Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali

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Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali (1837-1914) was an Urdu poet, and the last pupil of Mirza Ghalib. He is also one of the most well-regarded biographers of Ghalib’s life, and a commentator of his poetry. Born in Panipat in 1837, Altaf Hussain was educated in the same city and later ran away to Delhi where he wished to gain further education in the Indo-Islamic poetic tradition After this turning point in his life, he drifted from job to job for several years, arriving eventually in Lahore in the mid 1870s, where he began to compose his epic poem at the request of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the Musaddas e-Madd o-Jazr e-Islam under the new poetic pseudonym of Hali The Musaddas, or Musaddas-e-Hali, as it is often known, was published in 1879 to critical acclaim, and considered to herald the modern age of Urdu poetry. Hali also wrote one of the earliest works of literary criticism in Urdu, Muqaddamah-i Shi’r-o-Sha’iri. Hali occupies aspecial position in the history of Urdu literature. Though he is not as great a lyricist as Ghalib, Momin, or Mir, he is more versatile than all of them. He is poet, a critic, a teacher, a reformer and an impressive prose-writer. Circumstances did not permit him to attain formal education in a school or college, yet he had acquried, through sustained self-effort, a perfect command of Urdu, Persian and Arabic, and a good working knowledge of English. As a poet he did not confine himself within the narrow bounds of the ghazal, but successfully exploited the other poetic forms such as the nazm, the rubai, and the elegy. More particularly, he harnessed his poetic abilities to the higher aims of social and moral edification. Art for him was a handmaid to life. His famous long poem, Musaddas-e-Hali, examines the state of social and moral degradation prevalent in the contemporary Muslim society. His prose treatise, Muqaddama-e-Shair-o-Shairi, is a pioneering work of literary criticism. It dwells on the limitations of the traditional ghazal, and points to the hollowness of its hackneyed themes and imagery, especially when the form is handled by inferior poets and versifiers. He has also written memorable biographies of Ghalib, Saadi Sheerazi, and Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan, entitled respectively, Yaadgar-e-Ghalib, Hayat-e-Saadi, and Hayat-e-Javad. His poem “Barkha Rut,” describes the beauties of nature in the rainy season; “Hub-e-Watan,” underscoresthe virtues of patriotism; while “Bewa ki Manajaat” focuses on the plight of windows in Indian society. Hali?s interests were wide-ranging, and his literary abilities were commensurate with his humanitarian aims,

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