John Elia

Jaun Elia (Urdu: جون ایلیا, December 14, 1931 - November 8, 2002) was a notable Pakistani Urdu poet, philosopher, biographer, and scholar. He was the brother of journalist and psychoanalyst Rais Amrohvi and journalist and philosopher Syed Muhammad Taqi, and husband of columnist Zahida Hina. He was fluent in Arabic, English, Persian, Sanskrit and Hebrew.

Early life

Jaun Elia was born on 14 December 1931 in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. He was the youngest of his siblings. His father, Shafiq Hasan Elia, was involved in art and literature and also an astrologer and a poet. This literary environment modeled him along the same lines, and he wrote his first Urdu couplet when he was just 8.[citation needed] As a young man he was interested in Islamic history. A close relation of Elia's, Syed Mumtaz Saeed, recalled that Elia also went to Syed-ul-Madaris in Amroha, a Madrasah. Apart from Arabic and Persian that he had learned at the Madrasah, he acquired proficiency in English and a smattering of Hebrew.[citation needed] During his youth, Pakistan gained independence as a Muslim state. Being a Communist, Elia was averse to the idea, but finally accepted it as a compromise. He migrated to Pakistan in 1957, and made Karachi his home. His poetry won him both acclaim and approbation in the local literary circle.[citation needed] Poet Pirzada Qasim said: "Jaun was very particular about language. While his diction is rooted in the classical tradition, he touches on new subjects. He remained in quest of an ideal all his life. Unable to find the ideal eventually, he became angry and frustrated. He felt, perhaps with reason, that he had squandered his talent."


His first poetry collection Shayad (an Urdu word which means "Maybe") was published in 1991, when he was 60. His preface in this collection provided deep insights into his works and the culture within which he was expressing his ideas. The preface can also be considered[by whom?] as a fine example of modern Urdu prose. The second collection of his poetry Ya'ani was published posthumously in 2003. Later his companion, Khalid Ansari, compiled and published his three consecutive collections, Gumaan (an Urdu word which means "Illusion") in 2004, Lekin in 2006 and Goya in 2008.[citation needed] An eminent Urdu literary critic, Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, has called Elia one of the three most eminent ghazal poets of Urdu of the second half of the twentieth century.[citation needed] Elia was an open anarchist and nihilist in generally a conservative and religious society. His elder brother Rais Amrohvi, himself a poet and influential intellectual, was murdered