Faiz Ahmad Faiz MBE, NI (Urdu: فَیض احمد فَیض ), (born 13 February 1911 – 20 November 1984) was a Pakistani leftist poet and author, and one of the most celebrated writers of the Urdu language. Among other accolades, Faiz was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature and won the Lenin Peace Prize.
Born in Punjab, British India, Faiz went on to study at Government College and Oriental College. He went on to serve in the British Indian Army and was awarded in the British Empire Medal. After Pakistan's independence, Faiz became the editor to The Pakistan Times and a leading member of the Communist Party before being arrested in 1951 as an alleged part of conspiracy to overthrow the Liaquat administration and replace it with a left-wing government.
Faiz was released after four years in prison and went on to become a notable member of the Progressive Writers' Movement and eventually an aide to Bhutto administration, before being self-exiled to Beirut. Faiz was an avowed Marxist, and he received the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union in 1962. His work remains influential in Pakistan literature and arts. Faiz's literary work was posthumously publicly honoured when the Pakistan Government conferred upon him the nation's highest civil award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in 1990.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz was born into a Tataley Jat family on 13 February 1911, in Kala Qader(Faiz Nagar), District Narowal, Punjab, British India. Faiz hailed from an academic family that was well known in literary circles. His home was often the scene of a gathering of local poets and writers who met to promote the literacy movement in his native province. His father Sultan Muhammad Khan was a barrister who worked for the British Government, and an autodidact who wrote and published the biography of Amir Abdur Rahman, an Emir of Imperial Afghanistan.
Although his family were devoted Muslims, Faiz was brought up in a secular tradition of Islam. Following the Muslim South Asian tradition, his family directed him to study Islamic studies at the local Mosque to be oriented to the basics of religious studies by Maulvi Muhammad Ibrahim Mir Sialkoti. According to Muslim orthodox tradition, he learned Arabic, Persian, Urdu language and the Quran. Faiz was also a Pakistan nationalist, and often said "Purify your hearts, so you can save the country...". His father later took him out of Islamic school as he wanted his son to follow the footsteps of the great Indian Muslim educationist Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, sending him to attend the Scotch Mission School, which was managed and run by a local British family. After matriculation, he joined the Murray College at Sialkot for intermediate study. In 1926, Faiz enrolled in Department of Languages and Fine Arts of the Government College University (GCU), Lahore. While there, he was greatly influenced by Professor Mir Hassan and Professor Shamsul Allam who taught Arabic language. Professor Hasan had also taught the renowned philosopher, poet, and politician of South Asia, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. In 1926, Faiz attained his BA with Honors in Arabic language, under the supervision of Professor Mir Hassan. In 1930, Faiz joined the post-graduate programme of the GCU, obtaining MA in English literature in 1932. The same year, Faiz passed his post-graduate exam in the 1st Division from Punjab University's Oriental College, where he obtained a master's degree in Arabic in 1932. It was during his college years that he met M. N. Roy and Muzaffar Ahmed who influenced him to become a member of the Communist Party.
In 1941, Faiz became affectionate with Alys Faiz, a British national and a member of Communist Party of the United Kingdom, who was a student at the Government College University where Faiz taught poetry. While Alys opted for Pakistan citizenship, she was a vital member of Communist Party of Pakistan, played a significant role in Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case when she brought together the communist mass. Together, the couple gave birth to two daughters Salima and Moneeza Hashmi.
While Faiz was brought up as an orthodox Muslim, he saw himself as an agnostic. Estelle Dryland writes that although Faiz took his place within an Islamic community, undoubtedly, he was a professed agnostic. Faiz was a secularist, liberal, socialist and pacifist. During his trial, when to the Prosecutor-General, Faiz famously quipped: "Don’t you know applying ‘"Fragrance"' is Sunnah?...". The questioner protested and said: "My dear sir, I doubt if you are a great one for following the Sunnah and so on!", then Faiz replied: "Why not, I am also a part of the Islamic culture...".