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Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq was a noted Urdu poet . He wrote poetry under nom de plume “Zauq”, and was appointed poet laureate of the Mughal Court in Delhi. He was a poor youth, with only ordinary education, who went on to acquire quite some learning in history, tradition and astrology in his later years. Zauq was a prominent contemporary of Ghalib and in the history of Urdu poetry the rivalry of the two poets is quite well known. During his lifetime Zauq was more popular than Ghalib for the critical values in those days were mainly confined to judging a piece of poetry on the basis of usage of words, phrases and idioms. Content and style were barely taken into account while appreciating poetry

Son of an ordinary soldier in the Mughal army , Zauq was sent to a maktab (elementary religious school) that was run by Hafiz Ghulam Rasool. Hafiz himself was a poet and used Shauq as his nom de plume. Under his influence the young Mohammed Ibrahim also got attracted towards poetry. Hafiz provided the required encouragement, took him as his pupil in poetry too and suggested Zauq as his nom de plume. Though Zauq could not complete the course of the maktab, he got hooked to poetry. In those days Shah Naseer was the most famous master poet of Delhi. Zauq began showing his ghazals to Shah Naseer for improvement. Naseer recognized the natural talent and made him his pupil. Gradually, Zauq began participating in the mushairas. His natural bent of mind towards poetry coupled with his singular obsession to excel in the pursuit brought him fame and fortune. He would be better appreciated in the mushairas than his mentor. Shah Naseer got very annoyed with the growing popularity of Zauq. He threw him out of the group of his pupils. Zauq, thereafter, relied only on his talent and continued writing poetry with a vengeance.

Another poet, Meer Kazim Husain Beqarar, a friend of Zauq’s was appointed the mentor of the Crown Prince Zafar, who later ascended the throne. Through him Zauq could got the chance to enter the royal court. He also started participating in the royal mushairas. When Beqarar took up the job of Meer Munshi (Head Clerk) in the Office of John Elphinstone, Crown Prince Zafar appointed Zauq as his mentor with a monthly salary of Rs. 4- that was ultimately raised to Rs. 100- when Bahadur Shah Zafar ascended the throne. He remained the poet laureate of the Mughal Court till his death in 1854.

Since Bahadur Shah Zafar was fond of using simple and colloquial diction, Zauq too composed his ghazals using simple words, phrases of everyday use and similes rooted in the common culture. His ghazals are also notable for their spontaneity. Zauq was a deeply religious man. In his ghazals too he would deal with religious and ethical themes. Therefore, his ghazals lack lyricism and appear to be the verses of a preacher.

A Major portion of Zauq’s poetical output got lost because mutiny of 1857. Maulana Mohammed Husain Azad compiled a slim volume of his poetry with the help of his pupils like Hafiz, Veeran, Anwar and Zaheer that contains twelve hundred couplets of Ghazals and fifteen Eulogies. Even though much of his work was lost, he left behind a legacy of ghazal, qasida, and mukhammas

Ibrahim Zauq 

Laayi hayat aaye qaza le chali chale

apni khushi na aaye na apni khushi chale
ham sa bhi ab bisaat pe kam hoga bad-qamaar

jo chaal hum chale voh bohot hi buri chale
behtar to hai yahi ke na duniyaa se dil lage

par kya kareN jo kaam na be-dil-lagii chale
ho umr-e-Khizr bhi to maaluum vaqt-e-marg

hum kyaa rahe yahaaN abhii aaye abhii chale
duniya ne kis ka rah-e-fana mein diya hai sath

tum bhi chale chalo yun hi jab tak chali chale
nazan na ho khirad pe jo hona hai wo hi ho

danish teri na kuch meri danishvari chale
kam honge is bisat pe hum jaise badqimar

jo chal hum chale wo nihayat buri chale
ja ki hava-e-shauq mein hain is chaman se ‘zauq’

apni bala se bad-e-saba kaheen chale

My translation of Zauq’s famous ghazal
1. Life brought me, death took me away

I neither came of my free will, nor did happiness have a say
2. Even if gifted with ever lasting life, at time of death,

I would say, i just came, and its time to go away
3. Tis better to not get attached to worldly objects,

But what if this indifference doesnot get its way
4. When has the world supported anyone on this path of mortality.

You also keep pace with life, thus, till you have your way
5. There must be very few gamblers, as bad as me

Whatever move I made was a loser straight away
6. Zauq bids farewell on the wings of yearning 

Matters it little to me if the breeze comes ever your way

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