Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi

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Prof. Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi

By Afzal Usmani

In 2006, when I started the series “Karwaan-e-Aligarh” on AMUNetwork, I started looking for literature on Aligarh Movement and people associated with it. The first thing I started looking was a series of Fikro-Nazar, “Namwaran-e-Aligarh” which was published in 80s and 90s from AMU Aligarh. On personal recommendation of my senior Janab Naved Masood Sahab, I started looking for Naqoosh-Shakhsiyat Number too. It took me almost more than a year to get hold of a copy of the journal from a place where I never expected and went there unintentionally for window shopping. This was the first time I got the opportunity to read the writings of Prof. Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi. His article, “Aligarh ki chand Shkhsiyaat” was very interesting. Even though he is not known for biographical sketches, but his personal accounts of those individuals mesmerized me. I am not a student of Urdu criticism and poetry so cannot comment much on his best skills for which he is well known and well respected in the literary circles. Prof. Shaharyar, the fourth person in Urdu to received Gyaanpeeth (Janpeeth), highest literary award of India is a student of Prof. Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi. Here is a brief life sketch of a literary giant whose contributions were ignored in his life and was not even promoted to professorship at department of Urdu, Aligarh Msulim University. After his sudden demise at an early age of 51, his Alma Mater finally recognized his contributions to Urdu literature and realized their mistakes and promoted him to professorship posthumously.

Eminent Aligarian, Urdu critic and poet Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi, who was instrumental in revivifying both criticism and poetry in the 60’s, was born on August 7, 1927 at a small village Seedha Sultanpur of Azamgarh in a learned and religious family of Maulana Mohammad Shafi, founder of Madarsatul Islah, Saraimeer, Azamgarh. Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi was youngest to his siblings Maulana Azizur Rahman Islahi and Maulana Abdur Rahman Perwaz Islahi. Both of his siblings were eminent alumni of Madarsatul Islah, founded by his father Maulana Mohammad Shafi. Maulana Azizur Rahman Islahi used to write in the monthly journal of Madarsatul Islah “Al-Islah”. Maulana Perwaaz Islahi was a prolific writer and wrote many articles and books including “Makhdoom Ali Maahami – Hayaat-Asaar wa Afkar and Mufti Sadruddin Azurdah-Shakhsiyat, Ilmi aur Adabi Kaarnaamey. Maulana Mohammad Shafi founded an association 'Anjuman Islah ul Muslimim' (The Association for the Reform of the Muslims) in 1906 with a view to reform the Muslim society of the area. It worked for the reform of the Muslim society from the many religious and social evils from which it suffered. The credit for cleansing Muslim society of this region from the many social evils and religious innovations undoubtedly goes to this Association. It was, however, felt that for achieving durable results and making permanent impact on the society, it would be necessary to make arrangements for the dissemination of correct and authentic religious education to the people at large. It was therefore decided that for making authentic religious teachings accessible to the people, a Madrasah should be established. It would not only cater for the educational needs of the community but it could also be used as an effective tool for reforming the society. This led to the establishment of Madarsatul Islah, Saraimeer, Azamgarh. This spark of reform got attention of scholars like Allama Shibli Nomani and Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi and they also joined the movement.


R-L:Mr. Naseem Quraishi, Prof. Masood H. Khan, Mr. Inam Elahi, Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi, Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, Prof. Khalilur Rahman Azmi

Khalil-ur-Rehman studied Arabic, Persian, Urdu and other subjects of oriental education at his village as per the family tradition and tradition of the time and the region. Even though his family had a bend for religious and traditional study but after having completed his early education from his village, contrary to his elder siblings, young Khalil-ur-Rehman went to Azamgarh to pursue modern education. He passed his High School Examinations in 1945 from Shibli College Azamagarh which was very recently became a degree college in 1940. His keen interest in studies prompted him to join Aligarh Muslim University from where he graduated in 1948 and passed his M.A. (Urdu) examination with distinction. He secured the first position. It was during this time that he was involved in giving tuitions to Ralph Russell, who was also in Aligarh at that time. Ralph Russell later became a well known British Urdu scholar and wrote several papers and volumes in Urdu. Khalil-ur-Rehman was awarded Ph. D. in Urdu in 1957 by Aligarh Muslim University titled Urdu Mein Tarraqipasand Adabi Tahrik.

with Prof. Waheed Akhtar


R-L:, Prof. Khalilur Rahman Azmi, Dr, Moin Ahsan Jazbi, Mr. Naseem Quraishi, unknown, unknown, Col. Bashir Hussain Zaidi, unknown, Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor

Khalil-ur-Rehman Azmi started his career as a journalist. In 1951, he was appointed as the Editor of the Muslim University Gazette on temporary basis. He had a brief but rewarding stint as a journalist for two years and in 1953, he joined the depart¬ment of Urdu as a lecturer. In 1966, he was appointed as the reader and served the university in this capacity till his death. Aligarh Muslim University conferred pro¬fessorship on him posthumously as a recognition of his invaluable and sustained contribution to literature and teaching. He died at the age of 51 years and was survived by his wife Rashida, three Sons Kamran, Salman and Adnan and one daughter Huma. Dr. Salman Khalil is working with JN Medical College, Aligarh Muslim University.

KR Azmi RR Khan Sherwani

Prof.Azmi (back) with his friends Prof. Mukhtaruddin Arzoo, Prof. R.R.K. Sherwani (back)

Khalilur Rahman Azmi1

Prof.Azmi (back) with his friends Prof. Mukhtaruddin Arzoo

Khalil-ur-Rehman Azrni blazed a new trail in Urdu criticism as he insisted upon the analysis of literary and aesthetic aspects of a piece of art instead of paraphrasing its theme or highlighting its social perspective in detail — the hall mark of criticism in 60’s and 70’s. He was a conscientious critic with strong intellectual conviction and values and adhered to them wit~iout any regard for widely accepted views. With the publication of his monograph “Muqadam-e-Kalam-e-Aatish” (1948), he opened a new vista for Urdu criticism. He wrote many articles on classical and modern poets and discussed the nature of poetry and gave ample illustrations from contemporary poems to substantiate his arguments. The clarity of his thoughts is evident through-out the discussion. His three books Fikr-o-Fan (1956), Zavia-e-Nigah (1966) and Mazanzeen-e-Nav (1977) bore an eloquent testimony to his scholarship and literary sensibility. Candid analysis and terseness of expression in the main feature of his writing. His doctoral thesis “Urdu mien Tarraqi Pasand Tahreek” is a vertiable treasure house, presenting an indepth and objective appraisal of the progressive movement in Urdu which fired the imagination of a large number of writers in Cudu. Khalilur Rehman also edited two books. Intikahab-e-Kalam-e-Zafar and Naive Na:am ka Safar. Khalilur Rehman’s contribution to literary criticism can be summed up in the words what Eliot has said about Yeats: that Khalilur Rehman Azmi, the man and the critic is a part of consciousness of his age and the age cannot be understood without him. As a literary critic he is always instrumental, rational and detached and his writings reveal his outstanding literary facility and insights.

Aiy Aasman Aasman
Aasman Aiy Aasma
Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - I
Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - Vol-I
Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - II


*maiN Gautam nahiiN huuN
magar maiN bhii jab ghar se niklaa thaa
yeh sochtaa thaa
ki maiN apne hii aap ko DhuunDhne jaa rahaa huuN
kisi peR ki chhaoN meN
maiN bhii baiThungaa

ek din mujhe bhii koii gyaan hogaa
magar jism kii aag jo ghar se lekar chalaa thaa
sulagtii rahii
ghar ke baahar havaa tez thii
aur bhii yeh bhaRaktii rahii
ek ek peR jalkar huaa raakh

maiN aise sahraa meN ab phir rahaa huuN
jahaaN maiN hii maiN huun
jahaaN meraa saayaa hai
saaye ka saayaa
aur duur tak
bas Khalaa hii Khalaa hai



ruKh me.n gard-e-malaal thii kyaa thii
ruKh me.n gard-e-malaal thii kyaa thii
haasil-e-maah-o-saal thii kyaa thii
[gard-e-malaal=dust of sorrow; haasil=result]
[maah-o-saal=months and years]
ek suurat sii yaad hai ab bhii
aap apanii misaal thii kyaa thii
mere jaanib uThii thii ko_ii nigaah
ek mubaham savaal thii kyaa thii
[jaanib=towards; mubaham=vague]
us ko paakar bhii us ko paa na sakaa
justajuu-e-jamaal thii kyaa thii
[justajuu=search; jamaal=beauty]
dil me.n thii par labo.n tak aa na sakii
aarazuu-e-visaal thii kyaa thii
[aarazuu=desire; visaal=union]
umr bhar me.n bas ek baar aa_ii
sa'at-e-laazavaal thii kyaa thii
[sa'at=moment; laazavaal=imperishable]
ko_ii Khvaahaa.N na thaa ki jins-e-hunar
ek muflis kaa maal thii kyaa thii

jalataa nahii.n aur jal rahaa huu.N
jalataa nahii.n aur jal rahaa huu.N
kis aag me.n mai.n pighal rahaa huu.N
mafaluuj hai.n haath-paa.Nv mere
phir zahan me.n kyuu.N chal rahaa huu.N
raa_ii kaa banaa ke ek parvat
ab is pe Khud hii phisal rahaa huu.N
kis haath se haath mai.n milaa_uu.N
ab apane hii haath mal rahaa huu.N
kyo.n aa_iinaa baar baar dekhuu.N
mai.n aaj nahii.n jo kal rahaa huu.N
ab kaun saa dar rahaa hai baaqii
us dar se kyo.n mai.n nikal rahaa huu.N
qadamo.n ke tale to kuchh nahii.n hai
kis chiiz ko mai.n kuchal rahaa huu.N
ab ko_ii nahii.n rahaa sahaaraa
mai.n aaj se phir sambhal rahaa huu.N
ye barf haTaao mere sar se
mai.n aaj kuchh aur jal rahaa huu.N

tarz jiine kaa sikhatii hai mujhe
tarz jiine kaa sikhatii hai mujhe
tashnagii zahar pilaatii hai mujhe
[tarz=style; tashnagii=thirst]
raat bhar rahatii hai kis baat kii dhun
na jagaatii hai na sulaatii hai mujhe
ruuThataa huu.N jo kabhii duniyaa se
zindagii aake manaatii hai mujhe
aa_iinaa dekhuu.N to kyuu.Nkar dekhuu.N
yaad ik shaKhs kii aatii hai mujhe
ba.nd karataa huu.N jo aa.Nkhe.n kyaa kyaa
roshanii sii nazar aatii hai mujhe
ko_ii mil jaaye to raastaa kaT jaaye
apanii parachaa_ii Daraatii hai mujhe
ab to ye bhuul gayaa kis kii talab
des parades phiraatii hai mujhe
kaise ho Khatm kahaanii Gam kii
ab to kuchh nii.nd sii aatii hai mujhe

dil kii dil me.n na rah jaaye ye kahaanii kah lo
dil kii dil me.n na rah jaaye ye kahaanii kah lo
chaahe do harf likho chaahe zabaanii kah lo
[zabaanii = verbally]
mai.n ne marane kii duaa maa.Ngii vo puurii na hu_ii
bas is ko mere jiine kii kahaanii kah lo
sar_sar-e-vaqt u.Daa le ga_ii ruudaad-e-hayaat
vahii avaraaq jinhe.n ahad-e-javaanii kah lo
[sar_sar-e-vaqt = winds of time; rudaad-e-hayaat = tale of life]
[avaraaq = pages; ahad-e-javaanii = youthful period]
tum se kahane kii na thii baat magar kah baiThaa
ab ise merii tabiyat kii ravaanii kah lo
vahii ik qissaa zamaane ko meraa yaad rahaa
vahii ik baat jise aaj puraanii kah lo
ham pe jo guzarii hai bas us ko raqam karate hai.n
aap_biitii kaho yaa marsiyaa_Khvaanii kah lo

Khalilur Rehman Azmi broke a new ground in Urdu poetry as he rejected the maudlin nation of love and asserted his freedom from the bondage of antiquated diction of poetry. A new aesthetic sense, an attraction towards the mystical and abstract, an insistence on the personal view point arid a certain freedom of form and content are the salient features of his poetry. This aside, an intense poetic sensitivity is the main feature of his poetry. His three collections of lyrics and poem are Kaghzi Pairehan (1955), Naya Ahad Nama (1966) and Zindagi Ae Zindagi published posthumously in 1983). His poem reflect his social consciousness and :h~ suffering a lonely mind where the lover transcends his self~ His lyrics are steeped in nostalgia and bespeak of his imaginative insight. He has a remarkable command of language and matches it exquisitely with varied and complex ideas. Khalilur Rehman Azmi gave new creative possibility of poetic diction to modern Urdu poetry’. The freshness of his poetic sensibility, understanding of human emo¬tion, language of poetry, symbolization, imagery, rhythm, tone and metreall have a novelty that has left a deep impact on modern Urdu poetry. Khalilur Rehman Azmi was awarded Ghalib Award for Urdu Poetry in 1978. Prof. Shaharyar , a student of this legendary progressive movement writer Khalilur Rehman Azmi compiled “Aasma(n) Ai Aasma(n) : Kuliyat of Khalilur Rahman Azmi, Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - Vol-I & Vol-II.


Afzal Usmani sb, Good piece

Afzal Usmani sb,
Good piece of information on Khalil sb which was surely missing online about a person of immense stature in Urdu. Regarding some information about the pictures you added the person with his hand on his face is Amiq Hanafi sb with photo captioned 'With Prof. Waheed Akhtar'; and the person in the middle is Prof. Ralph Russell in the photo with Arzoo sb and Shervani sb. It was during this time Khalil sb taught him Urdu while on his first visit to Aligarh as he mentioned in his interesting article 'Urdu and I,' to follow the article you may go to the link:
Keep up the good work.


Dear Umsani bhai
ASK How r u i am fine i have gone through article on my father late Prof Khalil ur Rehman Azmi which u have put on AMU net. It is nice and informative for all specially for those who have interest in the field of Urdu to have any more information regarding my father be free to contact me at any time once again thanks for the same

Salman Khalil

Sir Syed Bi-Centenary


Hamiduddin Farahi


ZH Chowdhury

Satish Chandra