Josh Malihabadi was born as Shabbir Hasan Khan; on December 5, 1894 in Malihabad, United Provinces, British India & died on February 22, 1982 Islamabad, Pakistan, was a noted Urdu poet born in British India, who was an Indian citizen until 1958, when he emigrated to Pakistan and became a Pakistani citizen. He wrote ghazals and nazm under the takhallus.
Josh was born in Malihabad, United Provinces, British India. He studied at St Peter’s College, Agra and passed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1914. Although Josh subsequently studied Arabic and Persian and, in 1918, spent six months at Tagore’s university, Shantiniketan, the death of his father, Bashir Ahmed Khan, in 1916, prevented him from undertaking a college education.
In 1925, Josh began to supervise translation work at Osmania University, in the princely state of Hyderabad. However, his stay there ended, when he found himself exiled from the state for writing a nazm against the Nizam of Hyderabad, the then ruler of the state.
Soon thereafter, he founded the magazine, Kaleem (literally, “interlocutor” in Urdu), in which he openly wrote articles in favour of independence from the British Raj in India. As his reputation spread, he came to be called Shaayar-e-Inquilaab (“Poet of the Revolution”). Subsequently, he became more actively involved in the freedom struggle (albeit, in an intellectual capacity) and became close to some of the political leaders of that era, especially Jawaharlal Nehru (later to be the first Prime Minister of independent India).
After the end of British Raj in India (1947), Josh became the editor of the publication Aaj-Kal .
Josh migrated to Pakistan in 1958 – despite Jawaharlal Nehru’s insistence against it – over what is generally believed to be his concern regarding the future of the Urdu language in India, where he thought the Hindu majority would encourage the use of Hindi rather than Urdu. After migration, Josh settled in Karachi and rigorously worked for Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu with Maulvi Abdul Haq.
He remained in Pakistan until he died on February 22, 1982 in Islamabad. Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Syed Fakhruddin Balley both were the closest companions and friends of Josh and Sajjad Hyder Kharosh (son of Josh). Faiz Ahmad Faiz visited Islamabad during his illness and Syed Fakhruddin Balley remained entirely engaged with Hazrat Josh and Sajjad Hyder Kharosh. Even then , when Josh was on the death bed only Fakhruddin Balley Sajjad Hyder Kharosh his son Fawwad and daughter Tabbasum were there. It is reported that he was not entirely well-received in Pakistan where his iconoclastic ideas and socialistic leanings and views were not in tandem with the political and the social set up of the country. In fact, he deeply regretted his decision (as he would tell his close friends and acquaintances) and felt slighted that he was not accorded the respect and importance he had expected on becoming a Pakistani citizen.
Josh is reputed to have had a masterful command over Urdu and was quite strict about respecting the grammar and rules of the language. The first collection of his poetry was published in 1921. The collection of his poetry include Shola-o-Shabnam, Junoon-o-Hikmat, Fikr-o-Nishaat, Sunbal-o-Salaasal, Harf-o-Hikaayat, Sarod-o-Kharosh & “Irfaniyat E Josh” (all Urdu titles). On the advice of film director W.Z.Ahmed, he also wrote songs for Shalimar Pictures. During this time, he was staying in Pune. His autobiography is titled Yaadon ki Baarat.
He was honored with the Padma Bhushan in 1954.