Maulana Hali’s Hayat-i-Javad
Maulana Altaf Husain Hali spent nearly six years in researching and writing Sir Syed’s biography, Hayat-i- Javad, of which he was very proud. The task was backbreaking, and, while working on the manuscript, he had to deal with his personal problems as well. In a letter addressed to Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Khan Sherwani in October 1900, he expressed some of his frustrations. He wrote: “Sir Syed’s Life history is nearly complete, and I would like it to be published by December. I have been through several personal tragedies during the past two months. My wife recently passed away, suffering from cholera. The pandemic has taken many lives in our town, and now the malaria is rampant.”
When Hayat-i-Javad was ultimately published, Maulana Hali found some of the reviews unflattering and hurtful. Even Maulana Shibli was only lukewarm in his praise and characterized the biography as Sir Syed’s uncritical paean. Maulana Hali felt that his hard work and painstaking research in writing the book had not been appropriately appreciated. He believed that he had not done full justice to highlighting the life achievements of a remarkable person. Ironically, since his death, Hayat-i-Javad has come to be recognized as the most authoritative and seminal work on Sir Syed’s life.
In one of his personal letters, Maulana Hali related the story that when he completed the first edition of his Mussaddas, he sent a copy to Sir Syed. Without me even asking, he inquired, “How many printed copies of the book do you have?” On receiving my response, he sent me a list of all his friends and asked me to send a copy to each one of them. Then, he wrote them an individual letter, requesting that the price of the book should be remitted directly to me. The result was that in one-and-half months, all copies of the book were sold out and a second edition had to be brought out promptly.
Maulana Hali ruefully remarked that even if all the copies of Hayat-i-Javad
were sold, he would not be able to recover his cost, let alone make any profit
(Translated and adapted from an article by Zubair Alam, Ma’arif, November 2017, Darul Musannefin, Shibli, Academy)