A Muslim Woman Speaks
One of the pioneering works by an Indian Muslim woman, this book is a collection of essays on a range of social reform topics including women’s education (especially of Muslim girls), dowry, beggary, the position of women in Islam, and the Indian woman’s status. It also touches on the Girl Guides Movement in which the author was an enthusiastic participant.
The author’s eloquent pleas for the clearing away of religious dogma and the reassertion of the true Islamic status of womanhood are based on sound knowledge born out of her own rich experience and study. She explains her purpose, ‘The disparity between the real Islamic theory about womanhood and the actual practice has been one of the causes that led to the degeneration of the Muslims.’ With Muslim women still struggling with this dichotomy, what she wrote seventy years ago is no less relevant today.
Iqbalunnisa Begum was born in Bangalore in 1897. She was married at the age of 15 to Syed Ahmed Hussain, an official in the Mysore government who encouraged her to acquire an education. She joined a school in Mysore and later the Maharani’s College from where she obtained her BA degree and a gold medal by correspondence in 1930. In 1933, she travelled to the UK for her Master’s in Education at Leeds University, thus becoming one of the few middle class Muslim Women from India to obtain a degree from the UK.
She represented India at the Twelfth International Women’s Congress at Istanbul in September 1935 and was a keen member of the All-India Women’s Conferences. In Bangalore, she founded a school where she encouraged Muslim girls to acquire an education while also providing training in rug making, carpet weaving, cane weaving, embroidery, cutting, and sewing. Her students participated in the Girl Guides, were good debaters, and keen performers in dramas and plays. She later became headmistress of a primary school and managed to have it established as an Urdu Girls’ Middle School. She also instituted a school of Home Industries for Muslim women in Bangalore, formed a Teachers’ Association for Muslim women teachers, and, against great opposition from her community, started the Girl Guides Movement among Muslim girls in which she remained active.
She is the author of several books including Changing India: A Muslim Woman Speaks (Bangalore, 1940) and Purdah and Polygamy: Life in an Indian Muslim Household (Bangalore, 1944).