Nazrul’s Letter to Principal Ibrahim Khan
Original in Bangla by: Kazi Nazrul Islam
Translated by: Subrata Kumar Das
[Ibrahim Khan (1894-1978 ), born in Tangail, was a prominent
educationist and writer of the then Bengal. In 1926 he
established Karatia Sadat College and served there as the
Principal till 1947.
Principal Ibrahim Khan wrote a letter to Kazi Nazrul Islam
(though the date was not mentioned, it is assumed that it was
written in 1925). This letter carried many hopes against the
fanatic attitudes created around for Nazrul’s rebellious poems.
After about three years Nazrul, inspired by his literary friends,
decided to publish the letter. He was also encouraged to publish
a reply to that letter.
The letter of Principal Ibrahim Khan was published in Naoroj
(Bhadro, 1334 B.S.) with the title ‘Ekkhani Potro’ (A Letter) and
Nazrul’s answer titling ‘Chithir Uttorey’ (In Reply to a Letter)
was published in Saogat(Pous,1334 B.S.)
In this letter by Nazrul a reader can get a true explanation
from the poet himself about his rebellion against God and other
established values. Moreover Nazrul’s sympathy and attitude to
Muslim society have been properly delineated in the letter. One
may be introduced to Nazrul’s thought on literary theories and
schools in it. ]
Respected Principal Ibrahim Khan Shaheb,
It is said that Brohma’s
one day is equal to our eighty years. Though I am not so
great a creator, I am a creatorundoubtedly, whatever small my area may be. So my oneday is no less than three years. Othersmay not believe it, but I know you will.
When I am answering your letter of 1925, the year 1927 is going to meet the end. It is
possible that with the end of 1927, my years will end. As a reason, getting the
opportunity to reply you I am speaking my last in response to some invisible urge.
Because, none of my enemy will be able, let alone my friends, to prove that in the last
three years I have written to anyone. I do not have that muchcourage to hear the news
that my years are ending. Neither I believeit. But some members of the poetical
community believe it and have tried much in respect of money and ability to make me
believe it. But the sigh they control looking at my figure is not very small nor even of a
believer’s. Poor I am, I cannot, some say to them, accept their attention gladly.
I feel sorry to consider them as my enemy even though people say so. Because, once
they were my best friends. If they sincerely desired my death today, then it is nothing but
for my good, I believe wholeheartedly I have not lost my faith in man whatever shock I
get from them in whatever quantity. Whenman’s face gets overturned, he becomes a
ghost or when be becomes a ghost his face gets overturned but when man’s heart is
overturned he becomes more terrifying than the ghost ⎯this I know well. After all these
I respect him, love him. I haven’t seen God, but I’ve seen human. I believe that this
dusty, corrupt, helpless, sorrowful people willcontrol the earth one day, unwrap all the
mysteries and bring down the heaven. I feel him in all the sorrows of the pitied people, I
feel him in all the tears of them. I am not exaggerating at all.I can visualize myself in the
diamond tears of them. If I fail to do anything,I wish that I can at least cry heartily with
But this is not your letter’s reply. See, I have forgotten the technique of writing letters
for not writing long. I have been profited much for that. Though I reply to someone’s
letter instantly, s/he loses all her/his interests to respond me. Because, that becomes
everything other than his/her letter’s reply. The sufferers may talk in favour of it. So if
this letter becomes some other thing than your letter’s reply, that is not a fault of your
fate, but that is my hand’s infamy.
Though we have not met yet, we have heard not less about each other. I know you
more than you know me. I can blame only my bad luck for not meeting you yet. I don’t
hope to have any further possibility of meeting you as I haven’t got that chance in my
roaming about the whole country. Specially – when I’m eliminating myself from all my
acquaintances. But it has been better – at least from your part. I’ll be able to bear my loss
in the joy that I’m not giving you the opportunity to be sorrythinking that your deep
respect has been delivered to some worthless person. It’s not my politeness. I’ve felt that
those who have paid respect hearing about me, have been disappointed after seeing me.
So, I’m inwardly praying that I would let themstay away to relieve of the pains that I
caused them while staying closer, otherwise my love for man is untrue.
Moreover, nearness has a cruelty. There is no disgrace in moonshine, the moon has its
own disgrace. The moon soothes our eyes from far, but none will possibly be happy after
going to the dead surface of the moon. The sun–ray that enters our homes through the
windows gives light but our eyes are hurt with it. I adore the sun and the moon, but I
become afraid when I hear about their visit to the earth. Brother, it has been better,
because my disgrace could have been more if I had gone to you.
Now let me tell about respect. In that pointalso you do not have that possibility. If
respect could have been measured by balance, we could get all solutions from one of our
veteran editor who is an expert in measuring people’s vices and virtues like a
businessman. Due to the evil influence of the stars, his balance never favours me; even
then you would defeat, I can assert.
There is a reason for the sudden reference of the grocer, friend. You know well that
we are the customers of pennies. So wheneverthere is some unfairness in weighing, our
heart shrieks. We do not know how much the grocer profits from it, but none but we ⎯
surely not the grocer ⎯will realize our total loss. Even then when we see the grocer with
the balance we get relieved because he will hesitate to cheat before our eyes; but
whenever the low paid servants become the owners of the balances, there remains no
hope. I have told before, we are the poor buyers. If we had riches like the biggies, we
would not complain.
The payabhari(having weighty leg: vainglorious) have some advantages, whether the
glory is for filaria or the weighty legs. We are to lift them over our shoulders or we have
to go to them bending our heads at land level. Those who understand business do not
hesitate to spend all the oil of their shops to the weighty legs though they envy the
customers of other shops and thus hate them. If necessary, his kids rush with the oil pots
to pour oil on his legs across the river Rupnarayan even if his leg fixes immovably. He
does not forget to take the clown and the panegyrist with him.
Let us stop these silly talks. I’m to give answer of your question.
Hope, you will not be offended by my less affectionate addressing. I am a mere truant
village boy, moreover I don’t have anything named learning in me. I could address one
Khaja Ibrahim more intimately, but my handsand legs have entered into my belly
hearing the name of a principal. How formidable! I feel thirsty even when I remember a
head master, let alone a college principal!Not even the last boy who would obtain one
mark less than I could blame me for reading sitting on the bench in the classroom. My
legs never moved from the high benches and thus I had permanent arrangement with
them. Possibly for that reason when I am made to speak on the dais, it seems the
headmaster has made me to do it.
You cannot make me address you more cordially from such a teacher- stricken
Now let us begin. For a long time I feel that the Bengali Muslim society is much poor
psychologically, though not financially. I have received the title kafer(infidel) that the
Muslim society has given me. I cannot remember if I have ever complained about its
unjustness. But I have felt shy that I am not that much worthy to be ornamented with such
a title. In spite of that I have been placed in the row of Hafiz- Khyyam and Monsoor.
No one will believe the existence of human blood in my veins if I deny my owe to the
affection and love from the Hindu writersand public. Though due to envy some bad
Hindu and Brahmo writers are speaking ill and a few orthodox Hindu-sabha men are
publicizing bad rumours about me but their number is very few. Their envy is completely
communal or personal. I would not blame the whole Hindu society for these few devilish
activities. Moreover, at the present fanatic days my Muslim identity has been a crime to
some Hindu people ⎯how much non-communal I am.
I do not deny that the first storm of rebukes came from my own society i.e. the
Muslim society; though it does not mean that the Muslims did not appreciate me at all.
All the thorn of depreciation have gone underneath by the deep love and worm welcome
of the Muslim young friends. Maybe, I did not get the blessing from the seniors, but I got
the love and hearty garlands form the youths. I have plucked flowers in my loss-field.
These youths are led by Ibrahim Khan, Kazi Abdul Wadud, Abul Kalam Samsuddin,
Abul Monsoor, Wazed Ali, Abul Hossain. And these friends have made me great, have
made a seat in the hearts of the youths for me ⎯seat of love. They were youths who
received me with their garlands in Dhaka, Chittagong, Noakhali, Faridpur. Though these
youths were of no specific community ⎯they are of all the nations.
You have called me to arouse all. I think before your call I tried with my small but all
power to arouse them ⎯with my life and life-force.
My ability is small, but during the last eight years I have been roaming through the
towns and villages with the farmers and labourers. I have written, talked, sang through
the paths like the minstrels. I do not have money, but I know you will not ⎯who ever
others will ⎯blame me that I have ever hesitated to spend my capability. The
government has been much interested in mefor all my services to my country and
society. My most circulated books have been banned. Some days ago the police has
notified me that if myrecently published book Rudromongol(The Violent Good) is sold
more, they will arrest me for sedition. If I speak out in the same tone of the sage
“Behold, I do not give a little charity,
When I give, I give myself”
Please do not misunderstand it as my pride. …
You have called the society as ‘abandoned and pitiable’. I myself also take our
society as an abandoned and ‘demoralized’ one but I cannot take it aspitiable. From my
own experience I consider my society as fearful.This society is always with an iron rod
held high. If one discusses about its vices and virtues he is to be embarrassed. Maybe,
you are laughing, but I know, how many stones were thrown to my head.
You know what I think? This rotten society cannot be bettered only by caressing. If
any one have that power of psychic cure, he may try. When an abscess matures and
worsens, the patient then fears the surgeon most. A quack may console him that he would
relieve him only by touching his hands and the patient may be happy hearing this. But the
poor doubtful surgeon will not believe it. He operates with his knives deeply; the patient
shouts, throws his hands and legs, scolds him.But the surgeon goes on with his activity.
Because he knows that today the patient is speaking ill about him but he will come to
greet him after some days when his pain is eradicated.
What do you say? I myself is in favour of the surgeon. The society will throw its
hands and legs, will speak ill; but those who donot have that capacity to bear it, they
need not try to work for social welfare. So, time and again I am calling the brave and
devoted youths. This purification is possible only by them. They do not hanker after
fame, they don’t beg honour. If anyone has such a stomach to bear this poverty, has back
to bear attack, they are the youths. It is they who will create new literature, who will
bring new wave, who will sing for the fresher.
Maybe, you have identified me as the pioneerof them. But like you I also think, till
now, of that fortunate who will be the pioneer of them. It seems to me that-fortunate has
not yet arrived. I have repeatedly told earlier that I have not seen that fortunate, but
whenever I will see him I will be able to identify him. My words are only the welcomesongs to him. I will be only the trumpeter of him. I think, I am singing only the
awakening song at the wink of him. Fromall quarters around attacks, dishonour,
disgraces are bestowing over me, but I will not stop my trumpet. I do not know from
where or from whom I have attained this belief. I only think that someone’s order or
blink is always singing in my sad inner mind. I always hear his footsteps in my heart, in
Well, I also believe that anyone ofours may take that leadership.
Till now I have looked for him above me. Maybe, I have looked for him in me. I do
not like to say that I have met him, but I do nothesitate today to say that gradually I have
felt his nearness. Many times it seems that I might catch him extending my hands a little
I am brooding over your request to extend my hands. So I am hunting for that
undisturbed peacefulness in all hopelessness and despair thinking that I will discover my
neglected existence in myself. I do not know that whether I will get that peace in my
lifetime but if I get, I will answer your last question on that day.
Now I will try to account for some of your complaints.
The responsibilities that you have mentioned are regarding my creation of poetry or
purification of the society? I don’t know the concrete definition of art, if I know I don’t
A true artist feels troubled to obey that art will be most beautifully expressed when
‘art will sustain if this is created or art will perish if that is created’ and likewise formulas
are maintained. I know the school of classic will get furious and their pen will turn into
arrows if they hear it. The true picture has turned so by this time. Even then writers of the
new wave must say this today. Those whoever have jumped the barriers of the critics
have always received kicks and been dashed to 2nd class from the 1st.
Every time they have been criticized as crazy people. And they are larger in number.
They always shout even at the time of cry that ‘that cry in not very artistic, cry again
artistically and dancingly’. For this criticism to sorrow by the lifeless gatekeepers of art
the great poet Whitman was also grouped inthe non-poets. My condition is nothing better
than to swallow the pillow. When I write Sorbohara(The Proletariat) they say it’s no
poetic at all. When I write Dolonchanpa(The Yellow Flower), Chhayanot(The Raga
Chhayanot) they say that they are silly. Whatwill that meaningless sounds matter? What
loss would be if I did not write it?
They say lyrics must be about love and war. There is no war inour country (except
the Hindu–Muslim war); so ifone writes poems about the suffering of humanity, it
becomes ‘ugly-rebellious feeling’ to them. The present day writers write about it because
it is easy to get praise, they say.
Possibly no poet can toleratesuch comments: ‘My poetry is not poetic, I am not a
poet’. So those who were appreciating man’s suffering are now creating lifeless beauty.
Certainly there was an era ⎯possibly the earliest era ⎯when the volume of suffering
was smaller than that of the present day. The people got much opportunity to recite the
Vedic hymns in Topobon. But when people began to be oppressed then began the
creation of epics of suffering ⎯Ramayona, Mohabharot,Iliad etc. Consequently what
they wrote were full with ugly-rebellious feelings butwill anyone say that they were not
The new litterateurs have to cerate new throngs singing about these sufferings. If they
do not get room to sit in the same row of Kalidasa, Yeats or Rabindranath, they will get
place in the dusty rows of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Whitman, Gorky, Johan Bojer.
It is our long worship that this dusty rows will mortify those golden thrones.
Being one of the distressed and sufferers, I have sung maybe that song could not
expose their colours properly due to my lack as a painter; but how does a man be so low
to disgrace the pain of it? And see, there is no protest against all these ill talks.
But today I feel I should not have beenso much disturbed receiving the arrow. I
should have possessed the belief that my day’s sun may be shadowed for this arrow, but
for a moment, not for ever. Yet I do not feel pity for that. At least I know this is merely
the beginning of my life, beginning of my literary career. Why should I leave my demand
of my way? If they do not let me pass through their kingly path, I must take my thorny
way welcoming all attacks. At least I must proceed to the middle of the road. How can I
disgrace the garlands with which my naive friends have decorated me? You have spoken
rightly ⎯I will contemplate now ⎯contemplation for my way.
My young friends have imprinted the victory mark of Vidrohi (The Rebel)
permanently on my forehead. Many have mistakenit as the disgrace mark, but I have not
. Have I protested against the truth, the beauty as I have sung about the sorrow, the
beauty. I have rebelled ⎯rebelled against injustice, against oppression – against every
thing what is false, impure and backdated. I have rebelled against deception in the name
of religion, against superstition. Maybe, I could not express every thing with much
politeness, I could not show the glittering sheath hiding the sword ⎯and this is my fault.
For this I have been termed rebellious. I have rebelled against all misdeeds thinking it
right to go over all the walls ofsuperstitions of the society.
See, as I have told earlier that hitting can only arouse the sleeping society. It will not
get the true conscience unless a group of progressive revolutionaries arrive. The policies
that you have mentioned to titillate the Kumbhokorno’s feet are not very easy. Let the
boys try those policies. What harm will it do? You will say, Kumbhokornomay awake
but after awaking he will open his mouth, which is not very small. I think Kumbhokorno
will then finish his refreshment with them who have gone to arouse him.
Many have died, let more one/two die. You will say, that is the problem, who will
bell the cat? I say, if none of us possesses that courage, then let us all sleep like Ashab
Kahf till the doomsday. Give up all your hopes to awaken the society. The religious
community may believe but we don’t. It is not possible that no one willlose anything and
everything will remain as usual and the society will awaken.
My words may sound as moribund, but I am speaking thus after much experience. So
I say ‘Dear, you will be killed either by Rama or Ravona. If you are to die, then die by
one of these two after fighting. Why do you go to die at the hands of Honumana? It is
better to die in the action of arousing Kumbhokornothan at the hands of Honumana’.
When I deliver this idea people clap with ‘Allah Akbar’ and ‘Bondematorom’ slogans.
I do agree, discipline is necessary to build up something. But destruction needs no
rules. I destroy because I want to build up ⎯ my destruction is not for the sake of
destruction. I destroy as soon as I can in the hope to build up early ⎯I struck down all
the old and obsolete. I know Taimur or Nadir did not come to destroy, with a hope to
reconstruct. They had no difference between the old and the new. They destroyed for the
sake of destruction. But Babar destroyed Delhi to build up Delhi, Agra or the Royal
Crown or the monument of Tajmahal. My rebellion is not of something that my mind
wants, it is of the expression of my pleasure to be freed from everything from the
Many Muslim authors will debate on your term‘Muslim Literature’. Does it mean
literature by Muslim people or literature havingMuslim feeling. If it is real literature, it
will be for all nations. True, it will have a religion outwardly. Poetry may be created
basing the truth of Islam, but not the religious books. I do not believe that poetry can be
created on religious belief, neither on Islam. The main life – force of Islam is its
sovereignty, democracy, universalfraternity and socialism.
I do believe in the novelty and superiority of Islam. People of non-Muslim
community also do. Epics, not only poems, may be written having the great truth of Islam
as the main idea. I am a small poet, I have praised this greatness ofIslam through a lot of
my write-ups. But the tone of it could not supercede poetry. It cannot. If it can, then it
does not remain poetic. I believe that if the objective exceeds poetry then it hampers
poetry. I know what you want but I am unable to create what the society wants. The
religious rhymes are poetic to them. Nothing is understandable. Weare saved, but poetry
is not saved. It is to stay on the other side of the river. And here lies the cause of quarrel.
The people, who have swallowed the taste of poetry, say ‘whatever you do, do it in
proper rhythm’. In such a situation what will I write? ⎯ Huzzatul Islam or real poetry?
They only read Huzzatul Islam, I will not say, but I have seen them cry reading anything
Friend, I am not ridiculing, it is the joyous hailstone mixed with tears. If my writing
can give consciousness to the dying society, then I will belittle my poetic ideals for its
welfare. But the question is whether they will bear the assault on them. The Hindu writers
have written much about the faults and lacks and superstitions of their society, but they
haven’t lost the respect of their society. But there is no way of telling about the faults of
the poor Muslims. If any writer wishes to correct it, let alone to purify it, they may stab
him. The Hindu society has turned into a new forceful nation because of the sharp
writings by their valiant writers.
I know well, the greatest welfare of the nation lies in the incident to develop the
Bengali Muslim society. Due to their lack ofself-consciousness, the door to independent
India is yet closed.
I do agree, this poor country will attain no development if we fail to eradicate
disrespect to each other in both the Hindus and Muslims. And I also know that only
through literature this disrespect may be eradicated. But is not it verytough to express the
culture-education-history of Islam in poetry?
I think it will be better if our new workers of literature take different parts of it for
research and discussion. I have told before, I have never enjoyed the full peace of
undisturbed life. I pray, if I get it, may God give me the power to fulfill your request.
I do not believe that they who become furious reading my Vidrohi(The Rebel) pay
respect to Hafiz or Rumi. I think they are more rebellious than me. Do they think if
anyone utters the names of Hindu gods and goddesses is a kafer(irreligious person)?
Then Bangla literature will never be enriched by Muslim authors– except the manuscripts
of Joigun Bibi.
Bangla literature is a fosterdaughter of Sanskrit, if notits own daughter. So Hindu
ideas are so intermingled with it that if it is excluded, half force of Bangla language will
diminish. None can think to exclude Greekmythology from English literature. Bangla
literature is the joint product of both Hindus and Muslims.
It is injustice to be angry if any Muslim sees the names of gods and goddess in it, as it
is same for the Hindus if everyday-Muslim words are used in their literature. I believe in
the unity of Hindus and Muslims. So, I use Muslim-words to hurt their prejudice, or use
the name of Hindu gods and goddesses. True, for it, beauty in many parts of my poetry
has ceased. But I have done it knowing about it previously.
But, friend, is it my own duty only? As you do admire my power, I do believe and
respect your power. Why do not you begin to write plays about Muslimlives avoiding to
write Kemal Pasha. I think, you have no parallel in this respect at least among us. Kemal
Pashais necessary, I know, but more necessary isto expose the tragedies of our lives.
We are not in want of essayists and poets. You are to fulfill the vacancy of playwrights.
We mostly lack fiction-writers. No light ofhope, do I see, about it in anyone around. But
the fact is ⎯without fiction no one will be ableto express our lives and ideals.
Regarding translations we are also lacking back, let alone music, fine arts and performing
Dear, what of the above lacks will I satisfy? Though, I myself have touched many
things, and possibly none of them are done well by me.
Whatever painful my life is, I will contribute with songs of joy and sorrow, distribute
myself among others, survive among all alive. This is my vow, this ismy devotion, this is
In response to your beautiful letter, mine one is very poor. IfI inflict you any pain for
the lack of my capability of arranging ideas well, you will forgive me, even if I do not ask
your forgiveness, I believe.
I wholeheartedly pray that your high aspiration be fulfilled in some other one, if not
in a small one like me.
Kazi Nazrul Islam
To email Subrata Kumar Das: firstname.lastname@example.org