Inshaullah Khan Insha is one of the leading master-poets of Urdu. His contributions to the language and literature is more than the contributions of a mere poet. He was also an excellent prose writer and a grammarian. He had a superb sense of humour and through his wit has overwhelmed his contemporary poets in various verbal encounters.


His name was Inshaullah Khan and the nom de plume was Insha. His father, Syed Hakeem Meer Mashaullah Khan, was a leading tabeeb (physician) of his time. His ancestors had migrated to India from Najaf. His great grandfather, Syed Rasheeduddin would go walking to Mecca every year to perform Haj. His son (Insha’s grandfather), Syed Noorullah, had gone back to Najaf and stayed there for quite some time. Insha’s father, Meer Mashaullah Khan was born in Najaf itself.

Syed Noorullah returned to India during the reign of Farrukh Siyar, sometime in the second decade of the eighteenth century. He had a reputation as a tabeeb. Consequently, when the king fell ill he was summoned to treat him. When the king got well because of the treatment of Syed Noorullah, he conferred on him the title of Nawab Khan Bahadur and rewarded him with substantial amount of gold and jewels. Insha’s father, Meer Mashaullah Khan, too became an exceptional tabeeb and thus, earned lot of wealth and fame. In the aftermath of destruction of Delhi caused by the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739, Meer Mashaullah Khan was forced to leave Delhi. He went to Murshidabad and joined the court of Ali Vardi Khan Mahabat. Besides being a first-rate tabeeb, Meer Mashaullah Khan was also a poet and would use Masdar as his nom de plume. He had married twice and Insha was born to his second wife in December, 1752, at Murshidabad.

His father took special care to give Insha the best education that was prevalent in those days. Beginning from the reading of Quran, Insha acquired deep knowledge of Arabic and Farsi. Later on he also learnt Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Turkish and Pushtu languages. He went to Faizabad along with his father when he was about 12. Within four years of his arrival in Faizabad, he completed his deewan (collection of poetry). His mastery over various languages and his poetic talent facilitated him becoming a courtier of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah in the Lucknow Court. In 1780, he went to Delhi to join the Cort of the king, Shah Alam Sani Aaftab, and stayed there for two years. Since the political situation in Delhi was chaotic and the king himself was facing the financial crunch, Insha went back to Lucknow. The son of the king, Mirza Suleiman Shikoh, too shifted to Lucknow as his father, Shah Aalam Sani Aaftab, was dethroned and blinded by Ghulam Qadir Rohila. Insha became a companion of Mirza Suleiman Shikoh in Lucknow. He also helped a renowned contemporary poet, Mus-hafi to join the court of Suleiman Shikoh. Subsequently, an intense rivalry developed between the two poets and in this connection various anecdotes got recorded in the history of Urdu poetry. Insha died On May 19, 1817, at Lucknow.

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