Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman: Purnea’s Unsung Hero

Asif Anwar Alig

Book: Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman Ki Adabi Khidmat
Author: Dr. Mohammad Kalimullah, Sir Syed Academy, Sajjad Colony, Purnea (Bihar) - 854301
Pages: 175 h/c
Price: 200

Literature sums up contributions of literati, reformers, educationists and poets to ensure that future generations are made aware of the noteworthy contributions of their forefathers. Regional language books offer ample literature on litterateurs from even remote places of India who failed to secure national fame. Limited popularity due to biased attitude towards regional works seems logical. It is lamentable indeed that several intellectuals with their irrefutable contributions in Urdu and Persian are literally unknown.

Author of “Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman Ki Adabi Khidmat”, Dr. Mohammad Kalimullah deserves applaud for his efforts to bring out aspects of a contrasting figure, a lawyer, Islamic scholar and a poet. It is an irony that Urdu and Persian researchers failed to take notice of such works which otherwise deserve national recognition. 

Born in Palasmani village of undivided Purnea district of Bihar on 7 July, 1901, Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman left behind a rich  legacy when he died on 18 September, 1975. This biography brings out the literary giant’s prophetic poetry in Urdu and Persian. It is difficult to fathom what stopped critics and custodians of literature to take notice of this litterateur whose poetry plus prose is so captivating?  As a result of this neglect an outstanding poet and essayist of the past era went largely unrecognised.

Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman was a poet, journalist, lawyer and Islamic scholar. It is outstanding that he managed to emerge from darkness to light out of  Plasmani village of rural Purnea (now part of Kishanganj) which still has limited resources for education due to lack of infrastructure. His command over poetry, prose and other forms of Urdu and Persian literature made him a litterateur by birth and a lawyer by choice. He transmitted his poetic legacy to his children Dr. Mohammad Sabih Salim, Mohammad Asad Janan, Mohammad Hazim Hassan, Mohammad Rizwan Azad and daughters Salish Salma Khatoon and Quratul’ain Nasreen. His son Mohammad Hazim Hassan is an eminent poet in Bihar today.

This book is an effort to sketch Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman’s life story. More such initiatives should be undertaken to critically analyse his contributions.

We learn about his early life hardships like pain to lose parents in childhood besides facing challenges while studying law. The book sketches his personality through references from journals or books of that era including his own books Gulban-e Fasahat (published from Banaras in 1915; Husna Siyah Faam (published from Lahore in 1921, Hayat-e- Fareed (published from Calcutta in 1933); Iqbal Aur Watan Ki Mohabbat (published from Kishanganj in 1938), Maqalat-e-Newman (published from Kishanganj in 1941) and the poetic collection, Nawa-e-Nay (published in 1952 from Kishanganj with the assistance from his disciple and a legend in Kishanganj, journalist and author, Akmal Yazdani).

This book provides an overview of the above books and their contribution to transform people’s mindset in his backward region before and after India’s independence.

As a poet and essayist of extraordinary calibre, his contributions in Urdu and Persian poetry must be recognised before it is lost in the heap of history. His work of critical analysis on an ancient book on Purnea, Vidyadhar, is an apt description of a 300-year-old book in an easy to understand essay. Literature flourished in Purnea since centuries with the contributions of litterateurs working in a backward reghion against all odds. One of such sons of Purnea, Novelist and storyteller Phanishwar Nath Renu, was a towering literati of worldwide fame.

Both poetry and prose of Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman are relentless expressions of love for the region, for the nation and an endless urge to transform society. His poetry is an example of argumentative romanticism.

Main parwarda hoon jis aab-o-hawa kaa
Mujhe jis sar-zameen ne hai paala, posa
Mera dil aur meri jaan uspe hai shaida.

(I am an outcome of this social hue. A region that nourished me and I willingly sacrifice to devote my life to it).

At one place he praises the contributions of the Indian fighters outside the country. Poetic narrations of India’s bravery abroad were prophetic. They eye on global happenings as observed from a tiny and remote village. Argumentations in Indian and global contexts can be best judged from these lines:
Jawanaan-e-Hind aafreen, aafreen
Ki sar jang-e-Africa tumne kiya
Naheen Zang-alood ab bhi huwee
Diye taigh-e-Hind ne jauhar dikha
Salaamat rahe Hindiyoun ki yeh fauj
Mubaarak ho usay fath-e Tuneesia
Bigaday zara ab Italy kay hosh
Ba Europe zand sikka India!

(Bravo, bravo, the Indian army, for your courage and determination in Africa; You have hardly bowed down or lost your spirits; Sword of India has literally proved miraculous; Let that spirit of the Indian army remain intact; They deserved the triumph in Tunisia; Now move ahead to show Italy its right place by another defeat to prove the Indian mettle even in the European region).
As a Persian scholar, Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman contributed poems of great calibre. His mature and mystic analysis and romanticism is portayed by fine poetic symphony which is mesmerising:
Khushtar az dauran-e-ishq ayyam neest
Ba imdad aashiqaan raa shaam neest!

(There is no better moment in life except the time to romance; As lovers rarely distinguish between the wee hours and evenings while deeply in love).
A section of this book contains cursory details of his unpublished works. These are prose collections from many old journals and publications. The third section is equally important as it takes the readers to the era when Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman lived. Some of his best poetry is reproduced in this section. His poetry is so forceful that even some famous Urdu and Persian poets being praised for literary ecstasy would fail to stand up to the stature of this otherwise sufi poet. His poetry praises the nature, eminent poets like Ghalib and Iqbal and defines the pathetic conditions of the region where he was born. Hardly anything has changed in that region in the last one century:
Zindagi ek kashmakash, ek jung hai
Zindagi kooh-e-giraan hai, sang hai
Ek lamhay kaa sukoon bhi hai haram
Zindagi hai gardishe paiham ka naam

(Life is a hallucination, a battle indeed; Life is a deep rooted cave, an unbreakable stone; Hardly is there a peaceful moment; Life is indeed a constant fight and thorough determination).
His collection of Urdu and Persian poetry has also been included in this book. These are on multiple themes from national issues to international politics of that era as well as on his personal observations and hardships.
Maulvi Mohammad Sulaiman passed away four decades ago but his literary work still keeps him alive. Custodians of Urdu and Persian literature must come forward to save his legacy.
The reviewer is assistant professor and media relations specialist at the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education. He worked earlier as an executive producer in ETV Networks. He may be contacted at

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2014 on page no. 21

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