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  • Print publication year: 1977
  • Online publication date: March 2008


Urdu is the language spoken by the Muslims and by certain non-Muslim elements in the urban areas of West Pakistan and north-western India. The Sufi shaykhs, engaged in the dual task of converting the non-Muslims around them, and of evolving a technique of religious communication with their illeducated disciples, used an early form of Urdu for their popular writings, reserving the use of Persian more and more for learned dialectics. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, Urdu prose had consisted either of theological literature with an arabicized syntax or of ornate magical romances. The Mutiny of 1857, its failure, and the liquidation of Muslim supremacy in Delhi, mark a sudden revolution in Urdu poetry. Urdu fiction had begun in the later eighteenth century with the dastans of the Amir Hamza cycle. The Muslim historical novel in the hands of 'Abd al-Halim Sharar romanticized the Muslim past in stereotyped colour and imagery and rather cheap sentimentality.
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The Cambridge History of Islam
  • Online ISBN: 9781139055055
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