One of the most prolific poets of the 20th century, Faiz was known to have reached out, through his work, to the wealthy and to those less fortunate alike. Dubbed the ‘voice of a revolution’, he extended an asylum of sorts to the masses in a period where freedom of speech was crushed to a bare minimum.
He was born in Sialkot on February 13‚ 1911. In the 1930s Faiz Ahmed Faiz married Alys Faiz, a British woman. They had two daughters. Alys Faiz’s influence on Faiz’s life and poetry is reputed to have been great.
He started a branch of Anjuman Tarraqi Pasand Mussanafin‑e‑Hind in Punjab in 1936. Also he was a Member and Secretary of this branch.
Faiz was also Editor of Mahanama Adab‑e‑Lateef (1938‑1942 AD). He became a lecturer in English at MAO College‚ Amritsar in 1935 and then at Hailey College of Commerce‚ Lahore.
He briefly joined the British Indian Army and was promoted to the rank of Lieut. Colonel in 1944. He resigned from the Army in 1947 and returned to Lahore to become the first editor in chief of the Pakistan Times‚ a paper started by Mian Iftikharuddin under Jinnah’s patronage.
This paper played an important role in partition. Faiz spent much of the 1950s and 1960s promoting communism in Pakistan.
He was charged with complicity in a failed coup attempt known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in 1951.
The jail term gave him a first‑hand experience of the harsh realities of life‚ and provided him with the much‑needed solitude to think and write poetry. Two of his greatest works Dast‑e‑Saba and Zindan‑Nama were products of this period of imprisonment.
In 1959 he was appointed as Secretary‚ Pakistan Arts Council and worked in that capacity till 1962.
Returning from London in 1964 he settled down in Karachi and was appointed as Principal at Abdullah Haroon College. Faiz distinguished himself as a journalist and was editor of the Pakistan Times‚ the Urdu newspaper Imroze and the weekly Lail‑o‑Nihar.
In the 1965 war between India and Pakistan he worked in an honorary capacity in the Department of Information. In exile he acted as Editor of the magazine Lotus in Moscow‚ London and Beirut.
Faiz was the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize‚ the Soviet Union’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize in 1963. He was died on 20 November 1984.