Thursday, September 3, 2009

Islamic literature in Urdu

Few weeks ago, I was in the historic town of Bath in England. Bath is famous for the early Roman grandeur, and was the site of the Roman town of Aquae Sulis. The main attractions are the Roman Baths that attract hundreds of people.

It was a weekend and the city centre was teeming with people marvelling at the architectural beauties or finding their way to the museum dedicated to famous author Jane Austen. As I was walking through the busy market area, I saw some Islamic literature in English and Urdu. I was amazed by the sight of the Urdu booklets. The small booklets sought to clear doubts about Islam and could be picked up for free.

Though there were not many who were interested I managed to get a peek but had to rush as I was running against the departure time of my bus back to London. The collection was from the Bath Islamic Society and it had two volunteers who were standing near the humble collections.

It felt good to know that such books are being published and are being circulated in such a way. Apart from newspapers, magazines and old titles, Islamic literature seems to be the only other subject which has found expression in Urdu, especially in the Indian sub-continent. This has perhaps also given credence that Urdu is the language of Muslims.

How many books on other religions are available in Urdu? The number of non-Muslim Urdu writers are on the decline and I haven't heard of popular comics having Urdu editions, even though some of them come out in multiple languages.

The same also goes for Sanskrit. One of the oldest languages, it is fast disappearing from colleges and universities. My only memory of Sanskrit is from my cousins in a primary school in North India studying it for their exams. That too was 15 years ago, I do not know what the status is now.

Booklets and thin books apart, I am not sure how many people would be interested in reading 'Bahishti Zhevar' written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi. Do people look out for such books?

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