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Nazrul Islam, harbinger of Hindu-Muslim harmony

24 May, 2022 17:33:32
Nazrul Islam, harbinger of Hindu-Muslim harmony

Hindu na ora Muslim, Oi jiggashey kon jon, Kandari bolo dubichhe manush (Are you a Hindu, are you a Muslim? Who asks you this question? Its humanity that drowns today)

Yes, humanity drowns today in the quicksand of hate and communalism. Seldom do we find agents who dedicate their own lives to exemplify the glory of a fusion, that is India, the fusion of ideologies, religions, teachings. At this hour of crisis, just like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda with their global thoughts have always been remembered, so should be the Rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, a man who often has been ignored by India and this part of Bengal. Yet, he was probably the greatest harbinger of harmony, who not just through his poems, but also through his own life advocated the values of brotherhood. We really need men like him who could interpret Islam in its true essence.

Kazi Nazrul Islam grew up in a conservative Muslim family, however, at a very early age he had to embark upon a journey of self-actualization, funding his own education and in between doing  odd jobs and imbibing experiences through hardships. During his school days in Searsol School in Asansol, he was guided by his music teacher Satischandra Kanjilal and was exposed to traditional Hindu religion, music, literature and art. Nazrul Islam earned a good knowledge of Hindu mythology when he wrote songs for the folk based Leto group and earned some name and fame not only in Churulia (his birthplace), but also in other villages. Nazrul took the opportunity to study both religions and communities and their lives in detail. But he rose above all religious beliefs and expressed his rebellion on the state of affairs existing in erstwhile undivided India, where from time to time the two communities fought each other in the name of religion.

Nazrul married Promila, a Hindu thereby setting a real-life example of harmony. He was denied a rental space in Kolkata because of this inter-religious marriage and finally found a rental flat in Krishnanagar. After Nazrul Islam came back to Kolkata from his stint at the First World War, he started publishing a literary magazine titled The Comet (Dhumketu, 1922) and some of the editorials published there are still pertinent to the current world affairs. He has repeatedly reminded us of the objectives of having temples and mosques. “It is for doing service to humanity and should never be used to distinguish between them or create barriers.” For him Hindu-Muslim friendship is inspired by Humanism. His creation also amalgamated both faiths ----- on one hand Nazrul writes Kali kirtan for Goddess Kali, on the other hand, he introduces Islamic songs in Bengali and wrote Marubhaskar, the life of prophet Muhammad in Bengali verse. 

In one of his letters, Nazrul has affirmed: ‘I believe in unity of Hindus and Muslims. That is why I employ Muslim diction and cite the names of Hindu deities in order to shatter the prevailing prejudices. For this sometimes the quality of my poems was compromised but I do so deliberately.’ This confession amply reveals Nazrul’s urge for Hindu-Muslim unity. He is probably the only poet who has been able to use both Hindu and Muslim traditions with equal ease. There are instances where the imagery used in devotional poems to Kali and Islamic Na’at (Hymns of praise) are similar. For example, in a famous Kali kirtan Nazrul writes: 

“Come, see the dance of light under the feet of my black daughter. Seeing the beauty of the mother, Shiva offers his bosom. In his hand lies our death and life” 

India truly needs today a man like Kazi Nazrul Islam, whose name suggests a Muslim identity, but his works suggest a global harmony.

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