The Urdu challenge

Mufti Mohiuddin Ahmed


The writer is a religious scholar.

Our world is not only culturally diverse, it is linguistically diverse. Today, there are 7,000 recognized languages spoken by a global community of more than seven billion people. At present, more than 70 different languages are spoken by ethnic groups and communities across Pakistan.

Language is identity. Almighty Allah says, “And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. Surely in this are signs for those of ‘sound’ knowledge,” (Surah Ar-Rum). There is no doubt that language is the second most important factor in the creation of a nation after religion. That is why all nations of the world, in any case, ensured the protection of their language.

Urdu has the elegance of the French language, the formality, and the ceremony of the English language, its got the sweetness of languages like Bangla and Japanese, it’s got the flow of Italian, all put together. At first, Urdu was the language of kings and ‘Nawabs’, which gradually emerged as a popular vernacular.

Scholars and artists including Mirza Ghalib, Nazeer Akbarabadi, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Maulvi Abdul Haq, Ibn Insha, Ibn Safi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad have rendered extraordinary services in the evolution and dissemination of Urdu language. After Arabic and Persian in Sub-continent, Urdu was recognized not only as a language but also as Islamic civilization.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared Urdu as the national language of Pakistan on February 2, 1948. On this occasion, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “Let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan.”

On the other hand, the Constitution of Pakistan states, “The National language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day.” But it is unfortunate that Urdu has not got the status it deserved in Pakistan as emphasized by Quaid-e-Azam.

Our rulers have never taken any effective step to seriously undermine the decree of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, due to which Urdu has become insignificant even in our educational institutions. Nowadays, our so-called liberal society prefers English rather than Urdu, and if a person doesn’t know how o speak English, then his academic ability is in doubt.

We have forgotten that English is not just a language but a complete Western civilization. By prioritizing English, we are hurting our national sentiments, religious sentiments and literary ideas.

On the other hand, in our society, Urdu teachers, writers, columnists, who are the true inheritors of this language, are suffering from severe conditions. Living nations protect their language, and their writers never allow their language to be disgraced in front of another.

Kokab Iqbal Advocate filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2003 to restore Urdu as the official language, the decision of which came on September 9, 2015, twelve years later. The apex court in its judgment declared Urdu as the official language and further ordered that the federal and provincial laws be translated into Urdu within three months.

It has been more than five years since this decision of the Supreme Court, but the implementation of Urdu as an official language has not been possible. Don’t know what are those forces that are hindering the implementation of Urdu? If the religious institutions were not present today, Urdu might have become extinct in its own country. As a living nation, we need to take effective steps to promote and restore Urdu at the governmental level.