Ibne Safi: A Sensation
Ibne Safi; whose real name was Asrar Ahmad was a prolific writer who engaged thousands of readers in South Asia especially Pakistan and India for nearly 30 years (1952-1979). He was in fact the pioneer of detective novels in Urdu. His writing was a fine specimen of Urdu prose as he was concise, simple, eloquent and used excellent vocabulary as well as maintained his standard throughout all the 245 books. Every time his book was published they sold out rapidly, as people of all ages and from all walks of life could be seen eagerly waiting in queues to get a hold of a copy. Thereby he was the one who propagated the Urdu language far more than any other writer of that era, so much so that people even learnt Urdu so that they could read his novels. Furthermore he inspired countless individuals to become writers and poets.
The Beginnings of Ibne Safi
Being an avid reader since childhood, lead to his interest in writing. His first story was published in a leading weekly magazine entitled ‘Shahid’ when he was just in grade 7. The following year he began writing poetry after being inspired by Jigar Murad Abaadi. When he entered college, he encountered a very conducive environment as poetic gatherings would take place. This helped him develop, so much so that in second year he was elected President of the Literary Society. Then after completing his Bachelors in Art from Agra University in 1948, he got his first job at Nikhat Publications as Editor of the Poetry section. In the beginning he experimented with different genres of writing and so wrote short stories as well as numerous satirical & humorous essays.
Ibne Safi’s Principal Works
Crime & Mystery were predominant themes in foreign literature. Yet in the 1950s detective novels in Urdu and Hindi were only translations of those. As a challenge Ibne Safi created his own series Jasoosi Duniya (The world of Espionage) which consisted of 125 books. The first novel was published in March 1952 entitled ‘The Brave Criminal’.
He migrated to Pakistan in August 1952, and at some point founded Asrar Publications, which exclusively published his works. Henceforth his novels began publishing simultaneously from Pakistan and India. In August 1955 the first book from his second series Imran Series (which consisted of 120 books) entitled ‘The Frightening Building’ was published.
The distinctiveness of his writing style was his ability to combine Mystery, Suspense, Espionage, Adventure, Science Fiction and Fantasy and infusing all those with wit/humor, which was seldom seen in works of other writers.
The stories were set not only in Pakistan and India, but countries from all over the world such as England, Italy, Pacific Islands, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, USA etc. He also came up with places which were just a figment of his imagination; this added a magical quality as well.
The subject matters of the stories were very diverse as he apprised his readers about psychology, philosophy, anthropology, art and debates on economy, international relations, social discrimination and modern technology. He also had an understanding of the changing trends of the society and at times gave indications of what could happen in the future.
Furthermore they embodied the social values that needed to be practiced and were morally very inspiring. One could find many significant messages such as patriotism, importance of national security and how it needs to be defended from internal and external dangers. That when Law & Order is imposed properly then violence & crime can never prevail. Last but not the least it was emphasized that whatever the situation may be one should never become despondent as Allah is always with the righteous.
The greatest feat of any writer is when his characters become his identity. Indeed Ibne Safi was one such writer for characterization was his forte and since he had great psychological insight into human nature, his characters had qualities which made them appealing, vibrant and worthy of emulation though at times they did seem to possess super human characteristics too. All in all they had an everlasting charisma which is why they are memorable even today.
Among his notable Protagonists, the major ones were:
Colonel Ahmed Kamal Faridi
An upright man of great caliber and courage, who has rendered great services for the country as his mission is to have a crime free society. He works as an inspector at the investigation bureau, but at the same time heads a secret network that fights crime called (Black Force), which only the president of the country knows about. He is a master of disguise and knows several languages. He is highly intelligent and strong.
Captain Sajid Hameed
He has served in World War II. Is amiable and unpredictable but at the same time plucky, intelligent and sharp-witted, which makes him an excellent close companion of Col Faridi. He too is a master of disguise.
A seemingly comical and non-serious young man who has graduated from Oxford University with a Ph.D. in Criminology. He works for the Secret Service (SS), but very few know that he is actually the chief of the SS. He is very patriotic, astute and agile.
While a number of his Antagonists were also quite outstanding:
He is the most brilliant and devious villain who is featured in both series. Though he seems to have a weak disposition, yet he is essentially very strong and has a vice like grip that could easily make a person fall unconsciousness.
An extremely dangerous international criminal, who is an expert in poisons.
A psychologist, who is the head of a very influential mob and plans to bring a revolution in the country. For that he has created a new world underneath the earth through his psychological techniques and peculiar inventions.
Theresia Bumble-Bee of Bohemia
A highly intelligent woman who represents Zeroland. She can change her expression in a way that it is not possible to recognize her. She features in many novels of Imran series.
Translations of Ibne Safi’s Novels
The popularity of his novels among the masses was so overwhelming that many of them were translated into several regional languages, foremost were Hindi and Gujarati. In recent times, to make his writing accessible to a wider audience; some of his work has been translated into English. ‘The House of Fear’ by Bilal Tanweer, was published in 2009. Then ‘The Dangerous Man’ by Taimoor Shahid was published in 2011. These are from Imran series. Also a four book series (no 60-63) from Jasoosi Duniya were translated by renowned poet and critic Shamsur Rehman Farooqi in the same year.
He wrote all kinds of poetry, which included Hamd, Naat, Ghazals, Nazams, Manqabat & Marsia, under the pseudonym of Asrar Narvi. His only collection of poetry entitled ‘Mata-e-qalb-o-nazar’ was finally published in December 2013.
Untimely Demise Yet His Legacy Lives On. . .
He passed away on 26th July 1980 at the age of 52, and despite battling with his illness for nearly a year; he was still in the middle of writing a new novel for Imran series called ‘The Last Man’. He had also started writing a book ‘Aadmi Ki Jaren’ (The Roots of Man) as he had a keen interest in human psychology.
And so he has left behind a legacy which is why his memory is still alive in the hearts of his readers as well as his contemporaries. However it is very important to make him known to the current generation of youngsters because; in an interesting yet light manner his works can serve as a means of inculcating and reviving Urdu which needs their attention.
More detailed information about Ibne Safi can be found on the following two sites dedicated to him i.e. www.ibnesafi.info and www.wadi-e-urdu.com. You can also join his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ibnesafi. Furthermore all his books are still under publication and are readily available at your local book stores.