Visions of Modernity in Revisions of the Past

Abhishek Kaicker

in Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199584727
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595301 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Visions of Modernity in Revisions of the Past

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While the poet and critic Altaf Hussain ‘Hali’ is almost unknown in contemporary India, he exercised considerable sway in Muslim north Indian intellectual circles of the late nineteenth century because of his Musaddas Madd‐o‐Jazr‐i Islam (Musaddas on the ebb and flow of Islam). This epic lamentation described the debased fate of India's Muslims, and urged them to improve their condition by learning from their alien rulers. In it, Hali identified British learning, the source of its strength, with Europe's classical legacy. But Hali took pains to note that this legacy was in fact preserved by the Muslims during Europe's darkest hours. By examining Hali's pointed references to this classical heritage shared between Muslims and Europeans, this chapter suggests that the Musaddas presented a challenge to colonialism's exclusive claim to civility and modernity. Even as Hali accepted the hegemonic claims of the colonial state, through his classicism he nevertheless articulated an alternative vision of an Islamic modernity for a resurgent Muslim community.

Keywords: Hali; Islam; India; colonialism; modernity; classicism

Chapter.  6791 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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