The Flow and Ebb of Islam

Khwaja Altaf Hussein Hali

in Modernist Islam, 1840-1940

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195154672
Published online November 2007 |
 The Flow and Ebb of Islam

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Khwaja Altaf Hussein Hali (North India, 18371914) was a pioneer in modern Urdu poetry. He came from a learned family in Panipat, United Provinces, and ran away to Delhi to pursue his studies. He was forced to return home and get married, then ran away again to pursue higher education. While working at the Punjab government book depot in Lahore, revising translations from English into Urdu, he developed an interest in English poetry and Western literary criticism. This interest led him to show his own verses to well-known poets of the era, Ghalib (17971869) and Shaifta (died 1869), who encouraged and sponsored him as he explored modern, humanistic themes, rather than romantic stock images that were popular at the time. Symptomatic of his altered mentality was the change of his pen name, from Khasta (distressed, exhausted) to Hali (modern, up-to-date). As both a poet and literary critic of great influencehis discussion of poetry prefacing his own collected poems is a classicHali evolved new styles of Urdu expression. Like many other Indian modernists of the era, Hali came into the sphere of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (see chapter 40), for whose journal Hali wrote the long poem Musaddas, which is excerpted here. (The term Musaddas refers to the format of six lines per stanza.) The poem nostalgically laments Muslim decline, but also offers a message of hope and reform. It is the pioneering work in a genre emerging in Urdu that combined ethical and political themes with a strong Islamic orientation.1

Chapter.  1976 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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