My name Is Urdu and I am not a Muslim | Rana Safvi

My name Is Urdu and I am not a Muslim

Hindustani0804Urdu hai mera naam main Khusrau ki paheli
Main Meer ki humraaz hun Ghalib ki saheli

(My name is Urdu and I am Khusrau’s riddle
I am Meer’s confidante and Ghalib’s friend)

Kyun mujhko banate ho tassub ka nishana
Maine to kabhi khud ko musalmaan nahi maana

(Why have you made me a target for bigotry?
I have never thought myself a Muslim)

Dekha tha kabhi maine bhi khushiyo ka zamana
Apne hi watan me hum agar aaj akayli

(I too have seen an era of happiness
But today I am an orphan in my own country)

(See YouTube video)

I don’t think anything can describe the state of Urdu’s neglect and decline than these lines by IqbalAshar.

In this article I want to dispel the notion that a language can have a religion by tracing its origin and the roots of how that tag got attached to it, leading to its subsequent neglect. 

Language is a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition.

India is home to several hundred languages out of which 22 are scheduled languages and a rich cultural heritage attached to all of them.

After independence, the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights recommended that the official language of India be made Hindustani, as it was already the national language: “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Perso-Arabic script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union.”

Had this been adopted there would just be a beautiful national language, Hindustani with a shared cultural heritage instead of two artificially created languages via kind courtesy of the British: Sansritised Hindustani called Hindi and Persianised Hindustani called Urdu. Unfortunately, this recommendation was not adopted by the Constituent Assembly.

Till the early 20th century Persian was the language of the elite and learnt by them (irrespective of religion) but Urdu was the language of the masses, and used as a medium of instruction. Our Prime Minister and the poet Gulzar, amongst other famous Indian personalities even today use the Urdu script for their writings.  Many friends who read this will say their fathers or grandfathers according to their age received education in Urdu medium schools and were fluent in the language.

So where did the language go wrong? When did it become associated with a religious community?

To understand this we must understand the aftermath of 1857 and the British ‘divide and rule’ policy.

Languages are a common cultural bond and having known this the British encouraged the use of Perso-Arabic and Devnagari script via the printing press to cement the division of Hindustani, the lingua franca of a majority of Indians, into the standardised Urdu and Hindi language.

In fact Bibles which were distributed by the missionaries to spread Christianity were also printed in the 2 scripts and distributed accordingly as per religion of recipient.

After partition, the death knell for Urdu as an Indian language was struck when it was declared as the national language of Pakistan. But today only 7.4 percent of the total population of Pakistan claim Urdu as their mother tongue (and I suspect these are the muhajirs who went from the Indo-Gangetic plains.)

Opposed to this is the figure of 44.15 percent Pakistanis who speak/ list Punjabi as their mother tongue. (In Pakistan, Urdu is spoken by a much larger percentage of people but they do not list it as their mother language and it’s the same case in India)

In India there are 5.01 percent of the population for whom Urdu is the mother tongue and Hindi is spoken by 41.03 percent.

Please note that the total population of Muslims in India is 13.4 percent of the country’s population. So if Urdu is supposed to be a language of Muslims why don’t the Muslims of Kerala speak it? Why do they communicate/ list their mother tongue as Malayalam? Muslims represent a majority of the local population in Lakshadweep (93 percent) and they all speak Malayalam. Having lived in Kerala for many years I have a first-hand experience that the only other language understood by the majority was English.

Why do Muslims of West Bengal, which has the second largest Muslim population in India, after Uttar Pradesh, list their mother tongue as Bangla? Gujarati Muslims use and list Gujarati as their mother tongue.

Yes, majority of practising Muslims in India as well as in the rest of the world read/ understand Arabic or at least try to. That can be called the language of the Muslims as the Holy Book was revealed in it.

Hindavi, Dehalvi, Gujri ,Dakhini, Rekhta were the names given to the language which evolved from Hindustani to today’s Hindi and Urdu.

The first writer to popularise Hindavi, which he referred to as Dehalvi, was the prolific and wondrous Amir Khusrau.

Sunil Sharma, the author of “Amir Khusraw: the poet of Sultan and Sufis” credits Khusrau as being the father of Hindi and Urdu.

Khusrau baazi prem ki main khelun pi ke sang,
Jeet gayi to piya moray, haari, pi kay sang.

(Khusrau, I play the game of love with my beloved,
If I win, the beloved is mine, if I lose, my Beloved I am yours.)

The word Urdu is derived from the same Turkish word ‘ordu’ (army) that has given English the word, ‘horde’. In fact according to S.R. Farooqui the term Urdu was used during Akbar’s time to denote ‘royal city’. When Shah Jahan built a new walled city in Delhi in 1639, known as Shahjahanabad, a market close to the royal fort (the Red Fort) was called Urdu Bazar (“Army/camp Market.”)Emperor Shah Alam II with his love for Hindi, gave it a position in his court with the nomenclature, Zabaan e Urdu e mualla.’ (The language of the exalted city.)

Meer Taqi Meer( 1722-1810) used the words Rekhta and Hindi for the spoken language.

Rekhta ke tum hi ustaad nahiN ho “GHalib”
Kahte hai Nagle zamane meN koi Meer bhi thA

[rekhta = Urdu]

(You are not the only expert of Rekhta,Ghalib
Have heard tell that ere was a Meer too)

Mushafi farsi ko taaq pe rakh
Ab hai ashaar-e-Hindavi ka rivaaj

(Mushafi put Persian back in the closet
Custom is now to write verses in Hindi)

Showing that Hindi was exchangeable with Rekhta till the 19th century for the language. Mushafi (1750-1824) himself was the first to use the word Urdu meaning a language in his first Divan. Till then it was called hindavi and Rekhta.

The conversion of Hindavi/ Hindustani into Urdu, a language of Muslims started with Gilchrist (June 1759 – 1841) a surgeon turned Indologist who wrote and published ‘An English-Hindustani Dictionary, A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language’ in Persian and Devnagari script.

Though the British accepted that Hindustani was spoken or at least understood all over India, they insisted on identifying it with Muslims.

According to S.R. Farooqui since the term Hindustani was ambiguous in its religious affiliation, the British insisted on Urdu, as “that didn’t have the faintest reverberations of a Hindu link.”

The earliest reference to the story of the Zaban e Urdu, Hindi being generated by Muslim invaders was in a book for teaching Hindustani (that is Urdu) to British bureaucrats, and was written and printed in Fort William College under the aegis of Gilchrist, by Mir Amman Dihalvi called Baagh o Bahar.

Mir Amman’s book had many loopholes and he also forgot to mention that the language he called Zaban e Urdu was in a sense the language of the city and referred to as Hindvi / Hindi, as it was called at that time. Soon the popularity of his text book ensured the perpetuation of the myth of Urdu as a language of Muslim invaders.

It took a long time to harden the khariboli into separate Hindi/ Urdu traditions and there is evidence that the Hindu populace for whom” a new linguistic tradition was being created in the 19th century, resisted the idea.

Peter Austin in his “One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost” writes that Urdu  and Hindi have the same roots in the emerging Indo-Aryan language varieties spoken in an area centred on Delhi and specially the variety called KhariBoli which spread throughout India under the Muslim armies of the Delhi Sultanate (13th to 15th Century).

He says that in the early 19th Century the British chose KhariBoli as their administrative language, encouraging the use of Perso-Arabic and Devnagari script in parallel. The choice of scripts and source of vocabulary gradually became a source of religious affiliations and ultimately resulted in two standard languages, Urdu and Hindi.

The advent of the printing press meant that religious literature was translated for the common man. This deepened the growing schism amongst religions which was being fanned by the British and led to Sanskrtisation and Persianisation of Hindustani into a formal Urdu written in Persian script using Persian origin words and Hindi written in Devnagari with more words of Sanskrit origin.

The British rulers created texts and published discourses for Indians in the now rapidly getting standardised Hindi or Urdu by using Devanagari or Perso-Arabic script and distributing accordingly.

In the early days translations of The Quran and religious texts were commissioned and printed in Persian and Devanagari script. Later Urdu was the preferred medium for Islamic texts and treatises, further strengthening the belief of it being a language of Muslims. Though, today I have many relatives who read the Quran in Devanagari and many Gujarati friends who read it in Gujarati script. 

There is a vast treasure trove of Indian literature, prose and poetry written in Urdu. Everyone in India has heard of the poetry of Ghalib, Meer, Daagh, Brij Narain Chakbast, Krishna Bihari Noor, Josh Malihabadi, Jigar Moradabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni to present day Javed Akhtar and Gulzar to name just a few.

In prose we have Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chander, Qurratulain Hyder,Ismat Chughtai. Munshi Premchand’s  first novella, Asrar e Ma’abid was first published in Awaz-e-Khalq, an Urdu Weekly, after which he became associated with an Urdu magazine Zamana, writing columns on national and international events. He wrote under the pseudonym Nawab Rai in Urdu script, afterwards transcribing them (or hiring some local helper to transcribe them) into Devnagari, so that he eventually published practically everything in both scripts.

A picture of the original manuscript of Kafan

Firaq Gorakhpuri, the famous Urdu poet, had been a champion of secularism all his life and was a chief crusader against the government’s effort to brand Urdu as the language of Muslims. He was also instrumental in the allocation of funds for the promotion of the language.

In 2010 Gujarat High Court observed there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.

Today Urdu is languishing because somewhere along the line it was adopted by Muslim parents’ and the common perception is that it had apparently converted to Islam too! Nowadays it’s just a malnourished, homeless orphan.

(Urdu is the 6th most spoken language in the country but of all the original Schedule 8 Languages, Sindhi and Urdu are the only languages, which are ‘homeless’ as they are not the principal language of any state. (Census 2001))

The percentage of people listing Urdu as their mother tongue is also declining. In many instances Muslims themselves are listed with their mother tongue as Hindi by census officers because they don’t know how to read and write Urdu.

Today Urdu is no longer linked to jobs and no language can progress or grow unless it can lead to economic rewards. Urdu newspapers are on the decline because of lack of advertising revenue. Schools/ colleges have stopped using it as medium of instruction because of dearth of Urdu text books for science and technology. Urdu medium schools lack qualified teachers.

Associated as it is in people’s eyes with Muslims, it has become nothing but a trap for vote bank politics, unkept promises and empty dreams. The only silver lining is that it still lives in the hearts of many across religious lines, in our Hindi films and TV serials, the crowds flocking to mushairas and the number of sites which provide sms lines on the internet.

After all everyone needs words to express love!

baad-e-nafrat phir mohabbat ko zabaan darkaar hai
phir aziiz-e-jaan vahii urdu zabaan hone lagii

(After hatred, once again love needs a language for expression,
Once again Urdu becomes beloved of all)

- Dr Mohammad Yaqub ‘Aamir’

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)

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  • http://Website Sher Jeel

    Very nice Mashaa Allah. Hamesha aise hi likhti rehain.
    In this world of hate it feels great to see somebody is working on the language of love. I call Urdu the language of love

    • http://Website Rana Safvi


  • http://Website Deepak Joshi, Australia

    Urdu has enriched the nation’s cultural tapestry in so may ways. It’s neglect has impoverished our culture and has led to a decline in the standard of our own so called national language, Hindi. It is evident in the quality of broadcasters on radio and TV these days whose atrocious diction makes me cringe.

    Love your tweets Rana. Keep up the good work.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank You

  • http://Website DJ, Oz

    Please correct it’s to its.

  • http://Website Sayyed.jasim

    Really nice very important information …. Thank u sister

  • http://Website SKB (Anuradha)

    So proud of you. What a well researched and capitivating write up. Right from the header to references to class writing skills, this is an impressive piece.

    • Rana Safvi

      Thank You so Much Anu.

  • Shah Nawaz

    Behtree Lekh hai Urdu par…. Mubarakbad Qubul farmaen!!!

    • http://Website Rana Safvi


  • Swati Sani

    Thank you for writing this article. Urdu is very close to my heart, and my home. I understand and know how to speak Urdu but decided to learn the script so that I can read some very precious works by people like Safdar Aah – Dr. Aah’s works were never transcribed in Hindi and the world will loose a huge piece of literature if they aren’t.

    It is while learning to read Urdu that I realized that the beauty of a language enhances manyfold when read a language in it’s own script.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      well said. Thank you

  • Adnan

    Absolutely fascinating read. Wonderful article…traces Urdu’s origin as well as all the aspects of the language….

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank you for the support, encouragement and inspiration

  • http://Website Karthik

    Adding new words from another language or writing in a different script does not change a language. It is similar to how many people write hindi using latin script and use borrowed english words and still the language is hindi. Urdu thus is not different from hindi. Also, we already have a case of a language written in two scripts. Punjabi is written in both Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi. Thus it is clear that Urdu is not a different language at all. So the immediate need is for everyone to recognize that urdu and hindi are just two different registers of the same language. As for the script, people who have already learnt the scripts can continue to use them. But from the point of school instruction, arabic script should be discontinued, as devanagari is well suited to write this language. We have a great precedent in Guru Arjun Dev, who began to use Gurmukhi to write Punjabi, even though Shahmukhi was already established by poets like Baba Farid Ghanjshakar and other illustrious Punjabi poets in the past. The reason in his case was clear: he wanted to steer clear of the imperial influences that come with the use of the arabic script, as farsi written in the arabic script was the language of the court of the day. A similar thing can be seen in Turkey, where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1932 decided to do away with the arabic script for Turkish and replaced it with a latin based script. In modern times, where there is an increasing danger of muslims wahabizing themselves, it is all the more important that we institute such changes so people get back to their roots in India instead of seeing themselves as arabs and persians and turks. Urdu is an Indian language and does not need to be written in arabic script, which anyway came to be used only due to the perso-turkic court culture of Delhi.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      A very pertinent view point. We should not be rigid about script and let it be written in Devanagri or those who know it in Perso-Arabic. Though the way things are going I fear it is the Roman script which will take over. Its not the script which matters anyway, it’s the language.

      • http://Website Karthik

        Thanks for responding. :) Indeed, script change is not primary in this case. Unlike Turkish for instance, where a lot of public inscriptions were in arabic script turkish, which cannot be read by modern turks because of change of script, In India, hindi written in arabic script, though literarily used for a long time, was not a court language until in 1837 british made it so in North west provinces and Awadh. Works of Ghalib etc. can be reprinted in devanagari letters today. In any case, I think most people who know hindi in India today also know devanagari. Also, with explosion of the audio visual media, there will be natural convergence of the speakers as they start seeing and hearing each others productions where script won’t interfere in intelligibility. The main thing to remove is the consciousness that urdu and hindi are diff. languages. And it is just a mental block and a product of animosities built up in the 19th century.

    • http://Website Sambuddho Chakravarty

      Karthik you are right however, both scripts have their places and needs. in my humble opinion. There are sounds in standardized Hindi which can be only correctly represented with the Devanagari script and there are sounds in standardized Urdu which can be correctly represented by only the Perso-Arabic scripts. Eg. Hindi word ‘Shiksha’ (education) has the sound ksh which is produced correctly when youing the devnagari script because of the presence of ‘ksh’ characater in devanagari alphabet. Urdu word ‘Mu’afi’ (forgiveness) is uses the Perso-arabic character of ‘ain’ which cannot be represented by any character in the devanagari script. Thus a need for both scripts to render the words correctly. Romanized character definately wont be able to represent all the sounds.

  • http://Website farzana ahmad

    very well researched and written,rana.your article should help the people to realize that languages have no religions.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thanks for all the encouragement Apa. Just wish Amma was here to see this too. She would have had so much to add

  • http://Website Anurag Singh

    I love urdu because it’s very sweet language but I have to say only one among Hindi and Urdu could have become official language due to their similarity. It is obvious why Hindi became official language and Urdu couldn’t. Anyway Urdu/Hindustani is still surviving in it’s spoken form among north Indians.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Woh itradaan* sa lehja^ mere buzurgon ka ! rachi-basi hui urdu zabaan ki khushboo !

  • chandra prakash

    आधियों से बगावत की है तुफानो मे चिराग जला रखा है.
    जो सोचते है की हम ख़ाक हो गए आ कर देखे , राख मे भी अंगार दबा रखा है |

    Chandra prakash yadav (अलख सागर)

  • Chandra prakash yadav

    उर्दू अलख जगाओ , उर्दू बचाओ

    उर्दू नहीं सिर्फ एक भाषा है,
    हिन्दुस्तान की परिभाषा है ,
    करोड़ो लोगो की आशा है ,
    हर दिल मे ये बसे यही मेरी अभिलाषा है

    बहुत उन्दा प्रायाश है
    Chandra prakash yadav (अलख सागर)

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Very beautiful Kavita. thank you

  • http://Website Tufail

    Lot of steps are being taken to promote Urdu – People promoting it.
    Here the language is promoting itself.

  • http://Website Santhosh

    Thanks. This brought tears to my eyes. If love ever spoke, it spoke in Urdu!

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      such a beautiful line. Thank You

  • http://Website Shalu Joseph

    Good article. Requests to add some more links to the references cited. It improves quality.

  • http://Website Maria Naqvi

    Brilliant! Very informative

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank You

  • vivek

    Some intellectuals, like S.R. Faruqi and Narang, though from different ends of the ideological spectrum, sought to defend Urdu’s position in India by removing its greatest claim to our regard- viz. it’s link to the glories of Islamic spirituality, philosophy and aesthetics. This has the unfortunate effect of turning Urdu into the macaronics of Mannerist scribes and the insufferable elitism of urban dilettantes. One result has been that scholarly writing on, or ‘literary translation’ of Ghalib and Mir have become barren exercises in ‘Po Mo’ scholasticism.
    Take this couplet of Ghalib’s- ‘shumaar-e subhah mar’guub-e-but-e-mushkil-pasand aayaa/ tamaashaa-e bah yak-kaf burdan-e-sad dil pasand aayaa
    Prof. Faruqi has written a beautiful commentary on it but, for fear of showing Urdu to be ‘Muslim’, he does not mention the sublime hadith ‘all the hearts of men are between the fingers of the All Mighty which He turns like one heart as He wishes’.
    I appreciate that, due to the bitterness created by Partition, it was important for people like Faruqi, Naim, Narang etc to show Urdu wasn’t Sectarian or Secessionist (Islam isn’t either of those things, Partition was opposed by Deoband. Maulana Azad was an Islamic scholar and Jurist- Jinnah was a Secular Lawyer) however the true threat to Urdu comes from its so called ‘pujaris’ (worshippers) who are in fact, as Sahir observed more than 40 years ago) actually its assassins.
    Ordinary Muslims now prefer to learn Arabic directly and (according to Naim) mispronounce Urdu or change its grammar to ‘Arabicize’ it. So what? The elitism of many Urdu speakers was such that their own relatives. who came from smaller towns or less ‘cultured’ milieus, would be afraid to open their mouth in their presence!
    Meanwhile, public money is squandered on ‘preserving’ Urdu- i.e. some elite game of musical chairs- but what is being preserved? It is just the hereditary Estate of a Nobility which has long since emigrated. At one time, Urdu lamented Man’s separation (hijrat) from his Creator. Now it laments itself, not because it has been persecuted, but because its professors have moved on to greener pastures and it is pleasant for them to wax indignant over a decline occasioned by their own actions or inaction.

  • Gaurav Sharrma

    Very well written article. Thoroughly researched. However, My point of view is like this :

    Since we all agree that Urdu language is near extinction and need a revival plan. For any rescue or revival, the first step is to bring into fol those who do not understand the script and are unaware of the richness of the language or have forgotten the language.

    For this to be successful, there is a need for More dictionaries in URDU to HINDI/ENGLISH/OtherIndian Languages. Now these dictionaries need to be in Roman script to begin with, as many of us have heard the spoken language but are unfamilliar with the script.

    A concentrated effort by all scholars to first Transliterate the URDU work and then provide URDU words translations in ROMAN scripts will be a good start.

    Romanticizing with rich culture of past is good for story books but revival of language need a effort of educating the masses about the language and its naunces.

    I believe Rana Madam, it would be also a step in right direction if you carry this article to its logical conclussion by writing more on efforts needed to revive the language in your next posts….

    I will look forward to reading everyones inputs regarding this.

    Best Wishes

    Gaurav Sharrma (Gustaakh)

  • http://Website Priya VK Singh

    Rana Safvi, I find that among the educated middle class, those who love poetry turn to Urdu in their 30s and 40s, if not earlier, because Urdu poetry is simply incomparable. So long as our love for poetry remains, Urdu will live !

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      well -said Thank you

  • http://Website Asma Rizwan

    Excellent article, well researched and put forward. This shair sums up the sentiments -
    Mein lashkari zubaan hun,urdu hai mera naam,
    Apnayaa jis ne uski pehchaan ho gayi
    Jab tak akhand desh tha , har dharm ki thi mein,
    Bantwaara kya hua ki musalmaan ho gayi

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank You Asma for these lovely lines. Yess it sums it up

  • Nasheet

    Great article Rana Safvi ji.

  • keshda

    Great!! A lovely written from the heart article! Very touching and informative too!

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank you!

  • http://Website Faridoon Shahryar

    Brilliant … It’s sad how a beautiful language like Urdu has been subjected to prejudice and communalism

    Plz go through this blog post on my father Prof Shahryar’s ghazals/nazms and an effort to take his poetry
    Far and wide …kindly spread the word if you like the effort … Thanks!

    Faridoon Shahryar

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank You Faridoon. It will be a pleasure to read and promote your father’s beautiful shayri

  • http://Website Asif Kamal

    The communalisation of the script has robbed millions of the pleasure of their own literature , a language they speak and understand but can’t read or write.

    British might have started the undoing process but we have reinforced it.

    How many of us realise that the very first Hindi epic “Padmavat” by Malik Mohd Jayaisi was written in persian script.

    The good news is the influence and impact of urdu on sensibilities at least is far above 5% of the population.

    Recently my father Dr Kamal Ahamad Siddiqi published a book “Muqadma Zabaane Urdu” essentially stressing the secular nature of the language.


    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Well-said Thank you will look for the book.

  • http://Website Shahebaz

    Good research on urdu. Why the title so apologetic that Urdu is not Muslim? its one of the most beautiful language. Thats’ it. The reality is most muslims speak it today and with BJP propaganda narratives its associated with Muslims, even though it was created in India, by and for Indians.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      The title is the reality. Muslims may have adopted Urdu but the language never converted

  • http://Website Rana Safvi

    well -said and Thank You. Will look for this book in India

  • Megha

    Excellently researched and very well embellished with some beautiful poetry. Kudos to the writer!

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank you

  • http://Website NeechBrahmin

    Amazing, not one mention about the demise of a classic language born in India – Sanskrit!

    No tears for this language as it not only had a religion but also a caste (Brahmin)?

    • http://Website soumya

      Sanskrit was never a spoken Language since AGES. Urdu is relatively a modern language. and Sanskrit can never die becuase it is basis of many languages. Doesn’t happen with urdu the same way!
      and Blame the Brahmin who did not allow people to learn Sanskrit initially.

  • http://Website DieUrduDie

    Opposed to this is the figure of 44.15 percent Pakistanis who speak/ list Punjabi as their mother tongue. (In Pakistan, Urdu is spoken by a much larger percentage of people but they do not list it as their mother language and it’s the same case in India”

    Wrong about Large percentage of Pakistanis being Urdu speaking. Urdu has been forced on Pakistanis (punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch, etc). Only Mohajirs can claim to be native Urdu speakers. Over 60 per cent of Pakistan population that of Punjabis but only 44 percent claim their mother tongue to be Punjabi.

    Also, mother of irony, in spite of such a vast size of Punjabi speaking population; this language of Bulley Shah and Baba Farid is not taught in even one school! There is a ban on speaking Punjabi in Punjab Assembly!

    The obsession of the Pakistani elite with Urdu is killing Punjabi which is considered the language of the Pendus (idiots from rural background). Faiz, hafeez Jalandhari, Iqbal…are some of the elite punjabi poets who NEVER wrote in their mother tongue i.e. Punjabi.

    Mere vallon je Urdu kal mardi Ajj marr jave te behtar (for me, it would be better if Urdu dies today instead of tomorrow).
    I feel really odd to notice so many bleeding hearts (and their lackeys) beating chests over what is basically an invading army’s language.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      I mention it as mother language not speakers… And it’s sad that any language should be neglected. Once again the perceived religious affiliation at work.

  • http://Website soumya

    what a lovely article! Amazing.
    I know what you mean, when you say that it has been branded as the language of Muslims. In school from class 6th to 8th we had an option between learning Sanskrit and Urdu. Only Muslim students ended up opting for Urdu.
    I come from Bhopal, where the official Language was Urdu till 1970, Both my grandfather are from Bhopal and were well versed in the language. I am not sure out of what curiosity I taught myself to read and write urdu. and I am proud of that fact!

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Woh itradaan* sa lehja^ mere buzurgon ka ! rachi-basi hui urdu zabaan ki khushboo !

  • Manav Sachdeva Maasoom

    Kabul se kehta hun azaad kiya aapne, larhte hain kab se ki azaad kar do zabaan


    M.S. Maasoom

    • http://Website Sambuddho Chakravarty

      Wah wah! O Kabuliwale :)

  • http://Website Rana Safvi

    Thanks a lot. Wish more people would love Urdu for its beauty not ‘perceived’ religious affiliations

    • http://Website Sher

      Muslim politicians and spiritual leaders to be blamed for this perception. Pakistan politicians linked Urdu with Islam unapologetically. Even now, Dakhani Muslim politicians like Owaisis insist on speaking Urdu even in an overwhelmingly Telugu speaking state Assembly.

      • http://Website Rana Safvi

        true it’s the vote banks which are killing the language with it’s forcible conversion

  • http://Website Nasheet

    Inqalab zindabad…ka naara bhi Urdu shayero ki den he jinhone azadi ki ladai mein badh chadh kar hissa lia tha. And these days no one even knows who wrote saare jahan se accha Hindustan hamara…

  • GayatriiM

    Very well researched and expressed article Aapa . Urdu indeed needs to be raised up to the platform where it truly deserves to be. So much of our culture and heritage is associated with this beautiful language,it would be sad to see it all vanishing if Urdu is not preserved and taught to next generation.

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      “Voh Yaar Hai jo Khusbu ki Tarah / Jis ki Zuban Urdu ki Tarah” beautifully expressed by Gulzar sahab . Thank You

  • http://Website Navin Kumar

    I respect your views and you nicely written the things. If you love your language you must love and write and you did same. Thanks

    I am going to put some question

    In India there are numbers of language which are not principle neither official nor second language also even they are not a language as per Indian Govt. Probably Khushro also use to use those languages ( Awadhi , Bhojpuri ).

    We all knows Kabir , tulsidas but what about their language ?

    But yes languages like bhojpuri avadhi magahi are not the part of politics so ignored by all section.

    Still i proud that in East UP and In near by Bihar all residents are proudly speaking Bhojpuri in-spite of being hindu muslim sikh Isayi.

  • http://Website Rana Safvi

    The word inquilab means “revolt” and zindabad means “to live forever”. It was a revolutionary chant during the British rule over India. It was coined by the famous Urdu poet and Indian freedom fighter Maulana Hasrat Mohani

  • http://Website Deepankar Singh

    i have no intention of making any corrections; myself don’t know much! two observations — true or false, i don’t know — might contribute to your article:
    (“…This deepened the growing schism amongst religions which was being fanned by the British and led to Sanskrtisation and Persianisation of Hindustani into a formal Urdu written in Persian script using Persian origin words and Hindi written in Devnagari with more words of Sanskrit origin…”)

    ain’t the word ‘Persianisation’ deceptive? coz i remember having read somewhere that both Sanskrt and Persian have sprung from some common source, and that the languages Rgveda and Zend Avesta are written in have much in common.

    (“..In prose we have Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto,..”)

    I have also heard somebody say Premchand was not a ‘Munshi’… K.M.Munshi and Premchand together edited Hans for a few years, and the ‘word’ “Munshi Premchand” caught on

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank You. Dhanpat Rai, was Premchand’s actual name and yes he was a teacher .
      Sanskrit is a mother language , Persian is an Indo- Aryan language but that is a long article in itself.

  • http://Website Gunjan Jha

    567 tweets and many replies that your article has garnered show how much yearning people across the region have for this mellifluent language “URDU”. I tell you one fact that every person at some point of time in their life tries to learn URDU to impress his/her beloved (some tastes success others fail depending upon their fluency in URDU :) ). Urdu in my opinion is very powerful medium to express true emotions. Your article surely needs kudos and i guess many will get impetus in learning Urdu after reading it.


    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      Thank You “Urdu hai jiska naam hameeN jaante haiN DaaGh Saare jahaaN may dhoom hamari zubaaN ki hai”

  • http://Website Pankaj Hedaoo

    To save Urdu, Just Discard the arabic/ Persian Script…

    Ghlaib’s Diwan in Devnagri has as many takers as those with Ararbic/persian Script…In fact Urdu in Devnagri Script will quickly surpass sanskritised Hindi just due to it’s beautiful shayari…

    • http://Website Rana Safvi

      In fact many people are reading it in Roman. K C Kanda’s books are very popular. The language is important and as you say can be read in Devanagri or Roman or Perso-Arabic as per skills of reader

    • http://Website Balasubramaniam

      Pankaj, I agree with you. If Urdu literature becomes available in Devnagari script, it will immediately become immensely popular. In fact, of late a lot of Urdu literature is being published in Devnagari script. Some publishers go even a step further – by publishing it in both Devnagari and Urdu script. This is particularly helpful to those who want to learn the Urdu script.

      But for the sake of continuity with earlier literature and for connectivity with our brothers in Pakistan, we should also keep the Urdu script alive (until such time when Pakistanis agree to learn the Devnagari script!). Since Urdu script is so similar to Persian and Arabic, it is also our link to Iran and the Arabic speaking world and their literature. This is a distinct advantage – both intellectual and strategic.

      But as far as the common man in India is concerned, Urdu should be popularized in Devnagari script.

  • http://Website Safwan Ghani

    اردو ہے جس کا نام ہم ہیں جانتے ہیں داغ
    سارے جہاں میں دھوم ہماری زباں کی ہے

  • Azad Qalamdaar

    “After independence, the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights recommended that the official language of India be made Hindustani, as it was already the national language: “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Perso-Arabic script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union.”

    Had this been adopted there would just be a beautiful national language, Hindustani with a shared cultural heritage instead of two artificially created languages via kind courtesy of the British: Sansritised Hindustani called Hindi and Persianised Hindustani called Urdu. Unfortunately, this recommendation was not adopted by the Constituent Assembly.”

    thank you thank you thank you!! precisely what we’re advocating at Hamari Boli: ‘Hindi-Urdu’ Reinvented, taken together, Hindi-Urdu is the 2nd most spoken language in the world and lingua franca of South Asia and Desi worldwide..

    cheerz / [email protected]

  • http://Website Ravi

    Urdu is a beautiful, sweet language no doubt and I would very much like to see it revived, esp since I love Urdu poetry. However, the very fact that it is written in Arabic goes to show the foreign influence on it. Clearly, had there not been Islamic rule in India for over 900 years Urdu would not be there. In other words Urdu is a direct consequence of the Islamic rule. This is one very important reason why Urdu is perceived as Muslim.

    Whether we like it or not beginning of the demise of Urdu in India started when Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims of British India and Urdu was made as Pakistan’s national language. So, if people in India get the perception that it is the language of Muslims, are they wrong? Persistent hostilities by Pakistan toward India since independence has made the matters worse for Urdu.

    So, although revival of Urdu looks rather very difficult for the reasons listed above, it still can be done if Urdu is renamed as Hindustani, its original name and written/ read in Devnagari. But then if the Arabic script is taken out will Urdu remain as Urdu?????

  • http://Website Awanti

    I might be wrong, but isn’t it true that Urdu can be written in the Devnagri script, as are Hindi and Marathi as well as in the Arabic script?

  • http://Website Ajaib Singh Kochar

    Urdu as a language should never be allowed to disappear. It is hard now to turn the history back to where it existed at the time of or before Independence. Politics and religious zealousness has taken over in India. Unfortunate though it is, but since the language has been identified with Muslims, let at least all Muslim families in India ensure that their sons and daughters learn Urdu to as high a level as possible. I had a Muslim contractor and a few of his labourers from U.P., all Muslims, work on my house and they could only sign the receipts in Hindi. I was very disappointed. I see mushairas being telecast by Etv and Aalmi Sahara channels and note that most of the poets and a majority of the audiences are Muslims. It’s sad, but let it be. I am happy at least the language is still alive, even if among 15% of the population. Hopefully, the Hindi chauvinists will realize their mistake one day. Inshallah. Thanks to Rana Safvi, it’s people like her who are keeping the flame burning bright in a darkening environment for Urdu.

  • http://Website Kamesh

    Urdu is a exquisite language: no doubt about it. It is absolutely NOT a ‘Muslim language’; it’s silly to assign a religious identity to any languaqe. That said, here are a couple of issues:

    1) A national language with a lot of Arabic and Persian words in it are not intelligible to people in South India. I didn’t see any recognition by the author that there is a region of India called The South where very different languages are spoken. If Hindi is to be the national language, it is necessary to use words from Sanskrit rather than Arabic/Persian to make the language accessible to South Indians.

    2) For some inexplicable reason, the Muslim community in India appears to have declared the Urdu language to be ‘Muslim’. Increasingly, Indians from non-Hindi speaking regions of the country speak in Urdu rather than their own native language. They’d rather speak a hilarious pidgin Urdu (as spoken in Hyderabad and Bangalore, for instance) than speak fluent Telugu or Kannada – or Tamil. Why do Kashmiris prefer to speak Urdu rather than their own Kashmiri language?

    There is a way out. Urdu should be explicitly distanced from Islam. People should be encouraged to be fluent in their own regional languages. Urdu should be enjoyed for its own sake.

  • temporal


    good post and some good comments here.

    mirza ghalib in a letter writes of his persion and urdu poetry thus “meri farsi aur hindi shaeri…”

    hindi urdu were interchangeable then.

    this language is adaptable, we were told. if it holds true than in coming centuries it will survive.

    warna, kaun jeeta hay tri zoolf kay ser honay tuk:)

  • http://Website Manoj

    exactly that’s where i too feel Urdu is stuck Kamesh . i have been to various parts of India and find predominantly Muslim community using even stupid damagedHindi as Urdu . the bias in shairi has been predominantly as Urdu had been used by our Muslim brothers mostly – definitely we can’t revive a language just by saying now that it would have been the national language . languishing doesn’t make sense .
    Urdu suffers the fate what French suffers in Europe . being the most beautiful language in Europe French couldn’t beat English to reach the common man .
    last day i saw a tweet from somebody in Pakistan saying that his shairi hasn’t been effected by the terrorist activities . i just can’t understand why he couldn’t reflect the mind of the generation facing terror attacks or was he too busy roaming his ideas of love when the world around him is in a mess

  • http://Website Ajaib Singh Kochar

    If Hindu chauvinists have a problem with Urdu in its present form, let it assimilate more and more words from Hindi and call this hybrid as Hindustani. This nomenclature will sound more Indian than Urdu and let people have a choice of writing it either in Arabic or Devanagari script. People in the south have a problem with Hindi but Hindustani will be all-pervading national language, taking into its fold commonly-used and widely-understood words from as many Indian languages as possible. Let there be a new language which we can all call as our own.

  • http://Website PM

    It is wonderful article and the name is perfectly placed to match with the concern and consideration of the issue ..Bhasha ke liye sarvottam uphaar ..aapke ye vichaar

  • http://Website Anshu

    My dear Rana
    Humne kuchh din intezar kiya apki kalam ka asar dekhne ko aur mashallah kya jalwa dikha!

    Hain aur bhi duniya me sukhanwar bahut achchhe… Gul-e-Rana ka hai andaaze-bayan aur!

    A language is a living thing. It is born, it peaks, it weathers, it dies. Urdu, like any language needs the vehicle of expression to survive. Some languages like Gondi live orally and no ravages of civilizational upheavals dent them. Urdu, like Persian and Sanskrit before, lived in courts which require writing. It needs to breathe through both written and spoken word.
    If a language has the strength to survive, it survives. Urdu is a robust language with many takers as I saw when driven by a desire for a certificate I went to give an exam conducted by the Urdu Council (Govt. of India)a couple of years ago. It was a medium-sized school and all its rooms were choked with examinees. They were a happy mix of Bhopalis of all creeds. The only complaint was that it was tough to cheat due to the highly personalized calligraphy of rekhta. Both my children learnt Urdu and their profit on it is that they speak well and with clarity.
    The script is an issue. Devnagri found a way through a little dot at the base for nukta and apostrophe for wakfa but the Roman script has no scope at all! It holds grave pitfalls for beginners. Devnagri has almost all literary Urdu in its fold. Check out any Pustak Mela!

    Rana has done great service to initiate this discourse on the web. Youngsters must know the language India fought its First War of Independence(1857) in, the language the first Indian novel(Ekhlak-un-Nisa by Rashidunnisa Begum) was written in, not merely a language of soft nothings but a vehicle of India’s creative awakening.

    Eager for more from the erudite writer with a lovely turn of phrase…

  • http://Website Shahnwaz Alam

    Rana ji thank u very much jo apne urdu ka itna acha ta’ruf kraya..i just want to add u on facebook.

    plz provide the best wishes are always with you.Allah bless you!!!

  • Khyber Khpalwak

    Great tribute to Urdu. I do not grudge you your love for Urdu but the promoters of Urdu here in Pakistan took our local languages away from us. It is ironic Urdu is oppressed in India and the oppressor in Pakistan.

  • suvrajyotigupta

    I wish I could agree with the article but I cannot.There are historical inconsistancies in the article…

    Firstly before independence the Muslim League did put up Urdu as a Pan-Indian Muslim language.Urdu was the life-blood of the Pakistan movement and very concious efforts were made to purge it of Sanskrit words.

    Secondly post 47 there was an effort to impose Urdu upon East Pakistan- Bangladesh.Which triggred the “bhasa( language ) andolan” and finally led to independence in 71.Thus the language does have an association with imperial/communal tendencies.This is one of the reasons why Bangladesh still refuse to give citizenship to the small Urdu speaking minority in the country ( called incorrectly Bangladesh).

    Finally I cannot disagree with the beauty and the grace of Urdu but the question is,are the regional languages any less beautiful? Then why donot they receive the same support and patronage from the State?

  • neoimaginations

    thank u for bringing such an awesome article on such an awesome language urdu

  • Dr abdul jamil khan

    Dear Rana,
    Good article and a pecemaker; Please view ” Urdu/hindi an artificial divide African heritage—” exposing British creating a ” indo-euro-aryan” language/nation and a semitic nationalism –all assuming biblical races as ” real history”; Book exposes this wrong policy ” and a deliberate one ” and also suggests anew classification based on ” scientific evolution out of Africa. This is a real clincher for south Asian peace as it discards Sanskrit, Hebrew Arabic as ” Divine creation” and locate them as part of evolution out of Africa and Mideast farmer’s migration some 12000 yrs ago; Here humans were just human free from biblical/hinduic racism.