I leave in my legacy for you,

The liberty of thought,

It is the liberty,

Birds have inherited,

Liberty!

–Sheikh Ayaz

 

Born in 1923 in Shikarpur, Sheikh Ayaz was perhaps the most prominent literary, cultural icon of Sindh after Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. He was also a lawyer who served as Vice Chancellor of Sindh University. In a literary career spanned over six decades, Ayaz wrote in multiple forms, genres of poetry and prose in both Sindhi and Urdu. His poetry is considered a harmonious, modern blend of multiple literary, cultural traditions of the sub-continent with that of Sindh. The plights of the oppressed, the land of Sindh and the religion/God were some of the visible strands running through his poetry. His first two books of poetry in Sindhi were banned during General Ayub’s period for promoting Sindh nationalism. He also translated Bhittai’s “Shah Jo Risalo” in Urdu. Despite his literary iconoclasm however, Ayaz has also been chided recently as the stories of his selfish negligence of his family in the pursuit of his ambitions emerged. He died in 1997 and was buried near the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.

There is not much familiarity with the works and figure of Sheikh Ayaz outside Sindh. His works should be promoted at a broader level to let the people of other provinces experience, understand, empathize with a culturally enriched yet politically, economically marginalized Sindh.