Roquia Sakhawat Hussain
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2008)|
Roquia Sakhawat Hussain
Rangpur, Bengal Presidency,
British India (Now Bangladesh)
|Died||December 9, 1932
|Occupation||Social worker, Writer, Muslim feminist|
Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, (Bengali: বেগম রোকেয়া), (1880 – December 9, 1932) from Rangpur, Bangladesh was a prolific writer and a social worker in undivided Bengal in the early 20th century. She is most famous for her efforts on behalf of gender equality and other social issues. She established the first school aimed primarily at Muslim girls, which still exists today. She was a notable Muslim feminist; modern feminist writers such as Taslima Nasrin cite her as an influence. Begum Rokeya also wrote short stories and novels. Her important books are Sultana's Dream and Padmarag.
She was born Roquia Khatun but achieved prominence as Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain. Begum is an honorific, that is, a title of respect in addressing a woman. When she wrote in English, she transliterated her name as Roquia.
Roquia Khatun was born in 1880 in the village of Pairabondh,Mithapukur, Rangpur, present Bangladesh, in what was then the British Indian Empire. Her father, Jahiruddin Muhammad Abu Ali Haidar Saber, was a highly educated zamindar (landlord). Roquia had two sisters, Karimunnesa Khatun and Humayra Khatun; and three brothers, one of whom died in childhood. Roquia's eldest brother Ibrahim, and her immediate elder sister Karimunnesa, both had great influence on her life. Karimunnesa wanted to study Bengali, the language of the majority in Bengal. The family disliked this because many upper class Muslims of the time preferred to use Arabic and Persian as the media of education, instead of their native language, Bengali. Ibrahim taught English and Bengali to Roquia and Karimunnesa; both sisters became authors.
Karimunnesa married at the age of fourteen, later earning a reputation as a poet. Both of her sons, Nawab Abdul Karim Gaznawi and Nawab Abdul Halim Gaznawi, became famous in the political arena and occupied ministerial portfolios under British authorities.
Roquia married at the age of sixteen in 1896. Her Urdu-speaking husband, Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hussain, was the Deputy Magistrate of Bhagalpur, which is now a district under the Indian state of Bihar. He continued her brother's work by encouraging her to keep learning Bengali and English. He also suggested that she write, and on his advice she adopted Bengali as the principal language for her literary works because it was the language of the masses. She launched her literary career in 1902 with a Bengali essay entitled Pipasa (Thirst).
In 1909, Sakhawat Hussain died. He had encouraged his wife to set aside money to start a school primarily for Muslim women. Five months after his death, Roquia established a high school in her beloved husband's memory, naming it Sakhawat Memorial Girls' High School. It started in Bhagalpur, a traditionally Urdu-speaking area, with only five students. A dispute with her husband's family over property forced Roquia to move the school in 1911 to Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), a Bengali-speaking area. It remains one of the city's most popular schools for girls and is now run by the state government of West Bengal.
Begum Roquia also founded the Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam (Islamic Women's Association), which was active in holding debates and conferences regarding the status of women and education. She advocated reform, particularly for women, and believed that parochialism and excessive conservatism were principally responsible for the relatively slow development of Muslims in British India. As such, she is one of the first Islamic feminists. She was inspired by the traditional Islamic learning as enunciated in the Qur'an, and believed that modern Islam had been distorted or corrupted; her organization Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam organised many events for social reforms based on the original teachings of Islam that, according to her, were lost.
Begum Roquia remained busy with the school, the association, and her writings for the rest of her life. She died of heart problems on December 9, 1932. In Bangladesh, December 9 is celebrated as Rokeya Day.
|This section requires expansion. (January 2007)|
Begum Roquia was an inspiring figure who contributed much to the struggle to liberate women from the bondage of social malaises. Her life can be seen in the context of other social reformers within what was then India. To raise popular consciousness, especially among women, she wrote a number of articles, stories and novels, mostly in Bengali.
Begum Roquia used humor, irony, and satire to focus attention on the injustices faced by Bengali-speaking Muslim women. She criticized oppressive social customs forced upon women that were based upon a corrupted version of Islam, asserting that women fulfilling their potential as human beings could best display the glory of Lord.
Begum Roquia wrote courageously against restrictions on women in order to promote their emancipation, which, she believed, would come about by breaking the gender division of labor. She rejected discrimination for women in the public arena and believed that discrimination would cease only when women were able to undertake whatever profession they chose. In 1926, begum strongly condemned men for withholding education from women in name of religion as she addressed the Bengal women's education conference:
"'The opponents of the female education say that women will be unruly...fie !they call themselves muslims and yet go against the basic tenet of islam which gives equal right to education. If men are not led astray once educated, why should women?.
|Library resources about
Roquia Sakhawat Hussain
|By Roquia Sakhawat Hussain|
- Sultana's Dream, a notable early work of feminist science fiction involving a utopian male/female role-reversal.
- Oborodhbashini ("The woman in captivity")
- Paddorag ("Essence of the Lotus")
- Narir Adhikar ("The Rights of Women"), an unfinished essay for the Islamic Women's Association
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Roquia Sakhawat Hussain.|