Altaf Hussain Hali

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Altaf Hussain

Altaf Hussain Hali (1837–1914) (Urdu: الطاف حسین حاؔلی‎ – Alṭāf Ḥusain Ḥālī), known with his honorifics as Maulana Khawaja Hali, was an Urdu poet[1] and writer.

Born in Panipat, Haryana in 1837, circumstances did not permit Hali to attain formal education in a school or college, yet he managed to acquire, through sustained self-effort, perfect command of Urdu, Persian and Arabic, and a good working knowledge of English.[citation needed] He later moved to Delhi where he wished to study the Islamic theology and poetic tradition. As a poet he did not confine himself within the bounds of the ghazal, but exploited other poetic forms such as the nazm, the rubai, and the Marsia.[citation needed] His long poem, Musaddas-e-Hali, examines the state of social and moral degradation prevalent in the then contemporary Muslim society.[citation needed] His prose treatise, Muqaddama-e-Shair-o-Shairi, is a pioneering work of literary criticism.[citation needed]

In 1886, Hali was chosen to be a member of the first teaching faculty at Aitchison College, Lahore.[citation needed] The College holds an Urdu elocution competition called the Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali Challenge Cup, in honour of the poet.[citation needed]

Civil service[edit]

It was here[vague] that Hali chose the cognomen of Khastah ("The Spent One", or "The Tired One"). He was forced to return home, and pursued a government job until displaced by the First War of Independence of 1857.[citation needed]


After this turning point in his life, Hali drifted from job to job for several years, arriving eventually in Lahore, where he came to lahore to be a personal servant of Chayanne Mehdi in the mid-1870s, where he began to compose his epic poem, the Musaddas e-Madd o-Jazr e-Islam ("An elegiac poem on the Ebb and Tide of Islam"), at the request of Syed Ahmad Khan, under the new pseudonym of Hali ("The Contemporary"). The Musaddas, or Musaddas-e-Hali, as it is often known, was published in 1879 to critical acclaim and heralded the modern age of Urdu poetry.[citation needed] Hali also wrote one of the earliest works of literary criticism in Urdu, Muqaddamah-i Shay'r-o-Sha'iri.

Musaddas e-madd o-Jazr e-Islam describes the rise and fall of the Islamic empire in the sub-continent. It speaks about the Islamic empire at its best and worst and aims to forewarn the Muslims of the sub-continent, make them more aware of their past and help them learn from their forefathers' mistakes. Some scholars of Pakistani nationalism also consider the Mussadas an important text for the articulation of a future Muslim nation.[2]

Hali has also written biographies of Ghalib, Saadi Shirazi, and Syed Ahmed Khan,[3] entitled respectively, Yaadgar-e-Ghalib, Hayat-e-Saadi, and Hayat-e-Javad. Hali's poem "Barkha Rut".


  1. ^ George, K. M. (1992). Modern Indian Literature, an Anthology. Sahitya Akademi. p. 424. ISBN 9788172013240. 
  2. ^ Raja, Masood Ashraf, Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity, 1857–1947, Oxford 2010, ISBN 978-0-19547811-2
  3. ^ KHWAJA ALTAF HUSSAIN HALI (1837–1914). Retrieved 27 May 2013. 

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