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Dr Jamil Jalibi: eminent historiographer, brilliant critic and scholar of high merits


April 26, 2020

Dr Jamil Jalibi was regarded as an important literary figure of his time. The literary critics would always find it really difficult to reckon him either as a man of literature or a scholar, as he had done his best to produce works establishing him as a literary historian, a critic, a magazine editor, a text editor, a researcher, a compiler and a scholar.

His works paved the way for literary values for his contemporaries. His literary magazine ‘Naya Daur, Karachi’ contributed much in this regard. After the independence of Pakistan, the views expressed on the Pakistani culture remained indecisive to some extent as the people from the left-wing had some observations in this regard. His remarkable work on the Pakistani culture not only decided the disagreement of both sides but also concluded the debate for good.

Dr Jamil Jalibi was a skilful text editor. He edited many Urdu classical literary texts which widened the literary horizon of Urdu classics among its readers. A rare Urdu classical text ‘Kadam Rao Padam Rao (masnavi)’ was edited by him. Its texts had a very difficult style to read for any text editor but Dr Jalibi succeeded in the herculean task. He not only skilfully edited the text but also wrote a detailed preface for the work. The other texts edited by him are ‘Dewan Hasan Shauqi’ and ‘Dewan Nusrati’. His works on Mir Taqi Mir and Jurrat are of hard work and brilliance. The scholars of Urdu literature would find them really useful to cite in their works.

Apart from his scholarship, he was a government officer and served as vice chancellor of the University of Karachi. After Dr Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, he was recognised and cited as a scholar of high calibre even abroad. The works of Dr Qureshi and Dr Jalibi have frequently been included in the bibliographies compiled on South Asian literary studies.

Dr Jalibi didn't have much university teaching experience, but he made many effective administrative and academic measures for which the university benefited a lot. His effective measures saved the university from the unfair use of the student politics. Due to his efforts, the university generally upgraded its standards and its libraries were among the best places which reaped the benefits of his vice chancellorship. He would visit the libraries to inspect the arrangements.

Meanwhile, Dr Jalibi acquired over 250 microfilms of rare Urdu manuscripts from the India Office Library to provide the literary researchers with these precious unpublished works. After his tenure, the microfilms and machines to read them were not given due care, let alone to enhance the capacity of the microfilm section of the library.

After being nominated as president of the Muqtadra Qaumi Zaban, Islamabad, Dr Jalibi did a remarkable job. An English-to-Urdu dictionary was compiled. This hefty work was based on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In his short tenure, he completed the work.

One of his most acclaimed works is ‘Tarikh-e Adab-e-Urdu’ which culminated in four hefty volumes. However, the work is yet to be completed. It is the only historiography of Urdu which has many things to offer to its readers, such as reliable sources, analysis, issues and conclusion. Dr Jalibi's point of view to analyse the authenticity of a source is unprecedented. To critically judge the statements of contemporaries and modern researchers about the literary figures of the classical Urdu poetry and prose is not an easy job to do, but Dr Jalibi's detailed analysis has rendered its readers to believe. The things that made Dr Jalibi unmatched among his literary historians were his social and political understanding of Urdu classical literature.

Dr Jalibi also benefited much from his readings of the world literature and their critical works. The work of Ram Babu Saksena (Tarikh-e Adab-e-Urdu) remained useful for decades but it is devoid of social and political motives of the literary works. The literary histories written from the limited point of view cannot compete the work of Dr Jalibi. Many projects of literary histories, such as Daastan-e Tarikh-e Urdu by Hamid Hasan Qadri, Seerul Musannifeen by Muhammad Yahya Tanha, Ali Garh Tarikh-e-Adab by the Ali Garh University and Tarikh-e Adabiat-e-Musalmanaan-e-Pakistan wa Bharat by the Punjab University, could not overshadow the work of Dr Jalibi. In his literary history, Dr Jalibi does not see the Urdu classical literature into sections of poetry and prose. He actually sees the political and social motives behind the creation of literature.

Dr Gian Chand Jain in his book ‘Urdu Adab ki Tarikhain’ studied over 50 Urdu histories in which some historical works were not included. The writer of this article pointed out those histories left by Mr Jain in his article. Dr Jain described the work of Dr Jalibi as the most impressive work among all histories written in and for Urdu literature and its trends. In English language, Urdu histories have been written and due care has also been given to some of its scientific trends but remained ineffective as the historians of English language are not able to fully comprehend the Urdu classical literature.

The classical Urdu literature from the beginning to Iqbal, including the Islamic literatures of India and the Urdu literatures, are of those work which is shy from their aims. Therefore, it compels me to think that the life of Dr Jalibi could permit him to complete his work of history as two of its volumes are still to come to sum up the entire history of Urdu literature.

Here I would like to mention that various forums in Pakistan are determined to pay tribute to Dr Jamil Jalibi sahib. These forums are appreciative of his works. It is fine enough. But the things we all must ponder over at this moment while paying tribute to the benefactor like Dr Jalibi are as how could we complete his work of history and do something meaningful in this regard. Otherwise, efforts for holding such programmes where people remember his works would do nothing.

I know Dr Jalibi was really determined to undertake work for the fifth volume soon after the fourth volume had gone to printing. He had also done some spadework in this regard. He remained busy for gathering sources and writing notes for the remaining volume since he undertook the task of writing the history of the Urdu literature. The notes written for the remaining volumes must be in his papers he left. The notes pertaining to his history projects and letters received must be published for the readers. Let me remind you that fifteen years back renowned researcher Mushfiq Khawja died in Karachi. His papers included crucial information about his personality and others who wrote him letters which remain unpublished yet. The memorial established on Mushfiq Khawja is deprived of the papers. Similarly, many personal collections of the known literary figures of Urdu donated to the University of Karachi’s library are now eating dust. I am now hoping that Dr Khawar Jamil, son of Dr Jamil Jalibi, will save his rare personal collection of books in the Dr Jamil Jalibi Research Centre established in the University of Karachi where due care should also be given to his unpublished and incomplete works. Dr Jalibi’s papers should be preserved in the centre. I request him that the remnants of Dr Jalibi are the nation's property which should be returned to its recipients.