The Project Gutenberg eBook, Observations on the Mussulmauns of India, by Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali, et al, Edited by W. Crooke
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Title: Observations on the Mussulmauns of India
Author: Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali
Release Date: August 7, 2004 [eBook #13127]
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK OBSERVATIONS ON THE MUSSULMAUNS OF INDIA***
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OBSERVATIONS ON THE MUSSULMAUNS OF INDIA
Descriptive of Their Manners, Customs, Habits and Religious Opinions
Made During a Twelve Years' Residence in Their Immediate Society
MRS. MEER HASSAN ALI
Second Edition, Edited with Notes and an Introduction by W. Crooke
WITH SENTIMENTS OF GRATITUDE AND PROFOUND RESPECT THE FOLLOWING PAGES ARE HUMBLY DEDICATED, WITH PERMISSION,
TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS AUGUSTA;
BY HER ROYAL HIGHNESS'S MOST OBEDIENT, FAITHFULLY ATTACHED, AND VERY HUMBLE SERVANT,
B. MEER HASSAN ALI.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
In the present reprint the text of the original edition of this work has been reproduced without change, even the curious transliterations of the vernacular words and phrases having been preserved. The correct forms of these, so far as they have been ascertained, have been given in the Notes and in the Index-Glossary. I have added an Introduction containing an account of the authoress based on the scanty information available, and I have compiled some notes illustrating questions connected with Islam and Musalman usages. I have not thought it necessary to give detailed references in the notes, but a list of the works which have been used will be found at the end of the text. As in other volumes of this series, the diacritical marks indicating the varieties of the sound of certain letters in the Arabic and Devanagari alphabets have not been given: they are unnecessary for the scholar and serve only to embarrass the general reader.
I have to acknowledge help from several friends in the preparation of this edition. Mr. W. Foster, C.I.E., has supplied valuable notes from the India Office records on Mir Hasan 'Ali and his family; Dr. W. Hoey, late I.C.S., and Mr. L.N. Jopling, I.C.S., Deputy-Commissioner, Lucknow, have made inquiries on the same subject. Mr. H.C. Irwin, late I.C.S., has furnished much information on Oudh affairs in the time of the Nawabi. Sir C.J. Lyall, K.C.S.I, C.I.E., and Professor E.G. Browne, M.A., have permitted me to consult them on certain obscure words in the text.
Very little is known about the authoress of this interesting book. She is reticent about the affairs of her husband and of herself, and inquiries recently made at Lucknow, at the India Office, and in other likely quarters in England, have added little to the scanty information we possess about her.
The family of her husband claimed to be of Sayyid origin, that is to say, to be descended from the martyrs, Hasan and Husain, the sons of Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet, by her marriage with her cousin-german, 'Ali. The father-in-law of the authoress, Mir Haji Shah, of whom she speaks with affection and respect, was the son of the Qazi, or Muhammadan law-officer, of Ludhiana, in the Panjab. During his boyhood the Panjab was exposed to raids by the Mahrattas and incursions of the Sikhs. He therefore abandoned his studies, wandered about for a time, and finally took service with a certain Raja—where she does not tell us—who was then raising a force in expectation of an attack by the Sikhs. He served in at least one campaign, and then, while still a young man, made a pilgrimage thrice to Mecca and Kerbela, which gained him the title of Haji, or pilgrim. While he was in Arabia he fell short of funds, but he succeeded in curing the wife of a rich merchant who had long suffered from a serious disease. She provided him with money to continue his journey. He married under romantic circumstances an Arab girl named Fatimah as his second wife, and then went to Lucknow, which, under the rule of the Nawabs, was the centre in Northern India of the Shi'ah sect, to which he belonged. Here he had an exciting adventure with a tiger during a hunting party, at which the Nawab, Shuja-ud-daula, was present. He is believed to have held the post of Peshnamaz, or 'leader in prayer', in the household of the eunuch, Almas 'Ali Khan, who is referred to by the authoress.
His son was Mir Hasan 'Ali, the husband of the authoress. The tradition in Lucknow is that he quarrelled with his father and went to Calcutta, where he taught Arabic to some British officers and gained a knowledge of English. We next hear of him in England, when in May 1810 he was appointed assistant to the well-known oriental scholar, John Shakespear, professor of Hindustani at the Military College, Addiscombe, from 1807 to 1830, author of a dictionary of Hindustani and other educational works. Mention is made of two cadets boarding with Mir Hasan 'Ali, but it does not appear from the records where he lived. After remaining at the College for six years he resigned his appointment on the ground of ill-health, with the intention of returning to India. He must have been an efficient teacher, because, on his resignation, the East India Company treated him with liberality. He received a gift of £50 as a reward for his translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew, and from the Court minutes it appears that on December 17, 1816, it was resolved to grant him 100 guineas to provide his passage and £100 for equipment. Further, the Bengal Government was instructed to furnish him on his arrival with means to reach his native place, and to pay him a pension of Rs. 100 per mensem for the rest of his life.
A tradition from Lucknow states that he was sent to England on a secret mission, 'to ask the Home authorities to accept a contract of Oudh direct from Nasir-ud-din Haidar, who was quite willing to remit the money of contract direct to England instead of settling the matter with the British Resident at Lucknow'. It is not clear what this exactly means. It may be that the King of Oudh, thinking that annexation was inevitable, may have been inclined to attempt to secure some private arrangement with the East India Company, under which he would remain titular sovereign, paying a tribute direct to the authorities in England, and that he wished to conduct these negotiations without the knowledge of the Resident at Lucknow. There does not seem to be independent evidence of this mission of Mir Hasan 'Ali, and we are told that it was, as might have been expected, unsuccessful.
No mention is made of his wife in the official records, and I have been unable to trace her family name or the date and place of her marriage. Mir Hasan 'Ali and his wife sailed for Calcutta, and travelled to Lucknow via Patna. She tells little of her career in India, save that she lived there for twelve years, presumably from 1816 to 1828, and that eleven years of that time were spent in the house of her father-in-law at