The "Ruins" of "Paradise": The "Histories" of Muhammad Hussain Azad after 1857

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 8:30 AM
Room 207 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jeffrey M. Diamond , College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
With the expansion of British rule through northern India during the nineteenth century, Muslim educational and cultural traditions underwent challenges and reforms. Muslim intellectuals were central to these developments, as many worked with the British to create educational and literary systems that reflected a new colonial cultural world. One of the most significant Muslim intellectuals part of this narrative was Muhammad Hussain Azad (1830-1910). Born into a distinguished literary family in Delhi, he moved to Lahore after the Revolt of 1857 and began to work closely with British Orientalist scholars in order to advocate educational reform and the development of Urdu as a modern educational language. One of his concerns was the history of Muslim societies, and he began to write 'histories' of cities, regions, and religion. While Azad did write texts for schools, several of his works were shorter speeches meant to introduce a historical topic to a general audience - including the history behind the "ruins" of locations. This paper will analyze Azad and his writings in order to provide insight into his notions of history and community identity. It will argue that the experience of colonial rule and the associated debates about reform fostered the articulation of new forms of Muslim identity, and it will assess the complex ways in which these new forms of identity both did and did not relate to currents leading later to conceptions of Pakistan.
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