Mir Babbar Ali Anees (Anis) (Urdu: میر ببر علی انیس) was a renowned Urdu poet.
His father, Mir Khaliq who was a famous poet and littérateur, took personal interest in the education and upbringing of his son, and entrusted him to the care of reputed contemporary teachers, Mir Najaf Ali Faizabadi and Maulvi Hyder Ali Lucknavi. In addition, Anis's mother who was an educated and pious lady, played a significant role in shaping the personality of the boy poet.But above all, it was the boy's own instinctive urge for learning and literature that made him an accomplished poet, proficient in Arabic, Persian and Islamic scriptures, and well-versed in logic, literature and philosophy. Poetry came to him as ancestral heritage, for his forbears, going back to his great grandfather, were eminent poets and men of letters. Anis was the grandson of Mir Hasan who is remembered for his immortal Masnavi, Sehir-ul-Bayaan. His parents had migrated in their old age to Lucknow, where he spent the best part of his life.
Anis had started writing poetry quite early in his life right at Faizabad, though he perfected his art in Lucknow under the supervision of Imam Bakhsh Nasikh. In keeping with the popular trend, he first tried his hand at the ghazal, but failing to make much headway in this sphere, he changed over, under the advice of his father, to the writing of marsias, in which domain he soon established a high reputation, equaled (sometimes) by his poetic compare, Mirza Salamat Ali Dabeer
Anees broadened the scope of this genre by including in its body, in addition to the customary lamentation and mourning, realistic scenes of the battlefield, graphic delineations of the hero's face and figure, lively portrayals of the emotional states of the combatants, accurate descriptions of the landscape, and occasional interludes of moral edification.
Anis was a master of simple, natural utterance, with a superb command on the language, which was always adequate to express a large variety of moods, scenes, characters and situations. He is specially notable for presenting the same scene or situation, over and over again, in different words or phrases, without letting it appear monotonous.
Besides being a master of the marsia, Anis was also a specialist of the rubai, the shortest complete poem in Urdu, containing only four lines.
Work, Contribution and Legacy
Mir Anis composed salāms, elegies, nauhas, quatrains. While the length of elegy initially had no more than forty or fifty stanzas, it now was beyond one hundred fifty or even longer than two hundred stanzas or bunds, as each unit of marsia in musaddas format is known. According to Muhammad Hussain Azad;
"The late Mīr Sahib must certainly have composed at least ten thousand elegies, and salāms beyond count. He composed as easily and casually as he spoke.".
Muharram and Mir Anis have become synonymous among Urdu lovers of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Mir Anis has been a great teacher and inspiration for generations. Undoubtedly, Urdu derives much of its strength from the Marsias of Mir Anis. Mir Anis has drawn upon the vocabulary of Arabic, Persian, Urdu/Hindi/Awadhi in such a good measure that he symbolizes the full spectrum of the cultural mosaic that Urdu has come to be. No Urdu poet from Ghalib onwards has lagged behind in showering his eulogies on Mir Anis. Mir Anis himself was aware of his contribution as he writes:
"Kisi ne teri terha se aay Anis, Aroos-e-sukhan ko sanwara nahi"
"Perhaps there is no other poet in the world who has looked after the aesthetic and spiritual satisfaction of his"
The first major and still current critical articulation about Mir Anis was Muazna-e-Anis-o-Dabir (1907) written by Shibli Nomani in which he said
"the poetic qualities and merits of Anis are not matched by any other poet"
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi in 'How to read Iqbal?' on comparing Iqbal with Nazeer Akbarabadi says that "Iqbal was placed better because he had, among others, Bedil (1644–1720) in Persian and Mir Anis (1802–1874) in Urdu." to inherit the rich tradition of Urdu nazm. He further asserts that, "The mention of Mir Anis may surprise some of us until we realize it that Mir Anis’s marsiyas are the best premodern model in Urdu of narrative-historical, narrative-lyrical, and oral-dramatic poetry, and Iqbal’s poetry extends and exploits the possibilities created by Anis."
The marsia, strictly speaking, is an elegiac poem written to commemorate the martyrdom and valour of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his comrades of the Battle of Karbala. In its form the marsia generally consists of six-line units, with a rhyming quatrain, and a couplet on a different rhyme. This form found a specially congenial soil in Lucknow (a city in Northern India), chiefly because it was the centre of Shia Muslim community, which regarded it an act of piety and religious duty to eulogies and bemoan the martyrs of the battle of Karbala, and Even a short poem written to mourn the death of a friend can be called marsia. Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem 'In Memoriam' can rightly be called marsia. The sub-parts of marsia are called noha and soz which means lamentation and burning of (heart) respectively. It is usually a poem of mourning. The form reached its peak in the writing of Mir Babbar Ali Anis.
The famous marsia writers who inherited the tradition of Mir Anis among his successive generations are Mir Nawab Ali 'Munis', Dulaha Sahab 'Uruj', Mustafa Meerza urf Piyare Sahab 'Rasheed', Syed Muhammad Mirza Uns, Ali Nawab 'Qadeem', Syed Sajjad Hussain 'Shadeed', Syed Sajjad Hussain "Shadeed" Lucknavi, Dr. Syed Ali Imam Zaidi, "Gauher" Luckhnavi the (great grandson of Mir Babber Ali Anis).
The Majlis of 25 Rajab, is historically important Majlis of Marsiya in Lucknow, in this majlis Mir Anis used to recite Marsiya. After Mir Anis well known marsiya writers of Mir Anis's family as Dulaha Sahab 'Uruj', Mustafa Meerza urf Piyare Sahab 'Rasheed', Ali Nawab (Qadeem) and Syed Sajjad Hussain 'Shadeed', inherited the legacy of reciting marsiya. Presently, Dr. Syed Ali Imam Zaidi (Gauher) Luckhnavi (grandson of 'Shadeed') recites self composed Marsiya.
Anis died at the age of 71.
When Qasim’s wish for battle was granted by the Prince
At his looming death he rejoiced, of his faith convinced
Armed, valiant, and majestic, like a lion he rode out
The evil army gaped at the grandeur he evinced
Tidings there are, death is in the offing,
O ignorant!, after food and drink, thou are running,
Life shall perish, Death shall prevail,
The proof of Thy going is Thy coming.
From an ignorant being, I expect not eulogy,
It be a friend or foe, I listen to all and sundry,
Verily, the flavor of friendship fades not,
I remove thorns and pluck the flowers gently.
It’s God who exalts, whomever He wishes,
Self-effacing is the man, humility he practises,
Swaggering suits only to the brainless being,
As to an empty vessel, noise pleases.