jaun elia biography

Jaun Elia, was a notable Pakistani Urdu poet, philosopher, biographer and scholar. He was the brother of renowned journalist and psychoanalyst Rais Amrohvi and journalist and world-renowned philosopher Syed Muhammad Taqi, husband of famous columnist Zahida Hina and cousin of poet and Bollywood writer Kamal Amrohi.

Early life

Jaun Elia was born on December 14, 1931 in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. The youngest son of Allama Shafiq Elia, a respected scholar and writer, Jaun who had been named Jaun Asghar at birth, took his father’s pen name when he started his literary career. All the brothers from this distinguished family of Amroha carried the cultural essence, literary flourish and a distinctive imprint of a rich heritage. His grandfather and all uncles were poets. The literary environment in the family inspired him along the same lines, and he wrote his first Urdu couplet when he was just 8 years old.

Elia in his early age went to ‘Syed-ul-Madaris’ in Amroha. He had learnt Arabic and Persian at this madersah. He also acquired great proficiency in English and a smattering of Hebrew. Jaun had a way with languages. He could learn them effortlessly. He acquired knowledge of philosophy, logic, Islamic history, the Muslim Sufi tradition, Muslim religious sciences, Western literature, and Kabbala. His synthesis of this knowledge into his poetry differentiates him from his modern contemporaries.

During his youth, the united India was involved in a Hindu-Muslim feud, which led to the partition of the country on religious lines once British rule ended. Being a Communist, Elia was averse to the idea, but finally accepted it as a compromise. Elia migrated to Pakistan in 1957, and made Karachi his home. Before long, he became popular in the literary circles of the city. His poetry, which bears ample testimony to his wide-ranging reading habits, won him acclaim and approbation. He used to do dramatic presentations of the early Muslim period, and hence his knowledge of Muslim history was recognized by many.

He briefly worked as an editor with ‘Ismaili Tariqah’ and Religious Education Board in Karachi, Pakistan. His translation of various M’utazalite treatises, a book on 12th century Fatimid revolutionary Hassan Bin Sabbah, and also various texts about the Ismaili sect in Islam are a major contribution to the Urdu language and literature. His prose and other translation of major Ismaili philosophical work can be found at Ismaili Tariqah Board libraries in Karachi.

He also edited the Urdu literary monthly magazine ‘Insha, Alami Digest’, through which he came to know another Urdu writer, Zahida Hina, whom he later married. Zahida Hina was writing for ‘Jang’ and ‘Express’ on current political and social issues. He had two daughters and a son with her. Jaun and Zahida divorced in the mid-1980s which left him alcoholic and depressed.


Jaun Elia was an aalim in the true sense. He had a command over many languages including Arabic and Persian, and like his father he could also read Sanskrit and Hebrew. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of philosophy, religion, Islamic mysticism, and even Kabbalah, the mystical aspect of Judaism. Therefore, you will find in his poetry and prose traces from the Old Testament, the Bible, and the Quran; philosophical discourses of the Mutazlite theologians, pre-Islamic Arabian poets, as well as references from Kant, Nietzsche and Sartre. There is hardly any modern Urdu poet who can claim to have fused such diversified knowledge.

Jaun Elia’s first collection of poems ‘Shaayad’ was published when he was 58. He has written in the preface to ‘Shaayad’ that he procrastinated publishing his first book for nearly 30 years. According to Jaun Elia, he promised his father Allama Shafique Hasan Elia, a poet and scholar of the highest order, that he would publish his works when he grew up but he could not publish them and his father’s all manuscripts got lost. Jaun suffered from a guilty-conscience so bad that he loathed the idea of publishing his own works. While Jaun’s nazms and ghazals became hugely popular among the literary and intellectual circles of Pakistan soon after his migration from Amroha in 1957, there was no collection of his poems that could reach out to the masses. Jaun, therefore, remained mostly in oblivion till the late 1980s.

It was late Saleem Jafri who forced him to publish his first book. ‘Shaayad’ (1989) and became immensely popular with intellectuals as well as the masses. ‘Yaani’, his second book, came posthumously in 2003, which Jaun Elia had delayed again for several years. It was Jauns’s trustworthy companion Khalid Ahmed Ansari, who, after Jaun Elia’s death, published the main corpus of his works. Khalid Ansari has compiled and published his three consecutive collections, ‘Gumaan’ in 2004, ‘Lekin’ 2006 and ‘Goya’ 2008. Jaun’s writings were scattered and hardly legible. Khalid Ansari had to go through each and every poem before making it public. It also involved a great deal of research work on Jaun. Khalid Ansari is now working on Jaun’s new collections, ‘Kyon’, and ‘Nai Aag Ka Ahadnaama’, (Jaun’s extraordinary long epic poem). Jaun’s prose work is also being compiled by Mr. Ansari.

Jon Elia was a brilliant poet. He invented scores of new metrical schemes in his poetry – more than many classical poets of Urdu. He also gave birth to hundreds of unusual phrases – similes and metaphors – which no other poet of his age has done so far. Jon Elia has used well-rhymed Nazms and free-verse poems with an unusual command over the form and content.

Jon Elia was a scholar of great merit. He translated numerous classics of Arabic and Persian e.g. Masih-e-Baghdad Hallaj, Jometria, Tawasin, Isaghoji, Rahaish-o-Kushaish, Farnood, Tajrid, Masail-e-Tajrid, Rasail Akhwan-us-Safa – perhaps the kind of work which no single person could ever think of attempting – and Akhbar-ul-Hallaj etc. He has also authored four works Ismailiat: Sham-o-Iraq Mein, Ismailiat: Jazair Arab Mein, Ismailiat: Yemen Mein and Hasan Bin Sabbah.

Jaun’s extraordinary prose is yet to be published in book form, which should have been published by now. His Inshaaiay in Mairaj Rasool’s popular Suspense Digest, which he wrote regularly for decades, is one of a kind, a kind of prose that is non-existent in Urdu literature.

Jaun was a chronic TB patient. In the mid-50s, he escaped from the clutches of Death due to sheer will power but finally he bowed out and died on 8th November, 2002 in Karachi, leaving behind thousands of his fans to mourn his loss.


Poetry collections-

Shayad -1990.
Ya'ani - 2003.
Gumaan - 2004.
Lekin - 2006.
Goya - 2008.
Farnood - 2012.
Upcoming Books:
Kyon (Poetical Collection)


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  1. Boht achi post ki ha ap na admin jaun elia aik Big name thah urdu or hindi poetry ka aik alug style aik alug tarah ki poetry theh unki