Ibne Safi was born on July 26, 1928, in the village of Nara in Allahabad District, U.P., India. His parents, Safiullah and Nuzaira Bibi, named him Asrar Ahmed at birth. It was much later that he came to be known as Ibne Safi.              

     Safiullah   Nuzaira Bibi

Ibne Safi’s forefathers came from the village of Nara. Originally they were Hindus of Kaistth clan. Several generations back, their clan leader Raja Vasheshar Dayal Singh had embraced Islam and came to be known as Baba Abdun Nabi. His tomb still exists in what are now the ruins of the village Nara.

Ibne Safi’s parents both came from a family of landlords and learned men. His grandfather, Maulvi Abdul Fattah, was a schoolteacher in Ujjain, India before the partition of the Indian Subcontinent.

Ibne Safi’s father, Safiullah Saheb, initially moved from Nara to Allahabad; and then to what is now Pakistan. He used to work for “Syed A.M. Wazir Ali and Company,” a famous vending company contracting for the British Indian Army. During his service, he was stationed at places like Dehradun, Devlaali, Darjeeling, Quetta, etc.

Ibne Safi’s mother, Nuzaira Bibi, was a pious lady from a family of learned men. Her maternal relatives were known as “hakeemon ka khaandaan” (family of wise men). Her grand uncles included Hakim Ehsan Ali and Hakim Rehman Ali, both authors of books on traditional medicine. Tibb-e-Rehmaani and Tibb-e-Ehsaani – both written in Persian – were used on the curriculum of many traditional medical schools. Nuzaira Bibi was very watchful of her son Asrar, ensuring that he always had good company and good opportunities for education.

Ibne Safi had several siblings, including his brother Isar Ahmed and sister Ghufairah Khatoon, who died young. He only had one surviving sister Azra Rehana (Balaghat Khatoon), who was married to Lateef Ahmed Siddiqi and passed away 1n 2005..

Ibne Safi obtained his primary schooling in the village school at Nara. When he was only eight years old, he got an opportunity to read first volume of Talism-e-Hoshruba. Although he could not understand the language entirely, the story made a great impact on his creative mind. He then read all seven volumes several times.

Ibne Safi started writing at a young age. When he was in seventh grade, his first story appeared in the weekly Shahid, which was edited by Aadil Rasheed. Ibne Safi also started writing poetry in eighth grade. He was so impressed by the famous poet Jigar Murad Aabadi that his earlier poetry was on “khumriat” (poetry about the use and affects of alcohol).

Ibne Safi acquired his secondary school education in Allahabad, as his family had moved from Nara by this time. He completed Matriculation from D.A.V. School in Allahabad, India. For a short period during Matriculation, he got involved with baby communists and started writing poetry against social evils. Soon, however, he moved away from this group and its ideologies. During the independence movement and afterwards, he was also branded a progressive for his ideas, and warrants were issued in India for his arrest.

Ibne Safi completed Intermediate (High School Certificate) from Eving Christian College in Allahabad, India. This was a co-education college and his poetry flourished greatly in that environment. He would frequently participate in poetic sittings that were held at the college hostels. However, in his first year, he was reluctant to publicly read his poetry for the annual “mushaira.” In second year, he was elected President of The Literary Society. This required him to recite his poem Bansuri Ki Aawaz (Voice of the Flute). The Dean of the Urdu faculty, Maulana Anwar-ul-Haq, predicted that Ibne Safi would be a great poet in the future. The poem was also so deeply appreciated by his English professor Mr. Higgins, who had an avid interest in Urdu poetry, that he commented:

“Excluding Firaq’s Rubayyat and your poem, all the rest seemed to be merely echoes of poetry.”

In 1947, Ibne Safi enrolled in Allahabad University, where Dr. Syed Ejaz Hussain’s lectures further contributed to his literary and mental growth. However, this period was very short because independence riots had started and one incident had also occurred on university premises. Due to the critical nature of an already tense situation, he was asked to stay home.

After partition, when situation normalized in 1948, he did not re-enroll at the University because all his colleagues were now one year senior to him. Allahabad University did not have any room for private students. Only Agra University in UP allowed private students, with the condition that the candidate have two years teaching experience. Ibne Safi therefore obtained Bachelor of Arts degree from Agra University in Agra, India. (see translated degree)

Ibne Safi formed many close friendships during this period. After moving from Nara, his family had taken residence in Hasan Manzil, Allahabad, quarter numbers 15 and 16. It was there that Ibne Safi met two brothers Abbas Hussaini and Jamal Rizvi (Shakeel Jamali) and their cousins Sarwar Jahaan (later known as Sarwar Hussain Abidi, an artist in Pakistan,) and Mujavir Hussain Rizvi (Ibne Saeed).

Ibne Safi’s other friends from this period include, Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza, Ishtiaq Haider, Yousuf Naqvi, Hameed Qaiser, Qamar Jalsai, Nazish Partab Garhi and Tegh Allahabadi (famous poet Mustafa Zaidi).

In 1948, Abbas Hussaini founded Nakhat Publications. Ibne Saeed was the Editor of the prose section, and Ibne Safi became Editor of poetry. At this time, Ibne Safi started experimenting with different literary genres on a regular basis, including short stories, humor, and satire. He used pseudonyms such as Sanki Soldier and Tughral Farghan. His first story for The Nakhat was Farar (The Escape), which was published in June 1948. Ibne Safi, however, was not satisfied with his work. The eight-year-old who had swallowed Talism-e-Hoshruba was persuading him to create something entirely different, especially in prose. Ibne Safi would soon follow the urgings of his inner child and be taken to Rider Haggard’s fictitious land of She, becoming even more frustrated.

In a literary sitting towards the end of 1951, a senior citizen commented that in Urdu only erotic stories are sold, and the rest are unmarketable. Ibne Safi disagreed with the gentleman, saying that nobody had tried to stop this flooding of porn literature. Another person added that this trend could not be stopped unless some replacement literature was created and put on the market. Ibne Safi thought long and hard about the predicament, about what literature would appeal to the market, and again the eight-year-old child appeared in front of him. He knew that even people in their eighties were glued to Talism-e-Hoshruba. Ibne Safi promised himself that he would try to create some replacement for Urdu porn literature.

With the advice of Ibne Safi, Abbas Hussaini made arrangements for publishing monthly detective novels. The name of the series was Jasoosi Duniya (The World of Espionage), and it was the first time Ibne Safi started writing with the infamous pen name of Ibne Safi. Containing his original characters, Inspector Faridi and Sergeant Hameed, the first novel Dilaer Mujrim (The Brave Criminal) was published in March 1952. The plot of the novel was adopted by Victor Gunn's novel Ironsides' Lone Hand (Title1  Title2). 

At this time (1949-1952), Ibne Safi was by profession a secondary school teacher at Islamia School Allahabad, and later at Yaadgaar-e-Hussaini School. He maintained the school jobs, and studied part time to finish his education.

Very few people know that Ibne Safi was also very fond of music and drawing. He had a good voice for singing, and used to draw sketches on his novel drafts.

After finishing his education, Ibne Safi migrated to Pakistan with his mother and sister in August 1952. They joined his father in Karachi, who had emigrated there in 1947. Ibne Safi’s first residence was in a locality called C-1 area, Lalukhet (now known as Liaqatabad). Ibne Safi then founded Asrar Publications and started publishing Jasoosi Duniya simultaneously from Pakistan and India. The political border between the two countries did not divide the relationship he had formed with his readers.

In 1953, Ibne Safi married Umme Salma Khatoon. She was born on April 12, 1938 to Muhammad Amin Ahsan and Riaz Fatima Begum. Her father was Deputy Superintendent of Police in Sultanpur, India. Salma had a family background of literary and religious personalities. Her grandfather, the poet Muhammad Ahsan Vehshi, was a disciple of Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki. Salma’s uncle, Maulana Najm Ahsan, was a vicegrant (Khalifa) of Hakimul Ummat Maulana  Ashraf Al Thanvi

Quds Sirruhu. Salma’s brother, Makeen Ahsan Kaleem, was the Chief Editor of the daily Mashriq (Lahore, Pakistan) till his demise in 1976. Salma’s sister Safia Siddiqi is also a writer.

In 1955, Ibne Safi created a new character, Imran, and started publishing the Imran Series. The first novel of this series KHaufnaak Imarat (The Frightening Building) was published in August 1955 by A & H Publications, 130 Hasan Ali Afandi Road, Karachi Pakistan whereas the Indian edition was published in November 1955 by Monthly Nikhat, Allahabad.

In October 1957 Ibne Safi founded Asrar Publications, Karachi (at Lalukhet) and published first Jasoosi Duniya novel THanDee Aag (The cold Fire) from Pakistan. The same novel was  published simultaneously in India by Jasoosi Duniya, Allahabad.

In 1958, Ibne Safi moved to newly constructed house in Nazimabad No.2, which remained the family abode during the remainder of his life. Though he also moved Asrar Publications in January 1959 to the new address at Firdous Colony, Karachi-18, he felt more at ease writing from home. With the addition of Imran Series to Jasoosi Duniya, his publishing raised to a record three to four novels monthly.

By June 1960, Ibne Safi had written the eighty-eighth novel of Jasoosi Duniya (Prince Vehshee) and the forty-first novel of Imran Series (Bay-Awaaz Sayyarah). During this period, he also experimented with the Jasoosi Duniya Magazine Edition (first issue was published in November 1959). However, only four issues were ever published. The excessive thinking and writing eventually took a toll on his health, and the magazine edition was discontinued.

Ibne Safi suffered from schizophrenia during 1960 and 1963, not writing a single word in those three years. With the prayers of his family, friends, and fans, Ibne Safi finally recovered from the illness in 1963 under the treatment of Hakim Iqbal Hussain of Karachi.

The author made a great comeback on November 25, 1963 with the bestseller Imran Series novel Dairh Matwaalay, which inaugurated in India by the Ex Interior Minister (later Prime Minister of India) Lal Bahadur Shastri. The demand for this novel was so high that within a week a second edition was published in India. This edition was inaugurated by the then Provincial Law Minister Ali Zaheer.

In 1967, Ibne Safi’s father, Safiullah Saheb, retired from his job and passed away same year on 27 June 1967.

During the mid-seventies, Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan informally utilized his services for lecturing new recruits on the methods of detection.

In 1975, a film producer, Muhammad Hussain Talpur (aka Maulana Hippie), experimented with a film Dhamaka based on the Imran Series novel Baibaakon Ki Talaash. Actor Javaid Sheikh (then Javaid Iqbal) was introduced for the first time as Zafarul Mulk, the main character. Maulana Hippie played Jameson, and the actress Shabnam played the role of Sabiha. Imran and X-2's team was not shown in the movie. Ibne Safi himself recorded the voice of X-2.

During the elections of March 1977, PTV produced a serial Dr. Duago based on the same novel of the Imran Series. Actor Muhammad Qavi Khan played Imran but the play was never aired due to political censorship.

In January 1977 Mushtaq Ahmed Qureshi started publishing Ibne Safi Magazine which was later renamed to Nae Ufaq. Another magazine Naya Rukh was started after the death of Ibne Safi. Both magazines carried a novel of Jasoosi Duniya and Imran Series each, respectively. These magazines are still in publication today; however, Ibne Safi’s novels are not included anymore.

Ibne Safi’s mother Nuzaira Bibi passed away in the summer of 1979. Ibne Safi’s pain on her sad demise took the shape of heartfelt poem MaaN (Mother).

In September 1979, Ibne Safi suffered from abdominal pains. By December of that year, it was confirmed these were a result of cancer at the head of pancreas.

He was attended by the family physicians, Dr. Saeed Akhtar Zaidi and Dr. Qamaruddin Siddiqui. General Physician Dr. Rab and Cancer Specialist Dr. Syed Hasan Manzoor Zaidi also provided care and treatment in his last days.

Though his health deteriorated seriously and rapidly between December 1979 and July 1980, Ibne Safi did not quit writing.

On Saturday July 26, 1980 (Ramadhan 12, 1400 AH), at around Faj'r time, Ibne Safi passed away (Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Ilaihe Raje’oon). His incomplete Imran Series novel Aakhri Aadmi was by his bedside.

Ibne Safi left behind four sons and three daughters:

Dr. Isar Ahmed Safi - Doctor of Medicine an Ophthalmologist who passed away on 3rd July 2005 after suffering from a high grade fever. (Inna Lillah-e Wa Inna Ilaih-e Raje'oon)

Abrar Ahmad Safi - Mechanical Engineer with a marine engineering background. Lives in USA.

Dr. Ahmad Safi  - Mechanical Engineer holding a PhD. Lives in Karachi, Pakistan.

Iftikhar Ahmed Safi  - Electrical Engineer. Lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.     

Nuzhat Afroz, Sarwat Asrar and Mohsina Safi are the three daughters.

Ibne Safi’s wife Umme Salma Khatoon passed away on Thursday June 12, 2003. (Inna Lillah-e Wa Inna Ilaih-e Raje'oon)

Copyright © 2005 Mohammad Hanif