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Altaf Hussain Hali

Altaf Hussain Hali


Maulana Khawaja Hali, another name for Altaf Hussain Hali, was an Urdu poet and author. A contemporary of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Khawaja Altaf Hussain Hali was born in Panipat in 1837. He was only nine years old when his father passed away.

Hali began composing as a traditional Urdu ghazal poet. Later, he began a more serious period of his writing career, signalling the start of modernism in Urdu literature. He presented a compelling argument in Favor of clarity of thinking and intent and the gravity of language. His interest in creating constructive poetry helps to understand why he disliked panegyric and ghazal, which could no longer bear the weight of modern consciousness. Instead, he emphasized the narrative poetry's current relevance and argued for "natural poetry," devoid of sentimentality and grounded in truth.

Birth and Early Life

He was Khwaja Ezad Baksh's son and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari descendant. He was born in Panipat. He was a member of the Panipat Ansari dynasty, which also included Sher Afkan Panipati, the ruler of Multan, and Lutfullah Khan Sadiq, the Diwan-i-Khalisa and governor of Shahjahanabad in the Mughal empire. When Hali was nine, his father passed away, and his mother had dementia. After his parents passed away, his older brother Khwaja Imdad Husain took care of him. When he was fifteen, the older brother forced him to wed his cousin Islam-un-Nisa.

Hali studied the Quran with Hafiz Mumtaz Husain, Arabic with Haji Ibrahim Husain, and Persian with Syed Jafar Ali, all of whom helped him learn it. At seventeen, resentful of marriage's interference with his education, he journeyed to Delhi to enroll at the Husain Baksh ka Madrasa, a madrasa located next to Jama Masjid.

Hali wrote an Arabic essay defending Siddiq Hasan Khan, a Wahhabi devotee, and his dialectics. The essay was destroyed by the professor, Maulvi Navazish Ali, a member of the Hanafi school when he saw it. Hali took on the takhallus "Khasta" at this point: "the worn out, the distressed, the heartbroken. The poet Ghalib, whom he approached with his work, gave him the following advice: "Young man, I rarely advise anyone to write poetry, but for you, I say that if you do not compose poetry, you will be extremely harsh on your temperament."

He returned to Panipat, where his first son was born, after spending three years (1852-1855) in Delhi. The year after, he started working at the Hissar Collector's office.

Writing and Career

The Indian Rebellion of 1857, commonly known as the "First War of Independence," was an armed insurrection in British India to oppose harsh and devastating British colonial rule. Being a witness to the tragedy, this marked an important event in his life. A widowed girl was adopted by his family and spent the remainder of her life there. Her predicament deeply moved Hali, and he wrote two poems about the hardship of women: Chup ki Daad (Homage to the Silent) and Munajaat-e-Beva (Supplication of the Widow). Hali was called "Urdu's first feminist poet" by Syeda Saiyidain Hameed.

He spent eight years as the Nawab Mustafa Khan Shefta of Jahangirabad's children's instructor after being hired in Delhi in 1863. In 1871, he relocated to Lahore, where from 1871 to 1874, he worked at the Government Book Depot, where his responsibility was to edit Urdu translations of English works. This exposed him to a wide variety of literature and inspired him to write Muqaddama-e-Shair-o-Shairi, the initial work of literary criticism to be published in Urdu. This was initially released in 1890 as the preface to his collection of poems, Divan, and later on its own in 1893. Hali was referred to as the "founder of the literary tradition in Urdu" by Annemarie Schimmel. By this point, he had switched his takhallus from "Khasta" to "Hali," which means "current" or "modern."

Hali witnessed a new style of Mushaira in Lahore, where poets were given topics to write about rather than delivering poetry at random. Muhammad Husain Azad and W. R. M. Holroyd, the director of public education, started this. Barkha Rut (Rainy Season), Manazra-a-Rahm-o-Insaaf (Dialogue between Mercy and Justice), Nishat-e-Umeed (Delight of Hope), and Hubb-e-Watan (Patriotism) are four of the poems Hali wrote for this reason.

Hali taught at the Delhi Anglo Arabic School from 1874 to 1889. He was given a stipend in 1889 by the Nizam of Hyderabad's government, and as soon as that happened, he resigned from the school so that he could focus only on creative writing. Syed Ahmad Khan was a person he met at the Anglo-Arabic School.

On the plight of the Muslims in India, he counseled Hali to compose something similar to Marsiya-e-Andalus (dirge for Spain). As a result, Hali started writing his epic poem, Musaddas e-Madd o-Jazr e-Islam. He added that it was an elegy that expresses the nation's grief and a mirror of the condition of the nation. Hali criticized dogmatism, obscurantism, and prejudice in the Musaddas, and he blamed the collapse of India's Muslims on the suppression of dissent and the elevation of religious procedures over the spirit of religion. In his poem's epilogue, he urged Muslims to fix their ship before a storm causes it to capsize.

Except for the first few publications, Hali received little revenue for the highly regarded poetry dedicated to the country. The Mussadas are regarded as a critical source by academics of Pakistani nationalism for formulating the future Muslim nation of Pakistan, which was eventually founded in 1947.

Death and Legacy

Hali finally returned to Panipat in 1889 at the age of 52. He lived there with his wife for the next 25 years. In 1914, Altaf Hussain Hali died. On 23 March 1979, Pakistan Post published a commemorative stamp in his honor as part of its "Pioneers of Freedom" series. One of the most inspirational poems in Urdu literature, his epic "Musaddas" profoundly impacted the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims in the subcontinent and continues to do so today.


Some of his famous works include

  • A biography of Ghalib called Yadgar-e-Ghalib describes the life and works of the famous Urdu poet of the 19th century, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869).
  • A biography of Saadi Shirazi, Hayat-e-Saadi, detailing the life and works of renowned poet and Persian language scholar Saadi Shirazi (1210-1292 AD), is available online.
  • A biography of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Hayat-e-Javed, detailing the life and works of the influential social reformer, scholar, and educator Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898), is available online.
  • Hali also composed the poetry "Barkha Rut" and the naat "Woh Nabiyon Mein Rahmat Laqab Paanaywala."


A powerful and influential man of letters, Altaf Hussain Hali. Hali has discussed the craft of poetry and summarised the fundamentals that make up the core of all compelling poetry. It serves as a valuable work of criticism and a top-notch overview of Urdu literature. Both Hali's poetry and prose were believable, persuasive, and accurate to life.

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