Altaf Hussain Hali (1837–1914) known with his honorifics as Maulana Khawaja Hali, was an Urdu poet and writer. Hali occupies a special position in the history of Urdu literature. He was a poet, prose-writer, critic, teacher and reformer. He was a close friend of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.He is one of the Aanasar-e-Khamsa of Urdu. He has written the Musaddas-e-Hali which occupies an important position in Urdu literature. Born in Panipat, Haryana in 1837, circumstances did not permit him to attain formal education in a school or college, yet he managed to acquire, through sustained self-effort, perfect command of Urdu, Persian and Arabic, and a good working knowledge of English.
He later moved to Delhi where he wished to study the Islamic theology and poetic tradition. As a poet he did not confine himself within the narrow bounds of the ghazal, but exploited the other poetic forms such as the nazm, the rubai, and the Marsia. More particularly, he harnessed his poetic abilities to the higher aims of social and moral edification. His famous long poem, Musaddas-e-Hali, examines the state of social and moral degradation prevalent in the then 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 what he considered the hollowness of its hackneyed themes and imagery, especially when the form is handled by other poets and versifiers.In 1886, he was chosen to be a member of the first teaching faculty at Aitchison College, Lahore. The College holds an Urdu elocution competition called the Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali Challenge Cup, in honour of the poet
It was here he chose the cognomen of Khastah ("The Spent One", or "The Tired One"). He was forced to return home, and pursued a government job until displaced by the First War of Independence of 1857.
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, the Musaddas e-Madd o-Jazr e-Islam ("An elegiac poem on the Ebb and Tide of Islam"), at the request of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, under the new pseudonym of Hali ("The Contemporary"). The Musaddas, or Musaddas-e-Hali, as it is often known, was published in 1879 to critical acclaim and heralded the modern age of Urdu poetry. Hali also wrote one of the earliest works of literary criticism in Urdu, Muqaddamah-i Shay'r-o-Sha'iri.
Musaddas e-madd o-Jazr e-Islam describes the rise and fall of the Islamic empire in the sub-continent. It speaks about the Islamic empire at its best and worst and aims to forewarn the Muslims of the sub-continent, make them more aware of their past and help them learn from their forefathers' mistakes. Some scholars of Pakistani nationalism also consider the Mussadas an important text for the articulation of a future Muslim nation. Regarding Musaddas-e-Hali, Sir Syed said: "If God will ask me that what have I achieved in life then I will say that I've achieved The Mussadas written by Hali."[this quote needs a citation]Hali has also written biographies of Ghalib, Saadi Shirazi, and Sir Syed 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," underscores the virtues of patriotism. "Bewa ki Manajaat" focuses on the plight of widows in Indian society.[original research?].