Lest We Forget: Abeda Iqbal Azad —-an activist to remember

|By Kamran Zafar|

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On her 8th death anniversary on April 20 at a time when people are obeying confinement measures amid corona virus fear, honouring Abeda Iqbal Azad was a quiet and sombre affair. At the time of writing, all activities are closed. Not a single memorial session, lecture, or symposium could be held to cherish her memories. Nonetheless, it will be unfair not to dedicate words of praise that the activist author deserves in return for the works of literature she has gifted to the readers and literature lovers.

Abeda Iqbal Azad wrote on diverse subjects. Her works give the readers a glimpse into history and contemporary society of not only Pakistan but of the larger landscape of Asia. She addressed in her works the plight of the marginalised people in society, oppression against women, sufferings of domestic and other low paid workers, struggles of families, whose ancestors migrated from India to Pakistan in the 1947 mass exodus, perhaps the first of its kind as people left their homes and lands and .of course —why should not she take strong notice of the struggle of stranded and split families of 1971 war? For many Bangladeshi and Pakistani families like hers, “war or homeland” has become a word unspoken, shrouded in silence, and sheathed with painful memories.

Although she came from a progressive family, Abeda could easily understand the plight of women and the downtrodden. She was a strong woman who supported women empowerment and feminism. She then embarked on her activism for feminism and raised her voice many times against several injustices.

Abeda also broke many stereotypes with her profound thoughts and strong voice. In many of her works the activist held the view that the male desire is to rule over women as they want to block women’s enlightenment. They fear—‘lest they become like us’. Apart from being a feminist model, Abeda Iqbal Azad was a great poet. She always aggressively emphasized on women’s education. She believed that it was indispensable for girls and women to be educated to understand their position in society. They must realize that their contribution should not only remain limited to household, but the whole society must benefit from the same. They should be able to voice their opinions, and if required, question and challenge the societal rules. She thoroughly encouraged girls and women to pen down their thoughts.

Abeda Azad is especially regarded as a poet of nature. In most of the Abeda poems, nature is constructed as both a soothing entity and a trainer or an inspiring piece of art. She was ardent nature lover as nature appears as a dominant factor in her works and mind alike. She is happy, on the prospects of skipping in the rain on valleys and on the banks of rivers

Born on April 04 to noted businessman and publisher of multi-lingual dictionaries, Gholam Rabbani, Abeda Iqbal Azad studied medicine. However, she never practiced the profession but pursued journalism, which she had taken up while still a student. She authored her first book ‘Aasman’, a famous collection of poems. Her notable contributions to Urdu poetry rate her in multiple categories. Few of her poems strongly advocate women’s dignity and physical security and label her as a feminist. While prayer poems separate her as a religious poet, with a bump of change, nature occupies a separate or independent status in her works. This is the reason that Abeda is especially regarded as a poet of nature as well, while, her simple love poems get along  well with other categories.

Abeda Iqbal was an outstanding poet, writer, and social activist. She did not shy away from pointing out the injustices plaguing society. Apart from being a powerful columnist, she is also remembered for her activism, having fought for the rights of the oppressed. She will be remembered through her works.

Abeda Azad is considered as a literary treasure. She as a journalist penned large number of poems, articles and reports on health, sports, environment and socio-political issues in both Urdu and English languages. She also wrote many short stories. Her works included political writings too as she wrote two popular columns simultaneously titled “Aaina” and “Chehre”. Abeda Azad could understand grassroots-level issues and became a socio-political analyst.

 

The feminist Abeda always aggressively emphasized on women’s education. She believed that it was indispensable for girls and women to be educated to understand their position in society. They must realize that their contribution should not only remain limited to household, but the whole society must benefit from the same. They should be able to voice their opinions, and if required, question and challenge the societal rules. She thoroughly encouraged girls and women to pen down their thoughts.

The void left in the literary world by her death in 2012 can never be filled.

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