Profile : Ameer Hamza Shinwari

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Ameer Hamza Shinwari (Pashto: حمزه شينواری), born in Landi Kotal in the year 1907 and died in February 1994, was a famous Pashtun poet. He Belonged to the Shinwari tribe of the ethnic Pashtuns. Ameer Hamza’s work is considered a fusion between classic and modern poetry. He followed the traditional old classical poetry and blended it with the modern spirit, as well as introducing new ideas in Pashto Ghazals and took this genre of poetry to perfection. He is known as the father of Pashto Ghazals.


Early career

At a young age, Ameer Hamza Shinwari dreamt of making a career in film, he wrote the story for the first ever Pashto language film, Laila Majnoon, in 1941. The film, which was released in Bombay before the independence of Pakistan, earned him a pittance. But it was during a visit to Ajmer Sharif that he first came into contact with the world of mysticism. He adopted the Chishtia order of mysticism, following in the footsteps of Rahman Baba, and blended it with the Pashtunwali, the famous Pashtun code of conduct. The government of Pakistan also honoured him with a posthumous ‘Presidential Pride of Performance’ award, and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province built the Hamza Baba Cultural Complex in Landi Kotal in homage to his great services to Pashtun culture.

Ameer Hamza Shinwari was also a critic and a playwright, he wrote 200 plays for Radio Pakistan, Peshawar, a number of features, critical essays and research papers for different literary magazines and newspapers of Pakistan. Ameer Hamza Shinwari died on February 18, 1994.


Hamza Baba, son of the rugged mountains of the Khyber agency, born in Lwargi, a village in the north-west of Landi Kotal, in the house of Malik Baz Mir Khan, Chief of the Ashraf Khel, a clan of Shinwari Pakhtoon tribe, in December 1907. At of the age of six, he was admitted to school in Lwargi; from there, when he was eight, he came to Peshawar and continued his studies at Islamia Collegiate Peshawar. But he gave up his studies, when he was in 9th class, and retired to his village. And get married, soon after, according to the Shinwari tradition of early marriage.

Hamza Baba, later on, joined the British India Political Department as Passport Officer, later he worked as T.T. Officer in the All-India Railways. Forced by his restless nature, he quit the job, and devoted his energies to polish and gloss over the inborn artist. He went to the cosmopolitan city of Bombay-the Hollywood of Subcontinent. There he performed as a dacoit in a silent film ‘Falcon’: but unsatisfied with, he returned to his homeland. And devoted his life to mysticism, under the patronage and guidance of his murshid (god father), Sheikh Abdul Satar Chesthi, known as ‘Bacha Khan’. Inspired by the wonderland of Sufism, which he called the ‘haratabad, and a desire to achieve the unattainable. He carved a niche in the awesome of temple mysticism, and lived there for good in the monastery of his soul.

Hamza Shinwari started his career as a poet, when he was in 5th class. According to Hamza Baba, “my poetic nature persuaded me, and I started poetry in Urdu.” The first ever poetry of his life was in Urdu. But on the advice of his patron, Sheikh Abdul Satar, he started poetry in his mother tongue, and devoted himself to the service Pashto. A couplet of his depicts Hamza Baba’s attactchmetn and gratitude for Pakhto. Accordingly:

The enemy brands it as a language of hell,
To heaven I will go with Pashto.

Hamza Baba stands at the juncture of the medieval and modern Pashto poetry, and can undoubtedly be called the renaissance of the Pashto poetry. He lifted Pashto lyric to its zenith. This is why Hamza Baba stands at an enviable stature among all poets, and a pillar of the Pashto literature. Particularly, Pakhto Ghazal is remarkable: for its construction, expression, style, imagery, and even its diction. Testifying to this, he was crowned and jeweled with the epitaph of ‘Baba-e-Ghazal’ (the father of Ghazal) in a mushaera, which organized by ‘Bazm-e-Adab’ (Pakhto Literary Society) under the patronage of Pir Abdul Satar, in 1940.

Hamza Baba was a dramatist and prose writer of his class. He wrote more or less 400 dramas. According to Hamza Shinwari, Hamza Baba has written 200 plays, during his life long association with the All-India Radio that was established in 1935. Some of his well-known plays are: Zamindar (the farmer), Ahmad Shah Abdali, Akhtar Mo Mubarak Shah (Eid Greetings), Dwa Bakhilan (two Misers), Fateh Khan Rabia, Guman Da Eman Zyan de (doubt undermines faith), Khan Bahadur Sahib, Khushal Khan Khattak, Khisto, Matali Shair (the poet of proverbs), Maimoona, Muqabilla (competition), Qurbani (Sacrifice), Spinsare Paighla (the spinster), Da Damano Khar (city of the Professional singers), Da Chursiyano Badshah (king of the Hashish smokers), and Jrandagarhe (the miller). But these are just names and no more, as most of these manuscripts, for he handed over to the Radio in original text, were lost or misplaced. He has written the scripts, songs and dialogues of three mega-hit classical, namely: Laiala Majnoon, Paighla (the virgin) and Allaqa Ghair (the tribal area) both in 1960s.

Hamza Baba has authored so many books of varied subjects: some about philosophy of human life and mysticism, other about love and romanticism, or ethics and social values. Starting with short stories and essays, to some estimates, he has 30 books to his name, including ten books in Urdu. These include: Tazkira-e-Sittaria, Tajjaliate Mohammadia (the refulgence of Mohammad), Jabar Wa Ikhtiaar (Free will & Predetermination), Nawe Chape (new waves), Tashheer da Kaiynat (conquest of the universe), Wajud Wa Sujud (the essence of the apparent), Anna aur Ilm (ego and knowledge) in Urdu and its Pashto version, Insany anna au poha (human ego and knowledge), Zhwand (life) in Pashto and Zindagee in Urdu, and Da Weeno jam (cup of blood). He has written travelogue of his journey to Afghanistan and Mecca. He has translated Rehman Baba’s Dewan (collection poetry) into Urdu, and two major works-Armaghan-e-Hijaz and Javed Nama–of ‘Shair-e-Mashreq’ (Poet of the East), Dr. Allama Mohammad, into Pashto, in 1964 and 1967, respectively.

Hamza Baba remained the incubator and nucleus of the institutions and circles framed for the promotion and uplift of the both Pashto and Urdu, during his life time. For instance he was one of the few who has established the first ever Pashto literary society ‘Bazm-e-Adab’ that came into being in 1937. He acted as vice president, and remained president until 1950 when it was finally evolved into ‘Olasi Adabi Jirga’ (National Literary Society). He was nominated vice president of Dairay-e-Adabiya (Urdu Literary Circle).

Hamza Baba suffered, for long, from kidney illness, which he operated at Hyderabad, in 1986, but to no effect and his traveled to the master on February 18, 1994. He was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard of Ashraf Khel at Lwargi. After two and a half year, his mortal remains were exhumed and reburied at Darwazgai graveyard.

Owing to his services, he was awarded for his epoch making services the Presidential Pride Award by ZIa-ul-Haq in his life time, while the present government is presenting a tribute to him by constructing the Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari Complex at the site of his grave at Darwazgai, Landi Kotal, in the Khyber Agency. Marking the eight death anniversary a ground breaking ceremony of the Rs 3.2 billion project took place at the site his graveyard. The complex is consisting of mazar (coliseum), library, and auditorium.

Hamza Shinwari Baba was, undoubtedly, a flowering spring of extraordinary genius, and has become an icon of universal admiration beyond the barriers of cast, language, color, or creed. Dr. Qabel Khan comments that Hamza Baba “is a virtual stream of friends of friends, disciples, admirers, and well-wishers. Hardly there was any day in his life he was not visited by his admirers and readers…his knowledge of Pashto is simply encyclopedic.”

Why my love’s face wrinkles in smile in the mirror, 

Her loveliness increases and excels tremendously. 

Since the inducement of her face is similar to spring,

The amazement of the mirror changed into a garden.

The devout seem sorrow stricken externally,

But he doesn’t have any sorrow in the heart.

The human beings have to face some constrains,

On the way of their free will.

You can see glimpses of the beauty in my amazement, 

You don’t need to have a mirror.

Is it the effect of cosmetics or thy own youth,

Which radiates in thy rosy cheeks.

Since you can’t determine the standard of thy adornment.

You, therefore, look at the mirror off and on.

Hamza Baba Ghazal (Zam) by Junaid & Ismail as Pakhwa released yesterday and want to share with you people.

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