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Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire$
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Mark Bradley

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199584727

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199584727.001.0001

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Visions of Modernity in Revisions of the Past

Visions of Modernity in Revisions of the Past

Altaf Hussain Hali and the ‘Legacy of the Greeks’

(p.231) 9 Visions of Modernity in Revisions of the Past
Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire

Abhishek Kaicker

Oxford University Press

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

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