Akhtar Shirani (Urdu: اختر شِيرانى), (also spelled 'Sheerani', 'Sherani', 'Shirani', 'Shairani'), (4 May 1905 – 9 September 1948) is considered to be one of the leading romantic poets of Urdu language.
Akhtar Shairani was born as Muhammad Dawood Khan to the Pashtun Sherani tribe, Shirani tribe which had come to South Asia with the armies of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi and had stayed back in and around the region of Tonk in North West Pakistan. He was a son of Hafiz Mahmood Shairani, a scholar and teacher of high repute, who had started teaching at Islamia College, Lahore in 1921. In 1928 he moved to Oriental College, Lahore. Young Dawood moved to Lahore at a very young age and lived there throughout his life. He did his Munshi Fazil منشی فاضل in 1921 and Adeeb Fazil ادیب فاضل in 1922 (degrees in Arabic and Persian) from Oriental College, Lahore.
Despite the efforts of his father, he could not continue his education and became a full-time poet. His teacher in poetry (ustad) was Maulana Tajwar Najibabadi, a well-respected personality in literary circles of Lahore who used to publish literary magazines.
As to his skill, Akhtar was quite innovative and introduced new modes in Urdu poetry. At such a green age, he wrote mature and inspiring poetry. He was called شاعرِ رومان (the poet of romance). His best-known collections of poetry include Akhtaristan, Nigarshat-e-Akhtar, Lala-e-toor, Tayyur-e-Aawara, Naghma-e-Haram, Subh-e bahaar, and Shahnaz. He had been editor for the literary magazines Intikhab, Bahaaristan, Khyaalistan, and Romaan from 1923 to 1939. He also wrote columns for daily newspapers Hamdard and Zamindar of Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan respectively. He introduced many new writers in his magazines, including Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and Qudratullah Shahab (both are well-known Urdu writers). "Chandra wati", the first afsana (short story) of Qudratullah Shahab, was published in Romaan (Magazine of Akhtar Sheerani).
In total, he left nine collections of his verses. In prose, apart from his fictions and translations, his essays on literary, critical and historical subjects are in abundance. His son Professor Mehmood Sheerani, who has been teaching in Government College University, has written a book on his life named as Kahan Se Laaoon Unhain(Where can I Find Him?). Dr Younus Hasni also wrote a book on the life of Akhtar Sheerani.
Youth dominates Akhtar's poetry like that of Shelley, Keats, and Byron. Lyricism, subtlety and novelty infuse a new spirit onto his poetry. He exhales verse as a flower exhales fragrance. His verses touching various colourful subjects flow with such tremendous ease and felicity as the reader is moved to ecstasy. Most of the critics have concentrated only on one aspect of his Love Poetry. However, his work was not confined to just the physical beauty of woman. Woman to him is beautiful in all her forms and shapes; the beloved, the wife, the mother and the sister. Wordsworth, the father of romantic poetry finds the immanence of divine spirit in the objects of nature. Akhtar's depiction of nature is second to none but unlike Wordsworth, he finds the objects of nature imbued with the beauty of woman. He uses woman as a symbol that stands for beauty and love permeating the whole universe.
Variegated aspects and artistic skills of Akhtar Shairani's poetry lend him a distinguished place in modern Urdu poetry. His influence on Urdu literature, and poetry in particular, earned him a repute of trendsetter. Several distinguished Urdu poets and literary figures have imbibed directly from him.
His famous poems include:
Akhtar Shirani's life was a succession of tragedies. His young son Javed Mahmood died, his close friend Mirza Shuja Khan committed suicide, his son-in-law Naziruddin Shirani was accidentally drowned, and he was rejected by the woman, named Salma, that he loved. That made him turn to alcohol. On his physical and mental condition, Agha Shorish Kashmiri who was a well known literary, political, and social figure of Lahore, Pakistan, wrote that one was better-off not to see him, since one would be so depressed after seeing him. He was admitted to Mayo Hospital, Lahore on 3 September and died in Lahore on 9 September 1948, just two days before the death of Quaid-e-Azam.