When he joined Aligarh Muslim University in 1936, he started participating in inter-college, inter-university mushairas and won frequently. In 1940, he married Salma, who was a distant relative of his and they had been living in a common house since childhood, however, the purdah system was vogue in their family and they were not close. After completing his B.A., he moved to Delhi as a supply officer, but continued participating in mushairas, earning fame nation-wide. Those were the days of shayars who wrote about the downtrodden sections of society, their upliftment, the betterment of society and all. But Shakeel had an altogether different taste - his poetry was more often not romantic and close to heart. Shakeel used to say:
- Main Shakeel Dil Ka Hoon Tarjuman
- Keh Mohabbaton Ka Hoon Raazdaan
- Mujhe Fakhr Hai Meri Shayari
- Meri Zindagi Se Juda Nahin
CareerShakeel moved to Bombay in 1944 to write songs for films. He met film producer, A.R. Kardar and music composer, Naushad who asked him to sum up his poetic skills in one line. Shakeel wrote, Hum dard Ka Afsana Duniya Ko Suna Denge, Har Dil Main Mohabbat Ki Ek aag Laga Daingay. Naushad immediately signed him for Kardar's film, Dard (1947). The songs of Dard proved to be very successful especially Uma Devi (Tun Tun)'s Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon. Only a few are so lucky that they attain success in their first film, but Shakeel deserved success which started with Dard and continued on over the years.
Together, he and Naushad became one of the most sought after composer/lyricist duos in the industry. Among the stupendous scores they churned out together, are those of Baiju Bawra (1952), Mother India (1957), and Mughal-e-Azam (1960), that stand out. Other films they scored together include Dulari (1949), Shabab (1954), Ganga Jamuna (1961), and Mere Mehboob (1963). Although Shakeel Badayuni worked most extensively with Naushad, he also collaborated with Ravi and Hemant Kumar as well. His lyrics for the song Husnwale Tera Jawab Nahin and Ravi's music both won Filmfare Awards for the hit film Gharana. His other notable film with Ravi is Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), while Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) is his biggest hit with Hemant Kumar. The title song from Chaudhvin Ka Chand, rendered by Mohammed Rafi, won Badayuni the Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist in 1961.
Shakeel penned numbers for around 89 films. In addition, he wrote many popular ghazals which are still sung by vocalists like Pankaj Udhas and others. Shakeel shared a close friendship with Naushad, Ravi and Ghulam Mohammed, with whom he enjoyed his life to the fullest. Unlike other shayaars, he wasn't an alcoholic.
The Indian government had honoured him with the title Geet Kar-e-Azam.
- 1961 Filmfare Best Lyricist Award for the song Chaudvin ka chand ho in the film Chaudhvin Ka Chand
- 1962 Filmfare Best Lyricist Award for the song husnwale tera jawab nahin in the film Gharana
- 1963 Filmfare Best Lyricist Award for the song kahin deep jale kahin dil in the film Bees Saal Baad