The most olden reference to Sindhi literature is incorporated in the writings of Arab historians. It has been evidenced that Sindhi was the first and the earliest language of East, wherein the Quran was rendered a fresh interpretation in the eighth or ninth century A.D. Evidence also exists of Sindhi poets reciting their verses in front of the Muslim Khalifahs (Caliphs) in Baghdad. It has also been chronicled that treatises were penned in Sindhi on intelligent subjects like astronomy, medicine and history, during the eighth and ninth centuries. Shortly after, Pir Nooruddin, an Ismaili Missionary, began to pen Sufi poetry in Sindhi language. His verses, acknowledged as ginans, are generally accepted as the specimens of early Sindhi poetry. Pir Nooruddin had arrived to Sindh during the year 1079 A.D. His poetry serves as a fascinating record of the language, which was spoken in an all-encompassing during that time. Pir Nooruddin was at one single point of time, a Sufi and a preacher of Islam, serving passionately to Sindhi literature. His verses are, therefore, nearly saturated with mysticism and religious isms.
After Pir Nooruddin, Pir Shams Sabzwari Multani, Pir Shahabuddin and Pir Sadruddin have been gratefully acknowledged as poets of Sindhi literature. In fact, a few verses composed by Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, in Sindhi language can also be evidenced from those ancient times. Pir Sadruddin (1290-1409 A.D.), was a magnanimous and revered poet, saint and Sufi of his era. He had composed his verses (also known as ginans) in Lari and Katchi dialects of Sindhi. Pir Sadruddin had contributed to framing the "ginans" in Punjabi, Seraiki, Hindi and Gujarati languages. He indeed had tailored the old script of Sindhi language, which was universally employed by the luhana caste of Hindus of Sindh, who had espoused Islam under his teaching and were referred to by him as Khuwajas or Khojas.
Bhagu Bhan, Sumang Charan, Shah Abdul Karim, Shah Inayat and other poets galore from this period have enriched Sindhi literature with their priceless mystic, romantic and epic poetical collections. Many centres of studying and instructing (Madrasas in Thatta, a historic town of 22,000 inhabitants in the Sindh province of Pakistan) had prospered during the tenth to fifteenth centuries, where illustrious and eminent scholars of Sindh used to impart teachings on religion, philosophy and rhetoric. The great scholars among them who had earned towering esteem and honour even in the Muslim centres of Mecca and Medina were: Makhdoom Abdul Hasan, Makhdoom Ziauddin, Makhdoom Muhammad Hashim Thattavi and Makhdoom Muhammad Muin Thattavi (the one from Thatta). Their works have mostly been produced in Arabic, Persian (governing language during that time) and Sindhi languages (language spoken by local people).
Arriving second in line to the earliest records in Sindhi literature after Pir Nooruddin, can be established in the heroic ballads of Shah Abdul Karim (1538-1625). Yet other pieces of information after significant research suggest that the most ancient record of writings of literary excellence can be traced to the fifteenth century, in the form of seven couplets conceived to have been authored by a sage recognised as Mamoi-a-jo-Fakir. A cavernous emptiness of nearly two centuries is a phenomenon of stunning wonder, which as yet remains incomprehensible to the historians, till Shah Abdul Karim Bulri-a-varo, deemed the 'rising star' of the Sindhi literary horizon, came to prominence during the 17th century. Specific references to Sindhi literature of the bygone days virtually lie dissipated in legends and commonplace impressions. It is also stated that in the eleventh century, a Sindhi poet was invited by the Khalifa to come and narrate the Mahabharata in his sabha (king's court). The Khalifa was delighted to such limit with the recitation, that the poet was rewarded with a bagful of gold coins. Then again, it is also heard that Mirza Jani Beg Tarkhan, the poet-ruler of Sind, had travelled to the court of Mughal emperor Akbar in the year 1592. There, he had recounted to the court the story of Umar Marvi and also had enumerated some couplets from it. Those couplets were actually sung by the court singers of Akbar in wholesome and virginal Sindhi tunes. Emperor Akbar, in turn, had rewarded poet-ruler Mirza Jani Beg Tarkhan with rich brocade materials.
To state more on the almost legendary accounts in the unique development of Sindhi literature, Sheikh Jamali (14th century), Chahato Bhagat (15th century), Ishaq Ahangar, Rajoo Darvesh and Makhdoom Nuh are the names that come to light through their poems time and again. During British rule, Pandit Sachanand and Pandit Jetharam had attended to Captain Stack, and Udharam Mirchandani and Mirza Sadiq Ali Beg had looked towards Father Shirt in contriving dictionaries. Sindhi Hindus who were lettered beings in Persian language under the Muslim rule, picked up the subtle hint and walked together with the British rulers with ease. They later had begun to enter in the administrative services and shone as litterateurs, educationists and scholars. Some of the enlightened Muslims like Mirza Sadiq Ali Beg or Mirza Qalich Beg had united hands with them in ameliorating Sindhi language and literature.
Shah Abdul Latif's Shah-Jo-Rasalo is always looked at as the magnum opus of ancient Sindhi literature, which was rendered life during the 18th century. Shah Latif indeed had given a new meaning to existence, thought and content to the language and literature of Sindh. He had journeyed through great distances to the most outback corners of Sindh and had wished to witness in person the uncomplicated and rustic people of his soil, in love with life and its mysteries. Shah Abdul Latif actually had comprehended the ethos of the people and their unfathomable affection for the land, the culture, the music, the fine arts and crafts. He had traced and portrayed Sindh and its people in the most excellent language, enumerating through undemanding and uncomplicated folk tales. Shah Latif truly has verbalised intense and vivid ideas concerning universal brotherhood of mankind, patriotism, crusade against all kind of unfairness and dictatorships and above all, the 'romance of human existence'. He was in fact a pace setter and a dynamic medium for every generation and genre of Sindhi literature. Shah Abdul Latif was a great musician also and he had given birth to fifteen original melodies (swaras). The great beauty of his poetry is that his every line or verse is sung till this day with a specific note or melody. His shadow is ever-lasting and all pervading he is sung not by the literature alone but even by the common people in the villages and towns of Sindh.
Sachal (1739-1829) and Sami (1743-1850) were two grand and illuminated mystic poets from this period. The trailblazing persona of Sindhi poetry was Khalifa Gul Mohammad or affectionately called as 'Gul' (1809-1856). His Diwane-e-Gul comprises 175 ghazals on the Persian model of writing. Within the period of 1843-1947, numerous Sindhi poets had come to prominence in the scenario, who had patterned and created their work on the framework of Persian poetry. Kishin Chand (also referred to as Bewas) (1885-1947), was exceptionally celebrated for his traditional style of poetry, traversing ghazals, geets, dohas and kafis. Some of his most admired poems include Shirin Shair (1929), Samundi Sipun (1929) and Ganga Jun Lahrun. Dayaram Gidumal (1857-1927) was wholly recognised for his metaphysical style in verse. His book based on philosophic poems entitled Manaja-chahbuk, is deemed as a scintillating landmark in Sindhi literature.
Like all languages of South Asia, the modern era in Sindhi literature had begun with the defeat and consequent subjugation of Sindh by the British Empire in 1843 A.D. With them, arrived the 'new world' to these Eastern shores. The printing press was brought in for the very first time; magazines and newspapers had given rise to an almost revolutionary wave in Sindhi literature. Books were translated from several of the European languages, especially from English. The Sindhi men had turned really ambitious for further knowledge and new kinds of compositions. The rapidity with which literature in Sindhi language had begun to travel, can only be adjudged from one single illustration of Mirza Kalich Beg, who in the last two decades of the last century and the first two decades of the twentieth century, had penned over 400 books-poetry, novels, short stories and essays. He also had given rise to authorships based on science, history, economics and politics. Thousands of books without a doubt were printed and published during that time on all forms and facets of literature. Hakim Fateh Mohammad Sewhani, Kauromal Khilnani, Dayaram Gidumal, Parmanand Mewaram, Lalchand Amardinomal, Bheruamal Advani, Dr.Gurbuxani, Jhetmal Parsram, Sayaid Miran Mohammad Shah, Shamsuddin 'Bulbul' and Maulana Din Muhammad Wafai are just some of the trailblazing personalities of modern literature in Sindhi language.
Post the World War I, the social and economic scenario of the world had undergone a rattling metamorphosis. The repercussion of the warfare and the socialist revolution of Russia had impressed upon literature of each country; Sindhi literature, acting as a part of the whole, too was shaped by these ongoing trends. Initiating a 'new awakening' in the senses of the people effective in the field of literature, they were up to translate the new social perception and realisation into artistic classes of literature. Progressive thoughts indeed had opened the door for acceptance of innovative trends in Sindhi literature.
However, in this context, the ultimate crusade for freedom from the British supremacy also had garnered tremendous momentum; this enchanting struggle for one's own country, had further added fuel to fire to Sindhi literature and every other literature from the country. Awareness and understanding about history and cultural heritage of Sindh served as a boosting mechanism for research and intellectual expansion. Numero uno scholars like Allama I. I. Kazi, his wife Elsa Kazi, Dr. Daudpota, Pir Ali Muhammad Shah Rashidi, Pir Husamuddin Shah Rashidi, Maulana Din Mohammad Wafai, Chetan Mariwala, Jairamdas Daulatram, Bherumal, Mehar Chand Advani, Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo, AllahDad Bohyo, Tirath Wasant and umpteen others began to produce lettered treatises on several aspects of history, culture and other subjects based on society. Mir Hasan Ali and Mir Abdul Hussain Sangi, Khalifo Gul, Fazil Shah, Kasim, Hafiz Hamid, Mohammad Hashim, Mukhlis, Abojho, Surat Singh, Khaki, Mirza Qalich Baig, Zia and Aziz are counted as the groundbreakers of poetry in the Persian metre.
However, the contemporaneous form and content of poetry in Sindhi literature were lent a fresh and novel motivation by Bewas, Hyder Bux Jatoi and Dukhayal. There have been innumerable poets who have composed verses in the same vein. Lalchand Amardinomal and Hinduraj Lilaram (also acknowledged as Dukhayal) (b.1910), were distinguished and respected patriotic poets in Sindhi language. Dukhyal had brought out a compendium of his songs, titled as Sangitanjali in 1946. Dewandas Kishnani 'Azad' was yet another extraordinary instance of poetic genius of this period, whose Purav Sandesa (1937) is an adaptation of Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia. Hyder Baksh Jatoi (1901-1970)'s Dariya Sah (1925) is considered as one of the chefs-d'oeuvre of Sindhi poetry. Another of his poem Azadi-e-qoum (1946) had ushered in an innovative phase of political poetry in Sindhi literature. Shaikh Ayaz (b.1926), who had authored Baghi (1945), also had generously contributed towards the growth of contemporary Sindhi poetry.
As far as the development of Sindhi prose is concerned, it began only in the early years of the British Raj. Kauromal Chandanmal Khilnani (1844-1916), Mirza Kaleech Beg (1853-1929), Dayaram Gidumal and Parmanand Mewaram (1966-1938) are unanimously venerated as the stalwarts of Sindhi prose. Kauromal Chandanmal Khilnani was the first to furnish life to literary essays in Sindhi literature. Kauromal's best-admired works comprise Ratnavali (1888), Aryanari-carita (1905) and Radharani (1914). Mirza Khalich Beg had translated various English and Persian compositions into Sindhi. He is officially ascribed with creating the first original novel in the Sindhi language, named as Zinat (1890). Mirza Khalich Beg was also an established playwright, who had produced umpteen plays like Khurshid (1885), Sakuntala (1896), Hasna Dildar (1897) and Shah Elia (1900). Dayarm Gidumal is still looked at as an authority on Sindhi philosophical literature in prose. His Jap Sahib (1891), Gita-jo-sara (1893) and Yoga-darsana (1903), are the irreplaceable instances in Sindhi prose. Parmanand Mewaram had executed a brilliant job by his service to the encouragement of Sindhi literature through his Sindhi biweekly Jote (1900-1938). His Kristji Peravi (1923) and the Sindhi dictionary (1910) truly exemplify his literary dexterity.
Other well-known writers of Sindhi literature and in the other assorted genres include - Fateh Mohammad Sewhani, Bherumal Mahirchand, Lalchand Amardinomal, Jethmal Parsram, Acharya Gidwani, N R Malkani and Dr. H M Gurbuxani. Fateh Mohammad Sahwani sprang up in the literary ladder with his biography of Abul Fazl and Faizi (1936). Bherumal Mahirchand (d.1950) was an exhaustive and productive writer, whose multitalented works incorporate travel books (Sind-jo-Sailani and Latifi Sair), fiction (Ananda Sundrika and Golan-ja-gundar), short story (Chamra-posh), history of Sindhi language (Sindhi-boli-ji-tarikh), literary adaptation (Purav Joti) and literary criticism (Sacal Sarmast). Lalchand Amardinomal successfully pockets numerous fictional (Kishni-jo-Kasht and Coth-jo-cand) and biographical works (Rama Badshah, Shahano Shah and Sunharo Sacal) to his credit.
Among the most authoritative plays written for the augmentation of Sindhi literature, mention can be made of Jathanand's Nala-Damayanti (1894), Lalaram Singh Watanmal's Hariscandra (1895), Shewasing Ajwani's Kanisht (1902), M.U. Malkani's Kismet (1923), Lala Amardinomal's Umar Marui (1925), Ahmed Chagla's Khuni (1931), Lilaram Pherwani's Hik Rat (1936) and Ismail Ursani's Bad Nasib Thari (1941).
Sindhi literature, by the arrival of the colonial era, was already on the path to enlightenment and brilliance, with almost all the branches of literary genres being fulfilled by the celebrated and scholarly composers. However, whole-hearted focus was later turned towards essay writing. Hundreds of publishing houses had begun to originate in this regard and looked towards evolution in Sukkur (located on the west bank of Indus River in Sindh Province, Pakistan), Shikarpur (capital of Shikarpur District in Sindh province of Pakistan), and Hyderabad (in India). Some of the most notable societies in respect to essay writing comes under - Sikh Tract Society (1916), Harisingh and Pokardas Publishers, Alwaheed Press, Muslim Adabi Society, Altaq Press, Quran Company, Kahani Publications, Ratan Sahitya Mala, Sundar Sahitya Mala (1924), Bharat Jeevan Publication etc. Compilation of essays like Guldasto, Phulan-Muth, Gul Phul, Variqa, Bharistan, Johar-Nasaru, Gothani Chahar Bohar, Chingu, Adabi Aino, began to be printed, in which ingenious, instructive and literary essays were scripted.
The establishing and launching of the new literary movement under the presidentship of Munshi Premchand (distinguished as the foremost writer in both Hindi and Urdu during the early twentieth century) found its reverberation in Sindhi literature. And the storm of this 'liberation struggle' of the country mounting over the Indian horizon, brought in a new wave. The writings of Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and numerous other stalwarts' writings saturated with patriotic passion were exuding off a rebellious flavour, thereby digging out the creative forces in all directions and broadening the horizons of the creativity of writers. Almost all the writings of the above writers together with those of Munshi Premchand etc., were translated into Sindhi language. They impacted a regenerating consequence on the sensitive and approachable minds of the young writers of Sindh. These young minds started to give birth to writings which were very much dissimilar in thought, content and form as compared to the earlier counterparts. Some of these young writers from Sindhi literature were profoundly absorbed with a sense of national pride, while others staked daringly in the domain of inter-communal marriages; some others tried to reanimate the social frailties ribbing at them openly, others were almost entranced by Marxism of Russia and some others were thoroughly charmed by Freud's principles.
This very avant-garde realism in the advancing Sindhi literature during the time of Indian Independence witnessed a wave of patriots and unprecedented heroic enthusiasm. This very rightly expressed enthusiasm and fervour lent will force to life and thus to literature. But, most of the young writers who were arrested because of their activities in the field of the attainment for independence of the country came out of gaol with their mind repleted with progressive ideas.
During the initial years of the 1940s, Nai Duniya - a literary monthly was issued from Karachi in the domain of Sindhi literature. Some of the contributors of this magazine were stringently devoted to progressivism in Sindhi literary genres, whereas others were simply spirited about the 'new thought wave'. Subjects and topics happening in real world became the raw material for literature to be wrought into artistic creations. Radicalism and its forces were concretized and socialist ideas were inserted into Art and Literature in Sindhi for the very first time. There could be witnessed a marked break with a social reformist outlook and progressivism became the latest in vogue thing in literature.
For the past several decades, the youthful bunch of writers, imbibed with an idealistic sensitiveness, have experimented with novel forms of prose, as well as poetry. Free verses, sonnets and ballets have been composed simultaneously with the classical forms of poetry such as Kafi, Vaee, Bait, Geet and Dohira. A few celebrated poets of present day Sindh comprise: Makhdoom Talibul Mola, Ustaad Bukhari, Shaikh Ayaz, Darya Khan Rind, Makhdoom Amin Faheem.