Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a name known to the poetics in every corner of the world. A soft-spoken, well-mannered, and down-to-earth revolutionist who belonged to a Progress Movement initiated by writers and poets into the 1940s. This group of revolutionists believed in easing the suffering of their communities with the help of art and expression. The words inscribed by these revolutionists were solely written with the intention of empowering their audiences and overpowering the oppression with their activism. Faiz Ahmed Faiz happened to be one of the notable personalities of this movement.
Born in the cold and breezy February of Sialkot during 1911, Faiz led a life closely knitted with art and literature. Although he was politically affiliated with the military briefly too, he eventually found his way towards his true calling. Faiz started off with romantic poetry as many poets do. He soon realized that there is a whole world of possibilities waiting for him to endeavor. He started becoming more and more aware of the political climate around him, his focus shifted towards that. And that is when he started being vocal about the oppression and exploitation of the masses around him, the aftermath of colonialism that had left strong marks of trauma. Faiz became the voice of the oppressed and he revolted against injustice towards the masses.
Bol, ke labh azaad hain tere
Bol, zubaan ab tak teri hai
Tera sutwaan jism hai tera
Bol, ke jaan ab tak teri hai – Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Speak out! Your words are free.
Speak up! Your tongue is still your own.
Your body remains yours ramrod, erect.
Speak out! Your life is still your own. – Faiz Ahmed Faiz
This excerpt has been extracted out of a renowned revolutionary poem by Faiz. This poem speaks to the hearts of those who are oppressed, this poem is the roar of the hearts of those who are oppressed. One can simply say, Faiz became the voice of the voiceless. Although, his passion and compassion did cost him a lot. Due to his vocalness and knack for bringing peace to his community, he was construed as a rebel by the government and therefore, sent to prison for conspiring against the government for five long years. He did not take this detainment as a halt to his revolutionary movement, he wrote and published many empowering pieces from within the confines of a prison cell. He said, “Like love, imprisonment is a basic experience, for it opens many new windows for the soul.”
Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s literary and revolutionary empowerment of the oppressed was at last a fruitful journey. Faiz’s ability to use literary art as a tool to achieve peace among the people of Pakistan made him the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Not just this, he also bagged other awards including the Nigar Awards, HRC Peace Prize, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, and Avicenna Prize.