Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah

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Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah
S E L Shah.jpg
Born Elizabeth Louise MacKenzie
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 15 August 1960 (aged 59–60)
Other names Morag Murray Abdullah
Occupation Writer, traveller
Spouse(s) Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah
Children Amina Shah, Omar Ali Shah, Idries Shah
Relatives Shah family

Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah[1][2] (née Elizabeth Louise MacKenzie; 1900 – 15 August 1960) was a Scottish writer who wrote under the pen name Morag Murray Abdullah. She met the Afghan author, poet, diplomat, scholar, and savant Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah and wrote about her marriage to this chieftain's son and her travels in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan and the mountains of Afghanistan.[3][4]

Life and work[edit]

Saira Jamil Elizabeth Luiza Shah came from a middle-class Scottish family. Her future husband, Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah, who was descended from the Sadaat of Paghman, had settled in England before the first world war and she met him in Edinburgh during that war, where he was studying medicine at Edinburgh Medical School.[1][5] Overcoming the resistance of both their families, they married, eventually settling in the prince's Khyber homeland.[6] They had three children, the Sufi writers and translators Amina Shah (b. 1918), Omar Ali-Shah (b. 1922) and Idries Shah (b. 1924).

Writing under the pseudonym of "Morag Murray Abdullah", her first book, entitled My Khyber Marriage: Experiences of a Scotswoman as the Wife of a Pathan Chieftain's Son[7] was an autobiography of meeting her husband, falling in love and leaving behind her family and her safe middle-class Scottish family life, to travel to the war-torn North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan and her chieftain husband's ancestral homeland in the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. It told of her, a Protestant, learning and adapting to their Muslim culture, laws and rigid codes of honour. For her, it was a journey from the predictable into the unknown.[3][8]

Her second book, Valley of the Giant Buddhas,[9] was a study of the people and customs of the Afghan people whom she encountered in her travels, accompanying her husband on diplomatic missions and journeys into the valleys and into the remote mountain regions.[4][10] The statues referred to in the book are the Buddhas of Bamyan which were blown up by the Taliban. The Weekend Telegraph described the work as "a book for connoisseurs of the unexpected."

She also wrote a paper, The Kaif System, in New Research on Current Philosophical Systems, London: Octagon Press, (1968).

Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah died on 15th Aug 1960, according to her tombstone in the Muslim section of the cemetery at Brookwood, Woking, Surrey, England where she, Ikbal Ali-Shah and other members of the Shah family are buried.[11] Her husband died on 4 November 1969 in Tangier, Morocco, as the result of a motor accident.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Moore, James (1986). "Neo-Sufism: The Case of Idries Shah". Religion Today. 3 (3). Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  2. ^ Idries Shah, 72, Indian-Born Writer Of Books on Sufism, New York Times, Retrieved on 2009-01-03
  3. ^ a b Description of My Khyber Marriage, Octagon Press Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  4. ^ a b Description of Valley of the Giant Buddhas, Octagon Press Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  5. ^ Octagon Press authors' biographical details Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  6. ^ Description and biography of My Khyber Marriage at ISHK book service Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  7. ^ Morag Murray Abdullah, My Khyber Marriage, Octagon Press, ISBN 0-86304-055-1.
  8. ^ Description and biography of My Khyber Marriage at Amazon Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  9. ^ Morag Murray Abdullah, Valley of the Giant Buddhas, Octagon Press, ISBN 0-86304-065-9.
  10. ^ Description and biography of Valley of the Giant Buddhas at Amazon Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  11. ^ Photographs of the Shah family gravestones Retrieved on 2008-11-14.
  12. ^ The Times, Obituary, Saturday November 8, 1969.

External links[edit]