Among the glorious personalities of 19th century India, Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali was a leading figure in the field of Urdu Literature. He was born in 1837 at Panipat Punjab and died in 1914. He received early education at home in a traditional manner by studying Persian and Arabic.Lateron, he went to Delhi and Lahore for quenching the thirst of knowledge. He associated himself with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his Movement. He was an erudite scholar, prolific writer and a devout Muslim besides a biographer and poet. He is popularly known as the Father of Criticism in Urdu Literature. In his religious and western thought, he was familiar with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan but precedes him in the issue of women education. He can rightly be said as the pioneer of Women Education in India after 1857. The magnanimity and glory of his personality is acknowledged and eulogized by Allama Iqbal as;
Mashoorzamaney main hainnaamHali
Ma'murm'aeyhaq se hain jam Hali
Hali, the foresighted person, observed and experienced keenly the prevalent condition of Muslim backwardness and tried to know the secrets of its shortcomings and, the response, with which the prevalent condition will be eradicated in order to make it better for the Indians in general and Muslims in particular. While trying to find out the prime cause responsible for the degradation of the nation, he came to the conclusion that the absence of education is the major cause, responsible for it.
After identifying the disease, he along with his mentor and associate, Sir Syed, proceeded to provide better Modern education to the Muslims of his time, as it was the only medicine, which will help in eradicating the ignorance and will raise the community as the developed and civilized nation. According to Hali, education is the only device, whichwill remove the existing brutalized condition of Muslims with a better and prosperous condition.
The period witnessed the conservative approach from the common Muslim masses, who believed the Modern and Western secular education as innovation. They not only prevented themselves from this type of knowledge but also began to oppose it and those who tried to implement it; they behave with them as their enemies. The courageous step, during this crucial situation, had been taken by a great benefactor and reformer of his time, popularly known as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. He established the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, which is now in front of us as the famous University known as Aligarh Muslim University.
Sir Syed succeeded to a very great extent in uplifting the deteriorated condition of Muslims, but it was only the half success. The Muslim society like any society is the combination of male and female. Both are equally responsible for the degradation and upgradation of society. So when only men become educated and women remained ignorant, how will society succeed? Just as the two wheeled vehicle will not reachsafely to its destination, if the second wheel is not equally fit like first wheel. Similarly a nation cannot be completely developed, if they fail to educate women too alongside men. Sir Syed did not succeed fully in educating women along with men, because of the bitter opposition from his nears ones and opposites.
The nation, who opposes the secular education to that extent, will allow very easily their girls to receive this type of education seems impossible. The whole credit of educating women with men goes to MaulanaAltaf Hussain Hali. He, as the pioneer of women education, tried his level best to provide education to them along with men equally, inspite of bitter opposition. He was well familiar with the brutal condition of women of his timeas had been mentioned by him in his poetical sonnets like Chupki Dad, Munajat-i-Bewah and Majalis-un-Nisa. While describing the condition of women of his time, he compares them with women of Jahilliya period. He had fully described the condition of widows,illiterates and oppressed onesin the poems.
It is because of his love and condescension, he come forward and madean arrangement for women to receive the modern education to help the nation to appear as the developed and civilized nation. He, as a very practical man himself began to impartwomen,the art of reading and writing, to give them their due status as had been given to them by the Creator. He wrote ample material in support of female rights, to elevate their status and permit them to receive education. He, in his Majalis-un-Nisasays that the only educated women can secure her rights very carefully and the progress of nation is dependable on women education. He requests the people to decorate the ornament of knowledge on their daughters. So that they can operate their God gifted qualities, to help men in leading the nation towards progress and prosperity. He wrote this book in 1874, during his stay at Lahore for the women of whole nation, only after five years later, when MolviNazir Ahmad wrote Mirat-ul-'Urus but for the training and knowledge of their daughters only.
He founded the Madrasa in his native town for women education and devout himself for teaching the modern education to them. He had to bear hard tortures for it. He tolerated all the brutalities and tortures of his own people and remained constant towards imparting education to the female gender. The motive was to lead the nation towards progress and prosperity.
As 'Eteeq Ahmad Sidiqi had rightly said, that if part of the society segregates from knowledge, it will fail to appear the nation as healthy and there will be no hope for its reformation. Any attempt without women education will prove futile for the reformation of society,because the darkness of ignorance is the hindrance in every type of progress and change.Haliwas always raising questions regarding the women, who gave birth to men and sustained and nourished them with better training, and despite this she was prevented from the precious ornament of knowledge.She was thrown into the darkness of ignorance. While describing the oppression with which women was beaten during these days, Halisays;
Tum isstarahmajhulaurgumnaandunya main raho
Ho tum kodunyakinadunyakotumhari ho khaber
Jab takjiyo tum 'ilm-o-danish se rahomahroomyaan
Aaye ho jaisibekhabervaisi hi javobekhaber
Thahratumhareyhaq main wozahreyhilalsarbasar
The value of his teachings increases more, whenever women lost her status in the society. The whole credit of reformation of women education goes to Hali. Undoubtedly, he was as the Pioneer of women education in India after the revolt of 1857.