On the morning of May 19, 2009, I
visited the graveyard of Paposhnagar, Karachi to offer prayers at the
grave of great mystery writer of Urdu literature Ibne Safi (Asrar Ahmed)
who, for decades, had been the favourite writer of millions of his
readers. He had written about 244 masterpieces of Imran series and 'Jasoosi
dunya' which indeed are the gems of Urdu literature.
Ibne Safi was born on July 26,
1928, in the village of Nara in Allahabad District, U.P., India.
According to a research made by Zubair Irshad, Ibne Safi's forefathers
came from the village of Nara. 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
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 when he was in eighth class. 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).
According to one of his
autobiographical essays, someone in a literary meeting claimed that Urdu
literature had little scope for anything but sexual themes. To challenge
this notion, Ibne Safi began writing detective stories in January 1952
in the monthly 'Nikhat', naming the series 'Jasoosi Dunya'.
In the preface of Jasoosi
Dunya's platinum jubilee number 'Zameen Kay Baadal', he mentioned those
novels of 'Jasoosi Dunya' whose main plot were taken from Western
literature and which included 'Daler Mujrim', 'Purasraar Ajnabi', 'Raqqasah
Ka Qatal', 'Heeray Ki Kaan' and 'Khooni Pathar'.
Furthermore, he also mentioned
some characters, which were borrowed from English fiction, such as
Khaufnak Hangamah's Professor Durrani and Paharron Ki Malikah's White
Queen and Gorilla. He claimed that other than those novels and
characters, his stories were his own creation, and even the mentioned
novels had borrowed only ideas and were not translations.
Ibne Safi created the Imran
Series in 1955 when he migrated to Karachi, where he lived until
pancreatic cancer caused his death in 1980 on July 26, on his 52nd
birthday. Coincidentally, his date of birth and date of death is same ie
July 26. His characters were as well-known and popular among his readers
as legendary fictional characters like Sherlock Homes. In 1960-1963 he
suffered an episode of schizophrenia, but recovered, and returned with a
best-selling Imran Series novel, 'Dairrh Matwaalay'. You can visit a
wonderful site www.ibnesafi.info is the one and only website on Ibne
The settings in Ibne Safi's
novels are such that the reader is never told of the national origin of
the heroes. Since 'Jasoosi Duniya' was created before the partition of
the sub-continent, the names of the characters and their locales suggest
that the novel takes place in India.
The advent of the Imran Series
came post-partition, and the reader is set up to assume that the
narrative is situated in Pakistan. Besides their native countries, the
main characters of both Jasoosi Duniya and Imran Series have had
adventures around the world - England, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Pacific
Islands, Zanzibar, South Africa, the United States of America and
various other places.
His son Dr Ahmed Safi told me
that when he (Ahmed) visited Italy, he was surprised to see Lake Como as
it was so truly depicted by Ibne Safi in one of his best serial
'Adlava'. Considering that Ibne Safi never left the Indian
Sub-continent, the detailed descriptions he provides of the diverse
localities are surprisingly accurate. Interestingly, technologies which
Ibne Safi pointed out in his novels, were proved to be real with the
passage of time.
For instance in his novel
'Toofan Ka Aghwa' in 1957, he has created "Fauladmi" (a robot) who
controlled traffic and performed some social works eg settling minor
scuffle between citizens etc and at that time, concept of a robot was
not known to the world. Likewise, he did indicate the use of Laser beam
and 'Fai-graz' (a type of advanced flying saucer) etc.
It may be pertinent to mention
that in his novel 'Jungle Ki Aag' (Jasoosi Dunya-37), written in 60's,
villain of the novel has created a machine in which at one end, two to
three crippled beggars were thrown inside for getting a healthy and
sturdy Gorilla from the other end. Isn't it seems alike with today's
concept of Cloning? Ibne Safi had a great ability to read and analyse
the values prevalent in society and momentum of changes being occurred.
One of Ibne Safi's
distinguished writing qualities includes formation and development of
characters. He has established a range of diverse, colourful and
sentient characters that appear to be real. 'Dhamaka' was the only movie
written by Ibne Safi. The film was produced by Muhammad Hussain Talpur
based on the Imran Series novel 'Baibaakon Ki Talaash'.
Actor Javaid Sheikh was
introduced for the first time as Zafarul Mulk, the main character.
Hussain Talpur, played Jameson and actress Shabnam played the role of
Sabiha. Imran and X-2's team was not shown in the movie. Zubair Irshad
revealed that the voice of X-2 was recorded by Ibne Safi himself. Actor
Rahman played the role of a villain for the first time.
Actress Shaista Qaiser appeared
as a guest artist. The famous song by Habib Wali Mohammad Rah-e-talab
maen kaun kisee ka based on Ibne Safi's ghazal which was picturised on
actor Rahman. The movie was released in December, 1974. However, it was
a flop. The question of Ibne Safi's literary merit is still unsettled,
but it seems as if the tables have already started tilting in his
Many literary personnel
generously admired Ibne Safi including Poet, Ajmad Islam Amjad,
Columnist Hasan Nisar, Writer Bushra Rehman, Indian Poet/Writer Javed
Akhtar Dr Gopi Chand Narang etc. However, at a seminar in Mumbai in
2007, legendary Urdu writer Intizar Husain, who apparently tried to
shock the audience with the comment that he 'had neither read Ibne Safi
nor felt he was important enough', invited flak for his comments.
There was severe criticism of
the comment on the stage itself. Several litterateurs reminded Intezar
Hussain that though one may be entitled to his personal views, and his
literary status apart, Ibne Safi can't be simply dismissed as just
"I don't know Urdu but have
knowledge of detective novels of the Subcontinent. There is only one
original writer - Ibn-e-Safi." - Said Agatha Christie once when she
stayed at Karachi airport only for half hour for her transit flight.
Zameer Akhtar Naqvi claimed in his book that in the 1970s, Ibne Safi
informally advised the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan on
methods of detection.
Badar Munir wrote in an essay
on Ibne Safi that he (Badar) used to recite the books of Ibne Safi to a
90 year old lady who was very fond of Safi's books. The lady was none
other but the mother of the founder of Bangladesh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman.
Khawaja Nazimuddin, Prime Minister of Pakistan once said for Ibne Safi:
"I like Ibne Safi since he indeed is a sincere, honest and down-to-earth
While commenting on Ibne Safi,
Maulvi Abdul Haq (Baba-e-Urdu) said: "Urdu literature owe a lot to Ibne
Safi for his great contribution for Urdu". Someone asked from poet Rauf
Sheikh about the readership of Ibne Safi. Rauf said: "everybody reads
Ibne Safi's books, however, no one have the courage to admit this". Finn
Theissen, Professor Urdu language and Literature, Oslo University,
Norway commended Ibne Safi in a letter to Writer/Journalist Mushtaq
Finn wrote: "Ibne Safi still
has not achieved the position in Urdu Literature that he really
deserves. Or you can say that Urdu critics have not recognised his
importance. Perhaps we should not be too sad on this because after all
what could these critics do to harm Ibne Safi? Everyone knows Ibne Safi
and is fond of reading him. "On Page 113 of "Raa'ee Ka Parbat" Ibne Safi
himself says,"Don't worry about what people think of you, always keep an
eye on what you are!"
We too, would not worry that
the critics did not recognise Ibne Safi, we would keep an eye on what he
himself was! Dr Christina, who is the senior lecturer at Institute of
South Asian Studies, Heidelberg, Germany regretted in a seminar at
Mumbai in 2007 that Ibne Safi's writing was not given enough attention
in comparison to so-called serious literature.
It would be surprising for all
Ibne Safi readers/lovers that the father of Pakistan's nuclear Programme
and Mohsin-e-Pakistan, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan happen to be an admirer to
Ibne Safi. Dr Qadeer revealed: "I used to read every novel written by
Ibne Safi when we were living near Bara Maidan in Nazimabad. He was the
greatest Urdu detective story writer in Pakistan of all times. Inshallah,
some time in the future I will write about him."
Indeed, the Books written by
Ibne Safi are considered an intrinsic part of the rich Urdu literature.
I think the best farewell salute I could give to the maestro is this:
"Why should man ever become serious when he knows full well that one day
he will be buried along with his seriousness?" (Kali Tasweer - Imran