Mir Babar Ali Anis was born in 1803 CE at Faizabad. A Musavi sayyed, descended from the 7th Imam, Musa al-Kadhim, he belonged to a family of poets. In his book Khandaan- e-Mir Anees ke Naamwar Sho’ara (Famous Poets from the family of Mir Anis), Zameer Naqvi (Dr. Syed Zameer Akhter Naqvi) listed 22 poets from Mir Anis’ family and their poetry. Mir Anis was a fifth-generation poet, a fact he mentioned in the first stanza of his famous Marsiya "Namak-e-Khwaan-e-Takallum hai Fasaahat meri." He says:
His mother appears to have been his main inspiration. But he was also intellectually curious and gifted.
Anis gained a traditional Shia education. However, research by Nayyar Masood reveals that, while in Faizabad, Anis studied with two religious scholars; one was a Shia Scholar, Maulvi Mir Najaf and the other was a Hanafi (Sunni) Scholar, Maulvi Haider Ali Faizabadi. Masood also notes that Anis was well versed in Persian as well as in Arabic. Anis also had military training and gained a thorough knowledge of old and new weapons.
Mir Anis was invited to Lucknow where he reached the zenith of his reputation. Mir Anis did not like to move out of Lucknow apprehending that his art would not be appreciated elsewhere. Yet, after the annexation of Oudh by the British, he was persuaded to visit Azimabad (Patna), Dulhipur (Varanasi), Hyderabad and Allahabad.
In 1870 Nawab Tahwar Jung invited Anis to Hyderabad where he declined to be presented at the court of Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, the then Nizam of Hyderabad State, the Nizam himself went to the Majlis where the poet was to recite. While returning from Hyderabad, he sojourned at Allahabad in 1871 and recited his marsia in the Imambara of late Lala Beni Prasad Srivastava, Vakil, who was a devotee of Imam Husain.
He died in 1874 CE and is buried at his own residence in Lucknow.
According to Muhammad Hussain Azad "The late Mīr Sahib must certainly have composed at least ten thousand elegies, and salāms beyond count. He composed as easily and casually as he spoke.".
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi in his research and published Essay "How to read Iqbal?" provided a comparison of Iqbal with Nazeer Akbarabadi, by saying that "Iqbal was placed better because he had, among others, Bedil (1644–1720) in Persian and Mir Anis (1802–1874) in Urdu." He further asserts: "The mention of Mir Anis may surprise some of us until we realize it that Mir Anis’s Marsiyas are the best premodern model in Urdu of narrative-historical, narrative-lyrical, and oral-dramatic poetry, and Iqbal’s poetry extends and exploits the possibilities created by Anis."
Anis is also known as pioneer in Rubai, an Urdu poetry branch, and enjoys a famous position alike Mirza Sauda, Khwaja Mir Dard and Dabeer. Besides being a master of the Marsia, Anis was also a specialist of the Rubai, the shortest complete poem in Urdu, containing only four lines. Mir Anees had an extraordinary capability for the writing of Rubais. He immeasurably enriched the contents of the Rubai, making it much more colorful and multi-dimensional. Anis introduced the tragic events of Karbala and their moralistic effect to Rubai. Thus, he widened the scope of Rubai to unfathomable limits. The inclusion of Karbala resulted in the florescence of the Urdu Rubai. Thus, many internal and external aspects of our life found their echo in the Urdu Rubai. Anis. was a master of simple, natural utterance, with a superb command on the language, which was always adequate to express a large variety of moods, scenes, characters and situations. He is especially notable for presenting the same scene or situation, over and over again, in different words or phrases, without letting it appear monotonous. The sub-parts of Marsia are called Noha and Soaz which means lamentation and burning of (heart) respectively. It is usually a poem of mourning. The form reached its peak in the writing of Mir Babbar Ali Anis.
Muharram and Mir Anis have become synonymous in our part of the world. In fact, Mir Anis is a great teacher for the young generation if it wants to feed itself on the gems of Urdu poetry. Undoubtedly, Urdu derives much of its strength from the Marsias of Mir Anis.
Mir Anis has drawn upon the vocabulary of Arabic, Persian, Urdu/Hindi/Awadhi in such a good measure that he symbolizes the full spectrum of the cultural mosaic that Urdu has come to be. No Urdu poet from Ghalib onwards has lagged behind in showering his eulogies on Mir Anis.
The art of Marsia in the hands of Anis has brought to itself the attributes of painting, music and photography. He convinces us that a great artist is at work, making us watch with a sense of wonder all that he has in his repertoire. The moment the bewitched readers or listeners of Mir Anis’s Marsias surrender themselves to the fascination they feel as if they have been transferred to the scene of action aboard the time machine.
Perhaps there is no other poet in the world who has looked after the aesthetic and spiritual satisfaction of his fans so completely as Mir Anis does. It is simply miraculous.
Anis and Dabir Academy, London organised an International Seminar on "Position of Anis and Dabir in Urdu literature" on the occasion of bicentennial birthday celebrations of Mir Anis and Mirza Dabir. Litterateurs and intellectuals from India, Pakistan, Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom participated in the seminar. In the inaugural session, Dr Taqi Abedi of Canada presented a review of Dabir’s quatrains. Prof. Muhammad Zaman Azurda presented an article on Dabir’s prose-writing in the second session. Dr Iqbal Mirza presented a comparative study of Anis and Shakespeare. Yawar Abbas of Britain and Prof. Qamar Jahan presented their articles in the last session followed by a poetic recitation. Youths besides senior litterateurs and intellectuals attended the seminar in a large number.
A seminar titled "Mir Anis our Adab-i-Aalia" was jointly held on 19 April 2001 by the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi and Pak Arab Literary Society, with Dr Farman Fatehpuri in the chair and Mehdi Masud as the chief guest. The Arts Council, Karachi, had also organized in April, 2002 an evening to commemorate the second birth centenary of Mir Anis. The literary figures who participated in the programme included Dr Zameer Akhtar Naqvi, Syed Javed Hasan, Prof. Seher Ansari, Dr Aliya Imam, Qasim Jalali and Mehdi Masood, and actor Talat Hussain and almost all appreciated the facility with which Anis wrote his lines in colloquial, everyday language.
Two day National Seminar on "Mir Anis Ke Marsia Mein Jang ke Anasir" organized by Urdu Department, Hyderabad Central University in which Prof. Nusrat Ara Choudhary, Jammu University, India, presented research paper "Mir Anis ka Fann" on 23 August 2003.
35 Marsiya video series based on event between 28th Rajab to 8th Rabi' al-awwal, titled Az madina ta madina was released on 3 January 2014, by "Mafss Noha Academy" Mumbai, India, and recited by Rahil Rizvi (Marsiya & Noha Khwan from India).
The Majlis of 25 Rajab, is historically important Majlis of marsiya in Lucknow, in this majlis Mir Anis used to recite Marsiya. After Mir Anis, well known marsiya writers of Mir Anis's family as Dulaha Sahab Uruj, Mustafa Meerza urf Piyare Sahab Rasheed, Ali Nawab Qadeem and Syed Sajjad Hussain Shadeed inherited the legacy of reciting marsiya.Every year in the month of Rajab,25th Allama, Dr. Syed Ali Imam Zaidi Gauhar Lakhnavi great grand son of Mir Baber Ali Anees recites self composed marsiya in this majlis at Imam Bara Nazim saheb, Lucknow, U.P., India.
The famous marsia writers who inherited the tradition of Mir Anis among his successive generations are Mir Nawab Ali Munis, Dulaha Sahab Uruj, Mustafa Meerza urf Piyare Sahab Rasheed, Syed Muhammad Mirza Uns, Ali Nawab Qadeem, Syed Sajjad Hussain Shadeed and Allama Dr.Syed Ali Imam Zaidi Gauhar lakhnavi great grand son of Mir Baber Ali Anees.
Given below is description of some books published by various researchers and publishers of Indo-Pak:
(1) Two books (i) Marsiya Khawani Ka Funn & (ii) Marka-i-Anis-au-Dabir in Urdu language by Nayyar Masood, Professor and head of department (computer science) Muhammad Ali Jinnah University, Islamabad, Pakistan and son of well known Urdu literature research scholar Syed Masood Hasan Rizvi.
(2)Urdu Marsiye K a Safar: This voluminous book numbering in more than twelve hundred pages has been published by England’s Ashoor Kazmi Foundation in cooperation with India’s Educational Publishing House, which has published it from Delhi.
(3)Tajzia-i-Yadgar Marsia, Research and compilation by Syed Taqi Abedi
(4) Intikhab-e-Kalam: Mir Anis Compiled by Muhammad Reza Kazimi, a former Editorial Consultant of the Oxford University Press. This book contains a selection from the Marsias (elegiac epics) of Mir Anis, hailed as the greatest exponent of this form, as well as one of the greatest poets of the Urdu language. All British historians of Urdu literature are united in according him a very high stature in Urdu Literature.
(5)Another interesting work was produced by Ghulam Imam of Lucknow, a lawyer by profession. The title of the book is "Shakespeare and Anis", 1950, Lucknow. In this work, the author has listed selections from Mir Anis poetry and has found comparable work from Shakespeare. It is an interesting book.
(6)" Rubaiyate-e-Anis" Compiled By Mr. Mohammad Hasan Bilgrami and "Anis Shakhsiyat Aur Fun" by Mr. Fazl-e-Imam published by UP Urdu Akademi, India.
(7) Books by Syed Zameer Akhtar Naqvi "Mir Anees Ki Shairi" (in Urdu Language) & "The poets in the family of Mir Anis" (published in 1996) 2nd Book is about the life history of 22 family members of Mir Anis that were poets and their poetry.
(8)"The immortal poetry & Mir Anis" with the versified translation of a Marsia of Mir Anis: by a well known principal of Siraj -ud- daula College Karachi, Professor Syed Ghulam Abbas. Published in 1983 by Majlis-e-Milli, Pakistan in Karachi - Written in English.
(9)The battle of Karbala 90 pages book on poetry (Elegiac poetry-Urdu ): a Marsia of Mir Babbar Ali Anis Translated by David Matthew (ISBN 9788171672134) Original from the University of California Digitized 27 Feb 2008 Publisher of 2nd Edition: Rupa & Co., 1994
A researcher in Urdu Literature, Syed Taqi Abedi, has shown that Mir Anis's family had served the poetic literature for a period of three centuries, first in Persian and later in Urdu poetry.
The book "Intikhab-e-Mir Anis" is a compilation of 41 Marsias, 33 Salams, 96 Rubais and 3 Nohas selected from the 6 voluminous publishing contents of Mir Anis poetic literature in Urdu Language. This book has been published since 1962 by an Urdu Literature Institution having its name "Bazm-e-Mir Anis", Karachi, Pakistan. This book of above 300 pages, owns credit of more than 26 Editions, numbering to approx 60,000 copies published and distributed by its stockiest and distributor. The publishing institution "Bazm-e-Mir Anis" was sponsored by Haji Ali Akbar H. Ibrahim. After his death the book is being published by "Haji Ali Akbar H. Ibrahim Family Benevolent Trust". This subsidized publishing is a special tribute to Mir Anis by a devotee of Ahl al-Bayt and Mir Anis.