa se umeed,
Jab raham muhabaat mein sanam ne na kiya,
Kya ishq-e-haqiqi mein Khuda se umeed!

Ro ro ke kaha us se mulaaqaat ki raat,
Ro ro ke katin hijar ki raaten,hehaat!
Ab zikar-e-shab-wasal hai ahbaab se, aur
Rona hi zaar zaar yeh hai kya baat.

-- -0-

Suggested reads and acknowledgements:

"Self and Sovereignty"
Individual and community in south asian islam since 1850
By Ayesha Jalal

Hakeem Momin Khan Momin: Personality and Poetry
By Ikram Barelvi
A review

A Dictionary of Indian Literature
By Sujit Mukherjee

Abject condition of mazars of Urdu poets in Delhi Mazars of Delhi poets... a grave story.

Masterpieces of Urdu Rabalyat
By K.C. Kanda.


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