Born Shamsuddin Haider at Karhan in the district of Azamgarh in 1913, he chose Shamim Karhani as his pen name. He was the nephew of famous Progressive story writer Ali Abbas Hussaini. Karhani was educated at Azamgarh where he also taught in a school. He had a short stint as a lyricist in Bombay but he did not continue with this for long and came back to Azamgarh. In 1950, he joined Anglo Arabic Higher Secondary School in Delhi as a Persian teacher where he continued working till the end of his career.
Shamim Karhani is a prominent name among the Progressive poets. His first collection of poems entitled Barq-o-Baaran was published in 1939. His political poems appeared in Taraney (1945) and Roshan Andherey (1946). His ghazals were collected in Harf-e-Neem Shub (1972). His two other collections include Aks-e-Gul (1962), and Intekhab-e-Kalam-Shamim Karhani (1999). His moving poem, “Jagao na Bapu ko Neend Aa gayi Hai” written on the martyrdom of Mahatama Gandhi, was widely appreciated. Apart from writing poetry, Shamim Karhani also translated Hindi fiction and English poems for children into Urdu.