Urdu poet, Bhai Azad is using the social media to teach thousands of people this ancient language and he told Farook Khan on Radio Al-Ansar’sprogramme, 90 minutes how he is getting results beyond all expectations. Technology, he said is setting people free, especially women who have been relegated from the centre stage when it came to the arts. “Now there are women who are turning to my Facebook Page and sign up on my Whatsapp connection and are learning Urdu and how to write poetry, especially in praise of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him),” said Mr Azad.
He pointed out that for eight months last year, he ran Urdu classes and that more than 250 children had enrolled, many of the girls who wanted to write poetry, read naaths and write on Islam. “There always has been an enthusiasm in our community to study Urdu, to write poetry, prose and lyrics for naaths, but we do not have the facilities to ensure that we have a sustainable growth in student numbers. “We would also have to grow Urdu education to such a level, that ou standard is extremely high and that our future writers and performers will be among the best in the world. Presently I have people from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, China and various African countries who are also learning Urdu from his social media platforms. There is a great movement among people of the world who want to study and enjoy the Urdu language. During my boyhood, Mayville was the Little India of South Africa and we had a rich Indian and Islamic culture. We went to madressa where we had dedicated teachers who ensured that we spoke Urdu correctly. The pronunciation had to be perfect. This was even before we could start reciting naaths and once we had reached a certain level, then only where we allowed to appear at community functions. Annually there was a competition and the group in which I was included won every year that we took part,” said Mr Azad.
As the years developed, so did his love for the Urdu language and while in his early years, he developed an interest in quawali, which in those days was part of the community. Gatherings were almost a weekly event, not just in Durban but also in many parts of the country. “We developed a culture which brought all people who had an interest in Indian languages together. Writers, singers, musicians and performing artists who developed a unity which enabled people to develop a strong bond which led to a better quality of life. “This is what we need to so to ensure that the present stalemate is broken and I believe that it must start in the homes. The parents must take the lead and all they have to do is to turn to social media and they will get the information to become proficient in Urdu and its related art forms. It will create an even stronger bond between parents and their children, with their extended families and even their neighbours. This is a valuable vehicle for the advancement of our way of life which is Islam,” said Mr Azad.
There are a number of scholars whom he knows personally who are also keen to teach Urdu and the writing of Naaths and poetry. He was encouraging them to turn to the social media to share their talents with anyone who might be keen to acquire this knowledge. He added that he worked with the SoofieDarbar in Riverside closely for most of his life and served as the Director of Ceremonies at annual Urs and various other religious events. However, the physical bond was broken when the apartheid government enforced the Group Areas Act and this family was dispossessed of their home and was moved to Chatsworth. But as fate would have it, many years later, Mr Azad was able to buy a property next to the SoofieDarbar. He joined Radio Al Ansaar and produced a Naathprogramme before quitting and joining Radio Lotus where he presents the Quawali segment on Sunday nights. His archive has more than three million naaths, songs and various other categories of Islamic performing arts.
Career-wise, Mr Azad qualified as a chartered accountant and landed a job as a bank manager in Johannesburg before returning to Durban where he launched his own business. He launched ZadaBricktile, which he described as a “revolutionary wall cladding” which ensured that homeowners did not have to paint their walls “never again.” For 28 years, he steered his company, until the authorities forced him out of his premises. “I just shut it down and did not do anything for a few years. I eventually decided to develop a water bottling plant. I started exploration on my land in Riverside. The drilling started about two years ago. We struck water at 72 meters and it was scientifically established that the quality was exceptionally good. Getting the paperwork was tougher than drilling for water, but once that was cleared, I set up the bottling plant. We are now pumping nine litres of water every hour. With the drought in Cape Town, here is a great demand and I am sending truckloads every week to help in this emergency. I also run a social responsibility programme for schools and other institutions,” said Mr Azad.
Farook Khan (L) in studio with Bhai Azad (R) during live broadcast “90 Minutes” on Radio Al-Ansar, Friday 23 February 2018.