Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 1, 1981 p. 46.


Graphics file for this page
Gail Minault

HOMAGE TO THE SILENT

A translation of Hall's Cup Kl Dad

Introduction

Khwaja Altaf Husain, Hali, of Panipat (1837-1914) was not only chronologically a product of the Victorian age in India, but he was also ideologically influenced by the Victorian spirit. During the later nineteenth century in India, the earlier zeal for social reform on the part of the British administration gave way to a reluctance to tamper with the customs of native society. Nevertheless, English governmental and missionary educational efforts continued, abetted by private Indian educational enterprise. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan's college at Aligarh was one example of such an effort, designed to bring western education to the young men of the North Indian Muslim professional elite, and to help them meet the challenges of a rapidly changing political and economic situation.

Hali is probably best known for his long poem, Musaddas:

Madd-o-Jazr-e-lslam ("The Ebb and Flow of Islam"), written at the suggestion of Sir Sayyid and first published in 1879. In that work, Hali described the past glories of Islam and the decay into which Muslims had fallen. He then called upon Indian Muslims to arise, and live up to their great past by seeking new knowledge. They should, in other words, support Sir Sayyid's movement, and not reject the new forces at work in their society.

As the urban elite of Muslim India acquired new learning and adapted to the increasingly impersonal political and administrative institutions of British India,1 they faced a growing malaise in their home lives. The Victorian Englishman, in an analogous situation, viewed domestic existence as a haven of affection at the end of a day coping with the stresses of urban life.2 Western-educated Muslims, however, found that they had little in common with secluded and uneducated wives and mothers. The dichotomy between their public lives and private lives had always been great, but the sense of alienation had now reached crisis proportions. The Muhammadan Educational Conference, and offshoot of the Aligarh movement, established a female education section to promote Muslim women's education, and a number of Aligarh graduates took up the cause. Among them was Shaikh Abdullah, a young lawyer who became the secretary of the female education section of the Conference.^

Hali wrote Cup jcl Dad at the request of Shaikh Abdullah, and the work first appeared in the Shaikh's reformist Urdu journal for women, xatun, in December, 1905.4 The following year. Shaikh Abdullah and his wife founded Aligarh Girls' School in the face of great opposition, but with the patronage of Nawab Sultan Jahan

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