13 Top Urdu Writers Every Writer Should Know About

If you are interested in expanding your literary horizons, take a look at some of the top Urdu writers in our guide. 

Even though there are plenty of excellent English language writers, it is beneficial to look at writers who write in other languages. Every culture is different, and this is an opportunity for you to branch out, learn something new, and experience another culture. For example, you might be interested in some top Urdu writers. This is a language that is closely related to Hindi, and it is considered to be the national language of Pakistan. This part of the world has a tremendous amount of history, and much of it can be seen in the writings of Urdu novelists.

Over time, the style of Urdu writing has evolved significantly, which can be reflected in the writing style of the artists throughout its history. Who are some of the top Urdu writers of all time?

1. Tehmina Durrani

Top Urdu Writers: Tehmina Durrani
Tehmina Durrani is a prominent human rights activist, artist, and humanitarian

It is difficult to have any discussion of the top Urdu writers without mentioning Tehmina Durrani. Even though she came from an influential family in Pakistan, she is also a prominent human rights activist, artist, and humanitarian. She is one of the most prolific writers in the history of Pakistan, writing on all the different ways to improve Pakistan society. Her family has been embroiled in politics, she has lived a failed marriage, and she has shared her stories in a country that is not known for its liberalism. For this reason, she is also one of the most popular writers in the history of Pakistan.

If you want to explore her works for yourself, you may want to start with My Feudal Lord, which tells the story of the role a woman plays in traditional society. It is a powerful, gripping tale that will help people see what life is like in Pakistan from a slightly different perspective.

“Looking back, I realized that we were being raised to be schizophrenic; an appearance of perfection was more important than genuine feelings.”

Tehmina Durrani, My Feudal Lord
My Feudal Lord: A Devastating Indictment of Women's Role in Muslim Society
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2. Kamila Shamsie

Next, you may also want to take some time to read Kamila Shamsie, who comes from Karachi, the industrial heart of Pakistan. As one of the best Pakistani novelists of all time, she has published a handful of novels. One of her most famous works is Burnt Shadows, which became an international bestseller, and was nominated for the Orange Prize. This specific book has been translated into more than 20 languages and provides an inside look at what life is like for people living in traditional Pakistan. As a result, individuals can learn about the successes, trials, and challenges that people face in a part of the world that is sometimes difficult to explore. In addition, Shamsie has been nominated for other awards, including the Walter Scott Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

“How to explain to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional as weapons than as humans.”

Kamila Shamsie, Burnt Shadows
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Burnt Shadows: A Novel
  • Shamsie, Kamila (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 04/27/2009 (Publication Date) - Picador (Publisher)

3. Daniyal Mueenuddin

Daniyal Mueenuddin is a famous Pakistani writer who grew up in Los Angeles. After finishing high school, he graduated from Dartmouth and the Yale School of Law. His strong education and Pakistani background placed him in a unique position to write about some of the country’s biggest issues. One of his most famous works is In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.

This is a collection of short stories, and it was translated into 16 different languages. Each short story tackles a different topic relevant to the evolution of Pakistan and the rest of the world. The set of short stories won various awards, including the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. Daniyal Mueenuddin continues to serve as an example to other writers of Pakistani descent to this day.

“For an electrician and mechanic, no matter how light-fingered, there seemed no question of marrying them all off. No moneylender in his right mind would, at any rate of interest whatsoever, advance a sufficient sum to buy the necessary items…”

Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
  • Mueenuddin, Daniyal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 11/16/2009 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

4. Mohsin Hamid

Top Urdu Writers: Mohsin Hamid
Mohsin Hamid is one of the best-selling Urdu authors of all time

You may also want to explore the writings of Mohsin Hamid, originally from Lahore. He has composed various novels throughout his career, focusing on different parts of society in Pakistan. He is one of the best-selling Urdu authors of all time, and his work has been translated into a few dozen languages. Finally, if you are looking for a place to start, you may want to start with Discontent and Its Civilizations, which focuses on how activists can change the world and what their role has played in society up until this point. It highlights a few challenges the country is changing, issues that have been addressed successfully, and obstacles that still need to be overcome. That makes this story relevant in the modern era.

“A country should be judged by how it treats its minorities. To the extent it protect them, it stands for the ennobling values of empathy and compassion, for justice rooted, not in might, but in human equality, and for civilization instead of savagery.”

Mohsin Hamid, Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
  • Hamid, Mohsin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

5. Ex Major Aftab Ahmad

Another author you might want to explore is Ex Major Aftab Ahmad. This is an author who is mainly known for his military service, but that also means that he has a lot of exciting stories to share. He served in the Pakistan Civil War, which ultimately devolved into the Indo-Pakistan war in the middle of the 20th century. At one point, he was even arrested for resisting the government at the time. However, despite the hardships he endured after being arrested, he stuck to his beliefs and continued to advocate for the future of his nation. Because of everything he experienced, you might be interested in checking out some of his books. One of his most well-known novels is Akhri Salam, a story of his resistance to military dictatorship and the lessons he learned from his military service.

Akhri Salam (Mashriqi Pakistan Ke Maydan e Jang Se) (Urdu Edition)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Major Aftab Ahmed (Author)
  • Urdu (Publication Language)
  • 313 Pages - 12/16/2012 (Publication Date) - Jumhoori Publications (Publisher)

6. Sabyn Javeri

Sabyn Javeri is a famous Pakistani novelist who graduated from the University of Leicester and the University of Oxford. Eventually earning her Ph.D., she is an internationally renowned literary journalist. She has also written several short stories and novels, one of her most famous ones being Nobody Killed Her. This novel turned into an international bestseller, and it has won a wide variety of awards. She was even nominated for the Tibor Jones Award. This story focuses on the assassination of a famous prime minister, which turns the entire country upside down. It charts the immediate aftermath of the event and how the country itself can rebuild and reposition for the future.

Nobody Killed Her
  • Sabyn Javeri (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 03/10/2017 (Publication Date) - Fourth Estate (Publisher)

7. Farhat Ishtiaq

Farhat Ishtiaq is one of the most popular romantic authors in the history of Pakistan. In addition to her work as a writer, she is also a director and producer. She received the best writer award for one of her drama series, but she also has a wide variety of top-rated novels. She believed that it is important for entertainers to use multiple forms of media to communicate with the audience. This belief made her one of the most versatile writers in Pakistani history. She had a knack for adapting her style to match that of the story instead of the other way around.

In this manner, she also serves as a powerful example to other female writers who want to make a name for themselves. One of her most popular books is called Humsafar, a romantic novel series published in seven separate parts over several months in 2008. It remains one of her most famous works of all time, and it is still one of the most-read novel series to this day.

Humsafar by Farhat Ishtiaq
  • For Urdu Language readers only
  • Farhat Ishtiaq (Author)
  • Urdu (Publication Language)
  • 02/01/2023 (Publication Date) - ilm o irfan publishers (Publisher)

8. Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is from Hyderabad, located in the province of Sindh. He is an editor, author, and folklorist. He has written a handful of fictional novels and published them in both English and Urdu. Most of his works are critically acclaimed and have been translated into numerous other languages as well. One of his most famous works is The Story of a Widow, which is a gripping story about love and loss, as the reader is treated to an inside look at the unique family dynamics in Pakistan. The description is fantastic, and the imagery is vivid, making this book a prime example of his writing abilities. He is one of the most celebrated Urdu writers in Pakistan.

“You always maintained that he was a good father, but I always told you and I’ll say it again today, so what if he was a good father? How does that redeem him if he was a bad husband?”

Musharraf Ali Farooqi, The Story of a Widow
The Story of a Widow
  • Farooqi, Musharraf Ali (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 08/18/2009 (Publication Date) - Vintage Canada (Publisher)

9. Umera Ahmed

Umera Ahmed is one of the most famous Pakistani novelists of all time. She was initially from Sialkot City, Pakistan, and has written various novels. She was one of the very first female Pakistani writers to make a name for herself, and she said a powerful example for numerous other writers who wanted to follow in her footsteps. However, she was never one to remain silent and consistently advocated for what she thought was right. Even though she knew it could put her in danger, as she lived in a very conservative society, she continued to fight for what she thought was right.

One of her most famous ones is called Zindagi Gulzar Hai. It was published in a monthly magazine but became so popular that it was eventually moved to the big screen. It put her name on the map and quickly became more popular. She is best known for her creatively romantic stories, including Peer E Kamil.

Peer e Kamil
  • Urdu (Publication Language)
  • 01/01/2018 (Publication Date) - Manshurat Publisher and Distributers (Publisher)

10. Moni Mohsin

Top Urdu Writers: Moni Mohsin
She is the founder of the very first consultation magazine in the history of Pakistan

Moni Mohsin is a Pakistani writer who originally came from Lahore. As a teenager, she moved to England, where she completed her studies at a boarding school. After her secondary education, she continued to Cambridge University, where she graduated. Several years after she started her career, she decided to move back to Pakistan and started writing. She is the founder of the very first consultation magazine in the history of Pakistan, and she has written various novels. One of her most popular ones is called The Diary of a Social Butterfly, which provides a unique look at what life is like for women in Pakistan. It is a comedy novel about a socialite who lives in Lahore.

“As I was walking to my car, a crow that was sitting on a wall suddenly scooped down and did number two on my head. Luckily I was holding a newspaper on my head at that time because sun was very strong and I didn’t want to become tanned. So thanks god my blow-dried hair didn’t get spoiled. People say it is a good amen when a bird does potty on you, but I am sorry, what’s so good about your head being used as a toilet?”

Moni Mohsin, The Diary of a Social Butterfly
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The Diary of a Social Butterfly
  • Moni Mohsin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 02/01/2023 (Publication Date) - Random House, India (Publisher)

11. Naiyer Masud

Naiyer Masud is considered one of the top Indian Urdu writers, scholars, and authors of all time. He was a prolific short story writer from Lucknow and lived there almost his entire life. He was a professor of Persian at Lucknow University and is renowned for his writing abilities. He won the Urdu Prize of the Sahitya Akademi in 2001 and the Urdu Prize of the Saraswati Samman in 2007. He has also set a powerful example for the next generation of writers looking to follow in his footsteps.

One of his most famous works is Essence of Camphor, one of his short story collections. This collection of short stories is haunting but also beautiful at the same time. It has Echoes of Kafka and Borges in its pages, and numerous younger writers have sought to emulate his work. There is a lot of mystery, suspense, vivid imagery, and juxtaposition against the society he grew up in. The collection has been translated from his native Urdu language, giving everyone a glimpse inside the mind of one of the top Urdu writers of all time.

“Few people know–perhaps none–that for a long time in my boyhood I used to be mortally afraid of brides.”

Naiyer Masud, Essence of Camphor
Essence of Camphor
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Masud, Naiyer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 187 Pages - 04/17/2000 (Publication Date) - New Press, The (Publisher)

12. Mirza Farhatullah Baig

Another one of the top Urdu writers of all time is Mirza Farhatullah Baig. He lived from 1885 to 1947 and was considered a top humor writer. He published various essays, short stories, and novels with a slightly comedic slant. However, most of his work was satirical, aimed at many issues that plagued his country when he was alive. In addition, he served as a senior judge in Hyderabad. One of his most famous works was titled The Last Light in Delhi. This story discusses the last grand mushaira held in Delhi around 1845. This is intended to be a cultural work that will take the reader on a journey into a time that has long since passed. It also discusses some of the most influential people of the time and their impact on the world around them.

Last Light in Delhi
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Farahtullah Baig (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 207 Pages - 02/28/2022 (Publication Date) - Penguin Modern Classics (Publisher)

13. Ghulam Abbas

Ghulam Abbas is considered one of the top Urdu writers in history. He lived from 1909 to 1982 and published a wide variety of stories that focused on significant cultural issues of the time. He also wrote extensively on women’s rights and the evolution of Pakistani society. One of his most popular titles was Anandi, which means marketplace. The book was also made into a Bollywood film in 1983, called Mandi, which was based heavily on the story. This is a story that focuses on a brothel situated in the heart of the city. It is also a brothel that many politicians go to regularly, which creates a lot of scandals. It is heavily satirical and shines a light on politics, prostitution, and the intersection of the two topics. Many of the lessons in the story are still relevant to this day.

Looking for more recommended readings? Check out our round-up of the best Hemingway books!

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