9 December 1880
Pairaband, Mithapukur Upazila, Rangpur, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Died||9 December 1932
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Occupation||Social activist, writer, Muslim feminist|
|Literary movement||Women's Rights|
|Notable works||Sultana's Dream, Padmarag, Abarodhbasini, Motichur|
|Spouse||Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hussain|
Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, commonly known as Begum Rokeya (9 December 1880 – 9 December 1932), was a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women's rights. She is considered as the pioneer of Islamic feminism in Bengal.
She wrote novels, poems, short stories, science fiction, satires, treatises, and essays. In her writings, she advocated that both men and women should be treated equally as rational beings, and the lack of education is the main reason of women's lagging behind. Her major works include Abarodhbasini, a spirited attack on the extreme forms of purdah that endangered women's lives and thoughts; Sultana's Dream, a science fiction novella set in a place called Ladyland in nisah, a world ruled by women; Padmarag ("Essence of the Lotus", 1924), another feminist utopian novel; Motichur, collection of essays in two volumes.
Rokeya suggested that education of women is the foremost requisite of women's liberation; hence she established the first school aimed primarily at Bengali Muslim girls in Kolkata. Rokeya is said to have gone from house to house persuading the parents to send their girls to her school in nisah. Until her death, she ran the school despite facing hostile criticism and various social obstacles.
In 1916, she founded the Muslim Women’s Association, an organization that fought for women’s education and employment. In 1926, Rokeya presided over the Bengal Women’s Education Conference convened in Kolkata, the first significant attempt to bring women together in support of women’s education rights. She was engaged in debates and conferences regarding the advancement of women until her death on 9 December 1932, shortly after presiding over a session during the Indian Women’s Conference.
Bangladesh observes Rokeya Day on 9 December every year to commemorate her works and legacy. On that day, Bangladesh government also confers Begum Rokeya Padak on individual women for their exceptional achievement. In 2004, Rokeya was placed at number 6 in the BBC's poll of the Greatest Bengali of All Time.
Rokeya 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 and succesful zamindar (landlord) who married four times; his marriage to Rahatunnessa resulted in the birth of Rokeya, who had two sisters and three brothers, one of whom died in childhood. Rokeya's eldest brother Ibrahim Saber, 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 Rokeya 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.
Rokeya married at the age of eighteen in 1898. 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 married earlier also. Sakhawat was then 38 years old before his marriage with Rokeya. Sakhawat did his B.A.G. from England and was a member of Royal Agricultural Society of England. He married Rokeya after the death of his first wife. As he was gentle, liberal-minded and had much interest in female education he encouraged Rokeya to continue her brother's work by encouraging her to keep learning Bengali and English. He also encouraged her to 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). She also published the books Motichur (1905) and Sultana's Dream (1908) during her husband's lifetime.
Her book Sultana's dream was quite influential. She wrote this book reversing the roles of men and women in which women were the dominant sex and the men were subordinate. It is regarded as quite a fantastic satire and was able to garner a decent amount of influence upon its publication.
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, Rokeya 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 her to move the school in 1911 to Calcutta, 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.
Rokeya 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; Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam organised many events for social reforms based on the original teachings of Islam that, according to her, were lost.
Rokeya remained busy with the school, the association, and her writings for the rest of her life. She died of heart problems on 9 December 1932, which was her 52nd birthday. In Bangladesh, 9 December is celebrated as Rokeya Day.
|Library resources about
|By Begum Rokeya|
- Pipasha ("Thirst", 1902).
- Motichur (essays, 1st vol. 1904, 2nd vol. 1922). The second volume of Matichur includes stories and fairy tales such as Saurajagat (The Solar System), Delicia Hatya (translation of the Murder of Delicia, by Mary Corelli), Jnan-phal (The Fruit of Knowledge), Nari-Sristi (Creation of Women), Nurse Nelly, Mukti-phal (The Fruit of Emancipation), etc.
- Sultana's Dream
- Padmarag ("Essence of the Lotus", novel, 1924). A feminist utopia.
- Abarodhbasini ("The Secluded Women", 1931)
- Boligarto (short story).
- Narir Adhikar ("The Rights of Women"), an unfinished essay for the Islamic Women's Association
- God Gives, Man Robs, 1927, republished in God gives, man robs and other writings, Dhaka, Narigrantha Prabartana, 2002
- Education Ideals for the Modern Indian Girl, 1931, republished in Rokeya Rachanabali, Abdul Quadir (editor), Dhaka, Bangla Academy, 2006
Begum Rokeya wrote in a number of genres, short stories, poems, essays, novels and satirical writings, developing a distinctive literary style, characterised by creativity, logic and a wry sense of humour. She started writing in the Nabanoor from about 1903, under the name of Mrs. R S Hossain. However, there is an opinion that her first published writing Pipasha appeared in the Nabaprabha in 1902. She wrote regularly for the Saogat, Mahammadi, Nabaprabha, Mahila, Bharatmahila, Al-Eslam, Nawroz, Mahe-Nao, Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Patrika, The Mussalman, Indian Ladies Magazine, etc. Her writings called upon women to protest against injustices and break the social barriers that discriminated against them.
She has been considered the pioneer of women's education in the Indian subcontinent during the time of the British rule. Universities, public buildings and National Award has been named after her in Bangladesh. The country also observe her birth and death anniversary. Author Tahmima Anam, winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize published an article on The Guardian, credited Rokeya as her hero. 
- Begum Rokeya Day, a commemoration of the birth and death anniversary of Begum Rokeya, observed annual on 9 December in Bangladesh.
- Begum Rokeya Memorial Center, an academic and cultural hub in Pairabondh, Bangladesh.
- Begum Rokeya University, a government financed Public State university in Bangladesh. 
- Begum Rokeya Padak, a Bangladeshi national honour conferred on individual women for their exceptional achievement.
- Rokeya Hall, largest female residential hall of Dhaka University
- "Rokeya's unrealised Dream". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Rubaiyat, Hossain. "Begum Rokeya : The Pioneer Feminist of Bangladesh". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Begum Rokeya Day on 9 December". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Akhter, Shahida (2012). "Hossain, Roquiah Sakhawat". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.Administrator. "Roquia Sakhawat Hussain (Begum Rokeya)". Londoni.
- "The enduring legacy of Begum Rokeya". The Independent (Bangladesh newspaper). 9 December 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
- "Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". Sewall-Belmont House Museum. Sewall-Belmont House & Museum. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Begum Rokeya Day today". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Listeners name ‘greatest Bengali’". The Asian Age. The Asian Age. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". BBC. BBC. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Bangabandhu judged greatest Bangali of all time". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Anwar S. Dil, Afia Dil. Women's Changing Position in Bangladesh: Tribute to Begum Rokeya. p. 10-16. ISBN 9842003736.
- Dr. Barnita Bagchi (1 October 2003). "Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- Banerjee, Pranotosh (27 May 2014). "Remembering Historian Amalendu De". Janoswartho Barta. Chatterjee, Garga (trans.). Retrieved 2016-01-13.
- "Rokeya's wake-up call to women". 9 December 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
- Arif Billah (23 December 2016). "Remembering Begum Rokeya". The Daily Star. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
- "Begum Rokeya University begins academic activities". The Financial Express. Dhaka. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Tahmima Anam (28 May 2011). "My hero Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
- "Begum Rokeya Day today". The Daily Star. 9 December 2010.
- Begum Rokeya Memorial Centre -touristplaces.com.bd
- Begum Rokeya University - The Daily Star
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Begum Rokeya|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Begum Rokeya.|
- Hasan, Md. Mahmudul (2012). Marginalisation of Muslim writers in South Asian literature: Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain's English works (PDF). South Asia Research, 32 (3) (Print) 1741-3141 (Online). pp. 179–197. ISSN 0262-7280.
- "Asiatic (see articles on Rokeya in 7.2 (December 2013) issue of the journal)". journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic.
- The Essential Rokeya: Selected Works of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Leiden, Boston: Brill Publishing. 2013.
- Concise History of India, Metcalf and Metcalf