Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan

Sayyid Ehtishan Husain is the Chairman, Department of Urdu, Allahabad University in Uttar Pradesh, India. He is the top Marxist critic of Urdu and so far has published more than half a dozen volumes of his literary essays, besides several other books.

He was born in 1912 in Mahul, a small village in Azamgarh district, attended high school in Azamgarh, and then studied at Allahabad for his M.A. His first assignment as a teacher of Urdu was at the Lucknow University in 1938. From there he went on a study tour of the United States in 1952, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. The impressions of his travel are told in his travelogue Sahil aur Samundar. In 1961 he was appointed to the Urdu Chair at the Allahabad University.

Sayyid Ehtisham Husain has written extensively on classical and modern literature. He has been one of the leafing lights of the Progressive Writers Movement and has fiven Urdu criticism a new basis and a new direction. His prose presents him as a calm, quiet and detached writer; actually, he possesses an interesting, agreeable and charming personality. His Urdu is close to the basic common core speech. The use of high-flown or ornate language does not find favor with him, and his prose is marked for simplicity, candor and insight. His essay on Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan which was written especially for this anthology, is composed in a clear, logical and eminently readable style.

Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan is the 'father of the modern Urdu prose'. He was a great Muslim reformer, one of the first among Indian Muslims who emphasized scientific attitudes demanding sound reason and objectivity in religious and social matters. A remarkable master of prose, he pioneered the modern period in Urdu literature. Urdu prose before him was generally a handmaid of poetry--highly ornate, verbose, rhymed and labored. He freed it from the shibboleths of the past, and used it extensively for the propagation of social, political and lucid, forceful and perceptive--the inaugurator of an 'age' of prose and reason in Urdu. The impact of this epoch maker was so great that his writings not only paved the way for the works of Hali (d. 1914), Shibli (d. 1914), Azad (d. 1910), and Nazir Ahmad (d. 1912), but also started a new literary school known as the Aligarh School of Urdu Literature.