Faiz Ahmad Faiz was born in Kala Kader village, Sialkot to Sultan Mohammad Khan and his youngest wife Fatima. Following the Muslim tradition Faiz was sent to the Masjid to be oriented to the basics of religious studies by Maulvi Muhammad Ibrahim Mir Sialkoti. He went to the Mission School, Sialkot, for academic education and after matriculation joined Murray College, Sialkot for intermediate study and graduation.
His most influential teachers were Professor Yousuf Saleem Chishti, who taught Urdu, and Shams-ul-Ullamah Syed Mir Hassan, who taught Arabic. Mir Hassan had also taught the renowned philosopher, poet, and politician of South Asia, Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. Faiz acquired a post-graduate degree from the Government College, Lahore, a Master of Arts in English Literature, and he also attended the Oriental College in Lahore, where he obtained another master's degree in Arabic Literature.
Faiz became a lecturer in English at M.A.O. College, Amritsar and then at Hailey College of Commerce, Lahore. He briefly joined the British Indian Army and was promoted to the rank of Lieut. Colonel in 1944. He resigned from the Army in 1947 and returned to Lahore to become the first editor-in-chief of the Pakistan Times. In 1959 he was appointed as Secretary, Pakistan Arts Council and worked in that capacity till 1962.
In 1964 he settled down in Karachi and was appointed as Principal at Abdullah Haroon College. Faiz distinguished himself as a journalist and was editor of the Pakistan Times, the Urdu newspaper 'Imroze' and the weekly Lail-o-Nihar. In the 1965 war between India & Pakistan he worked in an honorary capacity in the Department of Information and during that period Faiz was very much close to the senior officers, like Syed Fakhruddin Balley. In exile he acted as Editor of the magazine Lotus in Moscow, London and Beirut.
Faiz wrote poems that opposed the bloodshed during separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.
Faiz was a communist and was associated with the Communist Party of Pakistan. He spent much of the 1950s and 1960s promoting the cause of communism in Pakistan. During the time when Faiz was editor of the Pakistan Times, one of the leading newspapers of the 1950s, he lent editorial support to the party. He was also involved in the circle lending support to military personnel e.g. Major General Akbar Khan. His involvement with the party and Major General Akbar Khan's coup plan led to his imprisonment later.
Faiz was an avowed supporter of Sufism. He had close relations with several Sufi saints of his time. He was a favourite of Baba Malang Sahib, a Sufi of Lahore, Wasif Ali Wasif, Ashfaq Ahmad, Syed Fakhruddin Balley and other renowned sufis. Once when he was asked how he could compare Sufis with socialist comrades, he replied, "They [Sufis] are the real comrades". He is also credited for coining the term Ana al-Haqq in the political sense.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz's poetry has been translated into many languages, including English and Russian. A Balochi poet, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, who was also a friend of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, translated his book Sar-e-Wadi-e-Seena into Balochi with the title Seenai Keechag aa. This work by Faiz was translated by Gul Khan while he (Gul Khan) was in jail during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's regime for opposing the government's policies. It was published in 1980, after Zia-ul-Haq toppled Bhutto's government and freed all the political prisoners of his (Bhutto's) regime. Victor Kiernan, British Marxist historian translated Faiz Ahmed Faiz's works into English.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz, himself, has also translated works of notable poets from other languages into Urdu. In his book "Sar-i Waadi-i Seena" there are some translations of the famous poet of Dagestan, Rasul Gamzatov. "Deewa", a Balochi poem by Mir Gul Khan Nasir, was also translated into Urdu by Faiz.
In the 1930s Faiz Ahmad Faiz married a British woman, Alys Faiz. They had two daughters, Moneeza and Salima Hashmi. Salima is an eminent artist and Moneeza is a TV producer. Salima and Moneeza are married to brothers Shoaib Hashmi and Humair Hashmi respectively, who are noted media personalities.
Faiz was the first Asian poet to receive the Lenin Peace Prize, awarded by the Soviet Union in 1963. He was also nominated for the Nobel Prize shortly before his death in 1984.