Mansooruddin Faridi/New Delhi
Javed Akhtar, the noted Urdu litterateur, asked people since both religion and secularism have been grossly misused by humans, why there is a tendency in some sections of the population to denounce and jettison the latter and continue to stick to the former.
He was speaking on the topic ‘Secularism and Urdu poetry’ at Jashn-e Rekhta on the second day of the ongoing three-day festival of Urdu language.
Javed Akhtar said that a language should not be linked to religion. A language is always regional and if the region or country is a successful country, their language is adopted by others. That is how the English spread around the world. The same thing happened with the Persian language once upon a time.
Drawing similarities between Hindi and Urdu, Akhtar said 70 to 80 percent of words are common in two languages.
More than 10,000 people attended the session and listened to the Bollywood lyricist and scriptwriter of many blockbuster films in pin-drop silence.
He said religion was the most misused phenomenon in the world and yet humans do not give it up. Referring to the influence of religion on poetry, Javed Akhtar said that Urdu poetry started with atheism. “I wonder how it is perceived to be the other way round.”
In a conversation with Saif Mehmood, he said Urdu is the religion of secular people as it’s a mixed language. It has nothing to do with religion, but it has been given a beard and a cap.
Replying to a question, Javed Akhtar explained, “Urdu is a language created and developed with a secular mind. Had it not been secular, Urdu would not have existed.”
He said, “The real name of Urdu is 'Hindvi, it means the language of India.’ He said Rekhta translates as you hear it. It means a hybrid, something formed by the combination of more than one language.
On languages, Javed Akhtar quoted Greek philosopher Plato who said one of the good things for a man to do is to determine the meaning of the words before he speaks.
Making a distinction between a language and its script, Javed Akhtar said if it was so since most European languages used Latin script these should be called Latin. He said languages known as English, French, and German use Latin script yet are original languages.
Language has its syntax and its grammar. The grammar of Urdu is the same as that of Hindi. 75 to 80 percent of their words are the same.
He said it’s not right to associate a language with a religion. Do we say that English is the language of Christians? We say English is the language of the British. The same applies to the Persian.”
Speaking about the evolution of a language, Javed Akhtar said at one time, the status of the Persian language in Central Asia and India was the same as that of English today. When an empire grows and people are successful, their languages also start sounding good. “There was a time when all signboards of the shops in London’s Oxford Street were in Arabic. Today in America people are studying Chinese, so successful societies have their languages.
Again, he said that Persian was not Mughal’s mother tongue. Also, the language of the Pathans was not Persian, but in the Pathan rule, the language was respected. The Peshwas (Marathi), used Urdu as an official language. It is clear that since this script was popular, it was highly respected.
Javed Akhtar says that Urdu’s first name was Hinduieand it’s an Indian language.
He said like religion, the word secularism too has been misused. That, however, doesn’t make secularism bad. It shows the face of its abusers. But is that a reason for one to jettison secularism? “If you don’t want to leave religion which is misused why leave secularism?” he asked.
He said Urdu is his mother tongue. “I am proud of it. Every language in the world started from religious rituals; therefore you can find hymns in praise of gods in every language.
Javed Akhtar speaking at Jashn-e-Rekhta
You will find poems that were sung in temples, mosques, dargahs, and churches.
Urdu, he said, has been secular since day one its poetry emerged from anti-conservatism and anti-fundamentalism stance from the very first day.
Javed Akhtar said that in some places, Urdu poetry is considered an atheist’s rant. Today, if someone recites such a poem, the audience will throw the person from the stage.
On his family he said, his uncle was a great poet so was his father. “I can proudly say that both of them received fatwas of apostasy in their lives. This is the tradition of Urdu poetry and this has been its attitude, but only from religion or from religious people or Zahids and Mullahs and Sheikhs. This is not secular. This is beyond that.”
Now what happens if a Hindu poet recites a Naat and Maulvi writes poems on Lord Krishna and Rama? Hindus have also written on Ali and on the prophet. They wrote poems on Karbala. Similarly, Muslim poets have also written a lot about Lord Shiva, Radha, and Parvati.
Nazir Akbarabadi has written an excellent poem on Guru Nanak. Those are long poems. At that time it was a time of leisure, people used to listen, and even poets wrote in peace and at leisure.
Javed Akhtar said secularism means "we all are one; there is no difference between you and me; and our respective religions are also good."