Daagh was a respected poet in his own day and was considered the best romantic poet. The simplicity of the verses with utter playfulness impressed people from all walks of life.
He was born in Kuncha Ustad DaghChandni Chowk in Delhi to Nawab Shamsuddin Ahmed Khan, the ruler of Lotharu and Ferozepur Jhirka and Wazir Khanum, daughter of a Delhi jeweller and a dusky, beautiful woman. She was madly in love with the Nawab and married him, her second. His father was hanged under charges of conspiracy in the murder of William Fraser. Daagh at the age of four and his mother thirty four, the most sought after lady, wooed and remarried the Mughal crown prince, Mirza Muhammad Fakhroo, an heir to the last Mughal Bahadur Shah Zafar. Hence, Daagh had the privileged education at the Red Fort, There he received best of education and was later under tutelage of poet laureate, Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq. Later, He also took advise from Ghalib on finer nuances of Urdu literature and poetry. He was also trained in calligraphy, horse riding.
Daagh belonged to the Dabistan-e-Dehli (Dehli school of thought) and never allowed western influences on his poetry. He started reciting poetry at the age of ten and his forte was the romantic version, the ghazal.
He became very popular for his exuberant style of poetry. Unlike the elitist style by the poets of the time, his style was simple and was well received by both, the common man and the elite.
After Fakhroo's death in 1856, Daagh along with his mother left Delhi after facing turbulent times, for Rampur State and came under the aegis of Nawab of Rampur, Yusuf Ali Khan Bahadur. He went into government service there and lived well for 24 years. There followed a period of wandering and discomfort and after the Nawab of Rampur, Nawab Kalb-e-Ali Khan's death, he was not in a good position there.
Hyderabad at the time was a cradle to many prominent Urdu poets of that period following the fall of Mughals in Delhi, Wajid Ali Shah and other princely stares in North India.
Daagh visited Hyderabad in ---1888 and was there for several months and became very popular during the time. He left after not being invited to the court by the Mahbub Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VI's court, as access to his court was very limited. He then was invited immediately and was appointed as the court poet and mentor, in 1891, to the Sixth Nizam, at the age of 60. The popular poet from Lucknow, Amir Minai, whose qasidas were favoured by the Nizam, stayed with Daagh. Amir had a very close personal friendship—and a fierce poetic rivalry—with his great contemporary.
He won many admirers for his pure Urdu idiom and style. He was very popular in mushairas and became a fixture at such gathering. He was highly respected and acclaimed for his language finesse. He received a salary of Rs. 400 initially and in a short time was increased to Rs. 1000 that allowed him to live a luxurious life. He is considered the last poet to represent the classic Delhi School of Poetry.
His popular couplet on Urdu language was:
Daagh came in contact with an attractive courtesan, Hijab in Calcutta. She was a great admirer of his romantic poetry and used them in her tawaif performances. Despite Daagh's swarthy and not so good looks. They were in touch through letters. She paid a visit to him in Hyderabad when Daagh was in Seventies.
In one instance when a poet asked Daagh that his poetry just did not have the attractive spirit that Daagh possessed, then he replied, Have you ever romanced a courtesan?.
He died in 1905 at the age of 74 in Hyderabad Deccan after a paralytic stroke. He was buried at Dargah Yousufain in Nampally.
Daagh was married and had children. At times he had to be away from his family during turbulent times, and he wrote poems on the situation.
Daagh had noted disciples including the poet of the East Allama Iqbal, Jigar Moradabadi, Seemab Akbarabadi and Ahasan Marharavi, though a widely quoted anecdote relates that when asked to designate his successor as the leading Urdu poet of his age, he replied Bekhudain [the two Bekhuds], referring to Bekhud Badayuni and Bekhud Dehlvi.
His ghazals are rendered by noted ghazal singers, Jagjit Singh, Noor Jahan, Ghulam Ali, Adithya Srinivasan, Malika Pukhraj, Mehdi Hassan, Abida Parveen, Pankaj Udhas and Farida Khanum.