WOMEN IN THE HYDERABAD STATE IN 19th AND 20th CENTURIES
The present paper attempts to write the history of women in the Hyderabad state in 19th and 20th centuries. As a theorist has put it, the practice of purdah “literally as well as figuratively” veils the Muslim woman. Assuming that the group most likely to be articulate about their historical situation will be the elite Muslim women at the turn of the century, our effort in this paper is to unravel the making of these women during the turn of the century. The Deccan region, with Hyderabad as its capital, had a different history from other places of comparative Muslim dominance. Ruled by the Nizam, the area was officially not a British province and therefore not subject to direct rule. Yet, the advent of colonial modernity was experienced in this area just as in many other places in British India. For the Muslim community though, the state of Hyderabad, as the largest princely state in India still represented one of the last bastions of Islamic glory and power. We look at the making of the modern women in the Nizam state .This paper divides the history of women into three phases.
1. Women in the early Nizam period, The formative period- till the 19th cen,
2. Women during the transitional phase in the Hyderabad state during the period of reform- through the 19th century.
3. The new women on the threshold of modernity – 20th century.
The present paper attempts to write the history of women in the Hyderabad state in 19th and 20th centuries. As a theorist has put it, the practice of purdah “literally as well as figuratively” veils the Muslim woman [Minault, Gail. 1998]. Assuming that the group most likely to be articulate about their historical situation will be the elite Muslim women at the turn of the century, our effort in this paper is to unravel the making of these women during the turn of the century. The Deccan region, with Hyderabad as its capital, had a different history from other places of comparative Muslim dominance. Ruled by the Nizam, the area was officially not a British province and therefore not subject to direct rule. Yet, the advent of colonial modernity was experienced in this area just as in many other places in British India. For the Muslim community though, the state of Hyderabad, as the largest princely state in India still represented one of the last bastions of Islamic glory and power. Further Hyderabad was the fifth largest city in India even during the Nizam’s period , a status which it continues to occupy even now thus showing the presence of a very large middle class. The only difference between then and now is the presence of the Muslims as a strong component of the middle class.
Women as agents of history
The feminist movement of the 1960’s and the consequent development of Women’s studies have drawn attention to the fact that, “though women like men have been actors and agents in history, their experiences and actions are not recorded”. Traditional historiography has always focused on areas of human activities in which the males are dominant, ie. War, diplomacy, politics or commerce, as worthy of studying and women’s participation in agriculture, animal husbandry, family ritual, folk art are regarded as unimportant and outside the realms of study of history. Men’s history has been presented as universally human. The framework, concepts and priorities of these universal histories reflect male interests, concerns and experiences [Mathews, Jill, 1985]. Traditional historiography has thus either ignored the positive role of women or portrayed it as insignificant. We often have a chapter at the end of, lets say Vedic period, later Vedic period, Vijayanagara period, entitled women, and this has a discussion of dress, Jewellery, festivals and pastimes. While this may be important it in no ways does justice to the role of women rather it reinforces the prevailing prejudices of representing women [Pande, et.al., 1987, 173] In any case the contributions of women to the past and in shaping its religion, politics and society have not been fully brought out. Recently there have been attempts to rehabilitate the many aspects of women’s lives particularly the royal women. Anila Verghese links up the dress and other aspects of women’s lives. She links this to the architecture of the Zenana and since women in the Vijaynagar empire lived in separate spaces they set up new styles which were not under patriarchal control [Verghese, Anila, 2000].
The general principle of the patriarchal society is that men work in the public domain and women are to be restricted into the private domestic sphere. Since it is the public domain, which is considered important, women become more passive participants in the historical process. This is reflected in the lack of any substantial and substantive documentation about them. There is no doubt that a social science, which ignores the role of women, can be a social science which can only give a distorted picture of society as a whole. Like the earlier histories all aspects focusing on the elite were looked down upon using a class analysis framework but the approach of new historicism has rescued this position somewhat and we see that when we use gender as a category, elite women also have a lot to reveal in the rewriting of history.
To many, women’s history is not “intellectually interesting”. A wide spread impression is that it is held in low esteem and the field itself lacks legitimacy. One of the reasons for this lies within the practice of women’s studies where according to Naomi Wolf we find two types of feminism, victim feminism and power feminism [Noami Wolf, 1994] . Many feel that the study of women must be the ultimate harbringer of scholarly chaos. Scholars suffering from lingering, “Victorianism” might well feel that women are too eternal or unworldly to have much to do with politics and economics [Johansson, Sheila Ryan, 1976].
Women as a category in history have always been distinct from men and their activities. Sexual divisions have been one of the most basic distinctions with in the society encouraging one group to view its interests differently from another. Just as class, race, sex has been used to create a separate identity for men and women. By studying the history of men and assuming that this would cover the women also we cannot find out the realities of women’s lives during any given period. Gender like any group, class or race has always been a very powerful factor in history. It is therefore necessary to view the development of women’s history from the feminist perspective of women as a distinct sociological group which experiences both overt and covert controls through legal, political and social restrictions [Pande, Rekha, 1999, 50-51].
As history has been taken away from women it is necessary to put them back into the picture and document their role and work, a task which may take many year of painstaking work. However this is not enough as women have to recover their lost self ie. womanhood. The effort is not just to tackle women’s history to the existing framework but to work for a better understanding of the past, to understand myth evolution of an ideology, social relations and institutions that led to the subordination of women. This perspective has proved extremely fruitful both in terms of theoretical insights as well as in detailed empirical studies. For example even while talking of dress, Tarlo’s book on clothing focuses on what to wear rather than what is worn and how different individuals and groups have used clothes to assert power, challenge authority, define or conceal identity, and instigate or prevent social change at various levels of Indian society. She has pointed out that the early ethnographic accounts of Indian dress were collated by men like Colonel Dalton who were heavily involved in the Colonial administration. These works which have come down to us have caste a great deal of influence on the practice of history writing and have to be deconstructed [Tarlo, Emma, 1996].
Keeping all these aspects in mind we try to reconstruct the history of women in the Hyderabad state during the 19th and 20 the centuries. As there is very little information available on women and that which is available pertains to only elite women this paper by and large focuses on these women only.
The 19th century and Hyderabad state
19th century, was a period of extension of the hegemonic control and influence of colonial ideology, a period of transition, of emerging bourgeois society and values of new modes of thought. The colonial intervention in the 19th century was no longer confined to the market or polity but also now extended to intrude into areas of culture and society, an extension that could potentially affect transformation in the social fabric of Indian society. This potential threat was sensed by the India intellectual, who were exposed to western ideas and values. At this juncture the Indian intellectual reformer sensitive to the implicit power of colonial cultural domination, responded to the western idea of rationalism, liberalism and civilized society and at the same time seeking ways and mean of resisting this colonial hegemony responded to a cultural defense as a means of resistance [Pannikar, 1975, 1-2 ].
This cultural defense resulted in a paradoxical situation as is evident in the social reform movement. The social reformers questioned the traditional order both as a result of the new intellectual exposure and also as part of the strategy of cultural defense. As a result the intellectual content of the social reform movement was a curious mixture of nineteenth century European ideas of individualism, rationalism, progress, scientific thought and reaffirmation of colonialism. Thus began a critical appraisal of the Indian society in an attempt to create a new ethos, devoid of all overt social aberrations such as polytheism, casteism, sati child marriage, illiteracy, all of which they believed were impediments to progress.
In the case of Hyderabad princely state, British didn’t have direct control. Under such circumstances in Nizam’s domain educated elite Muslim women along with the support of few enlighten men stood for the education of evils associated with women in Hyderabad state. Women formed and propagated their ideas with the pen. They stood basically for the female education; they believed education could bring about a change among women. Hyderabad was the largest princely state of British India. The population of state was seventeen million, comprising of people from three different regions of Nizam state, different language, different culture and different economic background. Thus arises the necessity to study about the women of different social backgrounds, region, language and culture. Hyderabad had its own unique culture ‘Ganga jamunie Tahzeeb’ and it reached to its zenith under Nizam’s patronage. At this use women were the active agents of culture, instruments for the cultural transmission and safeguards of culture. They also constituted many domains like the household that contributed to the formation of identity over the generations.
Hyderabad state was heterogeneous society and women in the state were the historic representatives of diverse ethnicity, religions and regions. The society had its own unique culture called Ganga jamunie tahzib and in it women played central role in the cultural transmission. The women of different backgrounds had different position and thus acquired different status in the society. For the better understanding of the Hyderabadi women, their lives and experiences, the study divided women into three periods to get a clear picture of women and her changing role in the society.
- Women in the early Nizam period, The formative period- till the 19th cen,
- Women during the transitional phase in the Hyderabad state during the period of reform- through the 19th cen.
- The new women on the threshold of modernity – 20th century.
Women in the early Nizam period–the formative period–till the 19th century
Till the 19th century, the Nizam’s state was forced into a series of wars which resulted in the total chaos in state. The administration was collapsed and state was facing financial bankruptcy. The Nizams were subordinate to the paramount as the British guided the state. The period 1724 – 1852 saw no development; in fact Hyderabad state was far less progressive state when compared to the other princely states of British India. The death of Nizam was followed by the war of succession among his sons Nasir Jung, Salabat Jung and a grand son Muzaffar Jung. Each claimant got support either from the British side or the French side, which resulted in the Carnatic Wars. Nasir Jung claimed the throne with the support of English, but was opposed by Muzaffar Jung. By 1750 Muzaffar Jung gained support of French Governer Dulex and Raja of Mysore and they placed him on the throne. The French put Muzaffar Jung on throne in order to sweep English out of Hyderabad. But Muzaffar Jung was murdered only after ruling a couple of months. Soon French put Salabat Jung on throne to maintain their grip over the Nizam domain. Salabat Jung ruled for eleven years i.e., from 1749-1761. The British came into strong position in Deccan by waging wars with Marathas and the rulers of Hyderabad state. The number of treaties which were concluded between the British and local powers, resulted in the acquisition of territories by the British. Nizam gave first Mustafanagar, Rajamundry and Srikakulam to the British for their assistance to him, later Nizampatnam, Masulipatnam, Kondavidu were also given.
In 1803 Nizam Ali died and he was succeeded by his son Sikander Jah, who became Asaf Jah – III. During his rule, British interfered in each and every matter of the Nizam state. Neither the Prime Minister nor any minister could be appointed without the British consent and support. The Nizam state was in total chaos. The administration collapsed; the state was in big financial crises. But one thing which happened in the favour of the Nizam was that with the fall of the Maratha power subsequently the payment of ‘Chauth’ was dispersed. To bring financial stability, a bank called “Palmer & Company” was established to advance loan to the state government. But it resulted in one of the biggest financial scandal of the time to say about Sikandar Jah, he was a puppet ruler, while the defacto ruler was the British. Sikandar Jah died on 21st May 1829. The creation of ‘Hyderabad contingent’ for the Nizam by the British resulted in breaking up of Nizams regular armed force and finally ended up in law and order crisis. The period was marked by complete chaos until the appointment of Salar Jung I as the Prime Minister of Hyderabad state.
Under such circumstances women were confined to the four walls. It has been conventionally defined that the women’s place was primarily in the home and it’s her destiny to organize the household and to rare children. Thus the early women were by and large in private domain. There were few women who came to public space by crossing the boundaries of private and they were not regarded as ‘respectable women’. In rural societies women were participating in the agriculture fields along with their men. Where as in urban centers ‘courtesans’, ‘tawaifs’, ‘annas’ and ‘mamas’ (zanana servants) came to the public domain in order to earn bread for their families. In Deccani context the word tawaif was coined for singing and dancing girls and not for prostitutes [Tamkeen Kazmi,1988]. These women were trained in the long standing tradition of skilled entertainment. During any happy occasion it was these tawaifs who provided entertainment and performed especially on marriage and birth of male child among aristocrats and elites. Hence they were known to be artists with skills. The Nizam patronized tawaifs by establishing office known as ‘Dafter-e Arbab Nishat’ . In the Asaf jahi court during the period of Nizam Ali khan, a sum of rupees twelve thousand per month was spend towards salaries of tawaifs [Tamkeen Kazmi, 1988, 26].
The tawaifs held very respectable position in Nizams society, they were looked up as artists therefore it was compulsory for tawaifs to sing in the marriage functions and after the nikah a group photo was taken for the sake of remembrance and in the group tawaif also given place [Tamkeen Kazmi, 1988,24-25]. In Hyderabad society tawaif was known for decency, politeness, manners and culture. They had their own place of pride; many elite families send their boys to their doors for the learning of culture. After looking at respectable position of Hyderabad tawaif many women from north India migrated to Hyderabad and adopted the profession [Tamkeen Kazmi, 1988, 25] The singing and dancing girls performs in mehfils and behind from purdha the ladies of zanana also enjoyed, especially on occasions such as marriage and the birth of male child. All these proved to be entertainment of high class, especially Muslims aristocrats. “It was through a very lavish and luxurious life style that the Nawabs of Hyderabad become financial bankrupt” [Rani Sarma, 2008]. The general public was not cautioned about this and had no inkling.
We get some information on a courtesan named Mahlaqa Chanda during this period. She had already compiled her first collection of poetry and attained fame when legendary Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib was just a year old. Various sources suggest that Mahlaqa was born in 1766 AD. Her father Bahadur Khan belonged to an illustrious family. Her mother Maida Bibi also came from a family of repute in Gujarat. However, the tide of time forced Mahlaqa's mother Maida Bibi and her family to leave Ahmedabad. This prominent poetess of Deccan also penned ghazals in Persian but most of her works in Persian was lost. Her poetry was collected and published after her death in 1824 as Gulzar-e-Mahlaqa (Mahlaqa's garden of flowers). A copy of her Urdu divan that has 125 ghazals, which was compiled and calligraphed by herself is preserved in the British museum in London. This tomb was built by Mahlaqa when her mother had died. It was built at a cost of Rs.one lakh way back in 1792. An Ashur-khana, 'baodi', naqqar-khana and dalaan were part of the complex. After her death, she was buried beside her mother's grave.
Mahlaqa's library was well-known for her collection of rare books and manuscripts. She had a number of writers, 'Kaatibs', in her personal service, for copying texts for her library. Whenever she heard of a new or rare book, she would somehow get hold of it and ask the Kaatibs to prepare a fresh copy for her library.She built mosques like Masjid Baitul-Atiq a hospice for Musa Qadri, baradari for Sufi Taar Shah other than construction of dalaan for the pilgrims at Maula Ali shrine.She was associated with six royal courts starting from Ruknuddaula, followed by Nizam Ali Khan to Sikandar Jah, Arastu Jah, Maharaja Chandulal Shadaan and Raja Rao Rambha. Rahat Azmi, who painstakingly collected details about Mahlaqa Chanda's life writes that this famous Urdu poet of Deccan was a contemporary of renowned poets like Mir Taqi Mir, Sauda and Dard in North India. Mahlaqa had received early education under the watchful eyes of Nawab Ruknuddaulah, Madarul Maham of Asafia dynasty. Apart from fine arts and training in music, she also learnt horse riding and was imparted military training.
At the age of fifteen she accompanied Asaf Jah II in battles. She was renowned for her mastery on dhrupad apart from khayal tappa. A prominent personality, she lived in Khasa Mahal with hundreds of khadims at her disposal. Mahlaqa's estate was spread over Syedpalli, Chanderguda, Chandapeth, Ali Bagh and several other areas. She was a generous woman who spent lavishly on the preparations for Khat Darshan Mela and Gyarahvin Sharif. For Muharram and Jashn-e-Haidari, she prepared for months in advance. She threw banquets in the honour of visiting poets and also patronized poets and artists. This form of patronage is not imperial or sub-imperial patronage but a different form of patronage that has not been problematized or analysed well.
Once she accompanied Asif Jah II to Madhav Rao's court in Pune. When she saw Nana Phadnavis turning away a French trader who had brought rare breed of horses for sale and Phadnavis refusing to pay more than Rs 1,500 apiece, she offered him Rs 12,000 and bought all the six steeds. There are several such tales about Mahlaqa. She died in 1824 [1240 AH]. It is said that she died during the outbreak of an epidemic in Hyderabad.
Among the early women strict pardah was prevalent. During the early years of Nizam rule, the practice of pardha was prevalent in every class of women’s especially among elite class. Even the ‘mama’ (maid servant) wore pardah while going to the market. The pardah was very strict in Hyderabad, but the unmarried daughters of the Nizam were exempted from its rule. They attended palaces and residency parties and accompanied their father in race. They did not participate in any public functions.
Women during the transitional phase in the Hyderabad state during the period of reform- through the 19th century
The period from 1853 – 1883 was very significant in the history of Asaf Jahs, during this time Hyderabad state was transforming from medieval to modern state. It was in 1853, Mir Turab Ali Khan Salarjung – I was appointed as the Diwan of the Nizam state and with his appointment an array of hope rose in Hyderabad. Salar Jung introduced many reforms for the betterment of the Nizam state, which marked the beginning of a new era of modernization in Hyderabad he was the prime-minister of three Nizams i.e. Nizam-iv, v, vi from 1853 to 1883.
It was in this period that state’s education system was formed. There was no progress in female education until the coming of Salarjung I. The first girl’s school was opened in this period. The very first census of state was conducted in 1881 and as per it, the female population accounts 49.19%. The society started its move towards progress but there was no progress of women. Still women were confined to private sphere especially middle – class women. They were solely dependent on the earnings of their husbands and the male members of their families. At this time elite women were given formal education at their palaces and deodies. But a middle class woman was taught household skills and got religious education. The significance of the period can be seen in the aspect that an enlighten outlook was developed towards women and their education. This period can be described as the background for the upcoming era of women’s emancipation in the history of Nizam state.
The new women on the threshold of modernity – 20th century
In the year 1884 Mehboob Ali Pasha Nizam VI assumed the sovereign power, as he attained 18 years and regency rule came to an end. The policies and progress initiated by Salarjung was carried on by Nizam VI and VII which resulted in the attainment of administrative and financial stability. The period from 1884 – 1948 witnesses an all round development of Hyderabad state, an enlighten outlook was developed towards the cause of women, which led to the progress of the women. Education brought in a new life to women, which in turn helped them to see the outside world with new eyes. Thus the new Nizami women especially elite muslim women were able to cross the boundaries of private and public domain, contrary to Nizami women of the early period.
The Nizam framed all the state policies aiming at over all development of state and masses. He abolished council of state and on its place setup ‘Legislative Council’ and ‘Cabinet Council’. The railways were already introduced in his regency period. He gave much more importance to education while compared to earlier Nizams. Hyderabad state attained the administrative and financial stability. Nizam subjects as his own children, as he was the ‘Mehboob’ (beloved) of his people. His period witnessed an all rounded development yet the Nizam was subordinate to the paramount as the “British Resident” continued to guide the state.
Osman Ali Khan (1911-1948) was the last Nizam of Asaf Jahi dynasty and last ruler of Hyderabad state. Osman Ali Khan succeeded his father on 29th August 1911. By this time the British had strongly established themselves in one of the biggest princely state of India. But Osman Ali Khan could run his domain as per his will without much influence of the British. He was one of the richest men in the world. The Nizam Jewels under his possession were estimated to be worth four hundred million, which includes Diamonds, Emeralds, Sapphires, Rubies and Pearls etc. “He used for paperweight, a Jacob Diamond of 17 carat, which was in the size of a small lemon . Now, these jewels have been under the possession of Govt. of India.
In Hyderabad , the New Zenana school was established in 1907, primarily for Muslim girls belonging to status families, under the patronage of the Nizam. The work of the school really started in 1909, when Florence Wyld arrived from England with three faculty members to take up the post of the principle. On the first day only four girls turned up all between the age of 6-10.15 Six more arrived in the next few days and they arrived in school any time between 9 to 12 noon. Adequate steps had to be taken to provide purdah, make arrangements for the servants , make arrangement for daily prayers [Hasan Zoya and Ritu Menon, 2005, 83]. The carriages would drive into the purdah compound a syce would get down from his box, leave the reins loose and hide behind the screen- made of wood and iron, the head aya would then open the door of the carriage, two ayas would hold a screen between the carriage door and the entrance and only then would the children get down followed by their own ayas to disappear into the purdah compound [Wyld, quoted in Hassan et.al., 2005, 113]. Ms. Wyld found a lot of support in Khujitsa Begum, the Indian representative assigned by the British government to interact with Indian families. She also tried to pursue the Nizam Mahbub Ali to bestow his name to the school in the hope of getting patronagre from him. By the time Ms. Wyld left Hyderbad in 1919, Mahbubia school, as it was known had 100 students. By 1930,s there were 79 schools in Hyderabad and the Muslim students were twice the number of hindu students. Twenty two percent of the girls in these schools were daughters of government officials. Even after independence, women’s education assumed special significance in the context of the country’s planned development. All the major five year plans continued to emphasize on overall expansion of educational facilities, but vast disparities continued to exist in the relative utilization of available facilities by boys and girls at various stages of education [Arya, 1963, 69]. The National Policy on Education (1986) accorded a high priority to girls’ education in order to overcome inequalities and disparities and yet muslim girls education seems to lag behind. Though considerable steps have been taken and enrolment of girls has marginally increased yet social and gender gaps are wide and many of the girls dropout after the initial primary school [Pande, Rekha, 2008, 84].
However in the period of the Nizams, with the spread of education, social reform came more quickly among the Muslim women. Like elsewhere here to the men who were enlightened encouraged their women to read and write. The Muslim social reform movement produced a number of husband-wife teams who were both equally involved in raising questions related to the community and who served as models of social reform. There are a number of examples of journals for women started by these reformist couples. For example, Sayyid Mumtaz Ali and his wife Muhammadi Begum (who served as the editor till her untimely death)started Tahzib un-Niswan (The Civilized Woman) in 1898 from Lahore. In a similar vein, Gail Minault notes that Shaikh Abdullah andhis wife Wahid Jahan Begum of Aligarh starting a magazine for women, Khatun (The Lady), in 1904 (110). The main purpose of the magazine was to advocate women’s education and to convince men of the need for it [Gail Minault, 1998].
From Deccan, Begum Sughra Humayun Mirza (1884-1958) was one of the important figures who worked for issues related to Muslim women’s education, situating this issue within the general matrix of the reform of the community. She was the daughter of Captain Haji Safdar Hussain and Mariyam Begum. During her childhood in Hyderabad (now in Andhra Pradesh state) she learnt Urdu and Persian from her parents. After her marriage, she travelled widely and was quite well-read and knowledgeable.Begum Mirza served as the editor of many journals related to women. They include Annisa (The Woman) and Zebunnisa (The Beautiful Woman). She was quite prolific as far as literary output was concerned and had come out with works like Musheer-e-Niswan (Women’s Advisor, 1920), Mohini (Mohini, 1931) Safarnamah-e-Iraq(Travelogue of Iraq, 1915), Majmuah-yi-Nuhahjat (A Collection of Elegies,, 1989 edition), Mukhtasar Halat Hazrat Bibi Fatima (A Short Life History of Hazrat Bibi Fatima, 1940) and Nasihat ke Moti: Majmuah-yi-Nasaeh (Pearls of Instructions: A Collection of Advice,1955) Most of them were written using her pen name “Haya.”
A reading of these journals gives us a very interesting insight into the society. The journals became a very important tool for propagating the idea of the “good woman.” This was also being continuously enforced through various institutions like family, women’s associations, religion, etc. The good woman was supposed to be educated in affairs to do with the home, her children, Islam, and sometimes, on her special community identity, as a Deccani. In the 1880s the discussion on women’s education was only just beginning, but this did not prevent Muhibb-e-Hussain and his magazine from taking up controversial topics for discussion, including purdah.. Gail Minault notes that as a result of the editor’s outspoken opposition to purdah the magazine had to be closed down in 1901 [Gail Minault, 1998, 151]. After the demise of Mu’allim-e-Niswan, there was a gap of someyears before women’s journals started appearing again. This time, the difference was that many of these journals were edited by women themselves. According to Minault, Annisa appeared between 1919 and1927 [Gail Minault, 1998,151]. But Mohammad Anwaruddin, who has worked on the early journals from Hyderabad and Deccan, claims that it appeared from 1918 onwards continually for three years only [Mohammad Anwaruddin, 1997, p. 194]. Anwaruddin also says that due to Sughra’s ill health and her European travels the publication stopped for a while and restarted after a break [Mohammad, Anwaruddin, 1997, 194].
The story of the magazine is connected to the other reform activities at the all-India level. There were many women’s organisations, including Muslim women’s organisations which were started during this period by various elite women, often under the influence of their husbands, who encouraged literacy among women. Sughra HumayunMirza must have been influenced by the Tayyiba Begum Khediev Jung (1873-1921), a social reformer who was her contemporary. She also frequently acknowledged her husband’s influence in her life choices. The magazine’s audience was not limited to the Deccan region. It spread throughout the mainland of British India, which included Lahore, Delhi, Lucknow and Aligarh, as can be inferred from the introduction of writers or references to earlier writings in the magazine itself. Though announced as a women’s magazine, the intended readers (and sometimes writers) were also progressive men, who had to be converted to support issues related to women. The following couplet, printed on the title page of most issues shows how the magazine saw itself:
Dakin mein is tarah taleem-e-niswan ki taraqqi ho
Ki pardeh mein bhi har khatoon aflatoon-e-dauran.
[If there is such development of women’s education in Deccan
Every woman, even in veil, will become a Plato of her times.]
It shows the main agenda of the magazine – women’s education. The profusion of women’s journals edited by women themselves was already under way by the time Annisa appeared. For example, Humjoli(A Woman Friend), a magazine from Hyderabad, was edited by Sayyida Begum Khwishgi. Print had not yet proved its capitalistic potential. Published by local printing presses,the magazine contained very little illustrations and no photographs. .Annisa was printed at different presses including Matba-e-Nizam-e-Dakin, Taj, Gangasagar, Shamsul Islam, Moin-e-Dakin, Matba-.Mufeel-e-Dakin, Imad, Matba-e-Rahbar-e-Dakin, etc. According to information in the magazine issues most of these presses were in Chatta Bazar, where even today printing is done. Annisa had the subtitle Women’s and Girl’s Monthly Urdu Journal and had aroundforty pages in a standard issue. The usual fare included childcare, health and hygiene, cooking, home management, religious thoughts, recipes, discipline, travelogues, novels, poetry, biographies along with reformist and educational information [Pande, Rekha et. al, 2007]. Writing contests for women writers were organised and prizes distributed. Various organisations for Muslim women were also spreading throughout the country during the same time, and the magazine shouldbe seen in this context. Very often, these journals served asmouthpieces for the organisations. An example of such an organisation was the Anjuman-e-khavatin-e-Islam (Association of Muslim Women). A nuanced reading of these magazines suggests that there evolved a new language of patronage where women were active patrons.
Under the leadership of the Ali brothers, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana ShaukatAli, the Muslims of South Asia launched the Khilafat Movement to try and save the Empire. This unified the Indian Muslim community with an international Islamic brotherhood against the Western powers, especially the British. In India, this was also the time of the non cooperation movement launched by Gandhi. This led to an alliance with the majority community which was organised around nationalist sentiments. Sughra Humayun Mirza, belonging to an elite family, must have strongly identified with the urge for national integration and Hindu-Muslim unity. Her adopted son Yousuf Ali Mirza in an interview said that she was a supporter of the Congress Party, with Sarojini Naidu being a close friend. He also added that her brother Baquar Ali Mirza was the first Member of Parliament who won from a Congress ticket in Hyderabad after independence.
Yet, as a minority community, the Muslims in colonial India and Deccan could not ignore the specific identity of their community. We see this being forged through efforts like Annisa. However, it was not an assertion or revival of older traditions that was happening at that time. The most important function that the magazine and perhaps Muslim social reformers of those times took upon themselves was to mould a special identity, that of the modern Muslim community. Annisa was in the forefront of this enterprise.
There are a lot of discussions around the general theme of modernity in the journal. The attempts of a community to reorganize itself for a different and modern kind of life is seen in many of these articles. This happens through a variety of processes and is sometimes not quite open. One can for instance read this aspiration in prescriptive and didactic poems which deal with time and its value, such as “Wakht” (“Time”). It can perhaps be connected to a world that was defining itself more and more in terms of the emerging capitalism in the country. Yet another instance would be the Urdu translations of quotations from English classics, strewn in Annisa; sometimes these were even out of context. One example among many would be a philosophical poem on death, “Shaher-e-Khamooshan” (“The Cemetery”) that has a quote from the famous cemetery scene of Hamlet. We can see which class of readers or at least intended models of class the magazine wished to reproduce through these examples. Also evident is the imagining of a “modern” individual through the pages of the magazine. This modern individual is built by discarding what is useless and “backward” in tradition. An example would be the article “Tark-e-Rasumat-e-Fuzool” (“Get Rid of Bad Customs”),which warns the women of the community to get rid of useless customs and move forward with times. While the first surprise comes with the fact that women alone are identified as the culprits responsible for the backwardness of the community, the next one comes with the listing of avoidable customs. Most of these are quite local in character and had become a way of life before modernity. Moreover, they are also customs related to women’s lives. Thus, viladat, or customs related to birth, rozah kushai, the function when the child opens her/his first fast during Ramadan, mangni or engagement ceremony, mehndi or ritually putting henna on the hands of the bride, chawthi or the bride and the groom putting colours on each other, etc. are all seen to be an unnecessary waste of money and un-Islamic. The understanding of “wasteful” expenditure for feudal customs shows a shift towards capitalism and modernity with puritan values. We can also see that the move to get rid of useless customs was taking the community towards a more “modern,” i.e. scriptural, tradition of Islam that was refashioning local Islams.
The construction of Islam as more text-bound and scriptural, rather than based upon customs and local rituals, has to be seen as a sign of the shift towards modernity itself. Middle Eastern feminists have noted this trend in Islamic countries and have also commented on the loss of women’s power over some of the ritual spaces with this kind of a reinterpretation of the religion. For instance, Leila Ahmad in an interview has commented on the “difference between living, oral traditions and written texts,” which in the context of Islam means a divorce between the “living Islam of Muslim women and the official Islam” [Ahmed, Leila, 2005,5-9]. While one need not romanticise the pre-modern as a heavenly women’s space, one can yet read the changing notions of patriarchy that modernity seemed to advance. This analysis of Islam does not mean that the other communities were taking totally different turns. A similar move had already occurred in Hind communities with attempts seen as “reducing orality to textuality” along with colonialism [Pande, Rekha, 2005, 21]. Another point to be noted is the curious intermixture of Islam, India ,and the West that the magazine and perhaps Islamic reform movements themselves were advocating. It was not at all a complete and unproblematic acceptance of Western ideas. On the contrary, there are clearly anti-colonial sentiments expressed in the magazine, very often as an assertion of Islamic identity. These also appear inperhaps unexpected areas. For instance, in a travelogue, “London ka Ajaebkhanah” (“The London Museum”), an author, while describing the London Museum (perhaps the British Museum?) and the wonder she encounters there, notes that the museum showcases almost all the glories of the Islamic world. While taking note of Tipu’s sword, kept in display, she feels it is Islam’s very sword which is taken from its roots and displayed in the museum. In fact, the advocacy of modernity in these pages, rather than blindly following of the West is the imagination of an Islamic modernity. As mentioned earlier, the magazine originates at a time when Hindu-Muslim unity is talked about and is tried out in the national scene, and yet the special identity of a minority community is visible even at that time. The importance of social concerns, expressed in terms of community, is very often pointed out in the magazine’s discussions. The word qaum, which means nation, also has shades of the meaningof community in Urdu. For instance, the simultaneous use of the terms vatan ‘own land’ and qaum in the following poem is not a rare occurrence at that time:
Abna-e-vatan keliye hain uzoo-e-muattal
Late hain yahi qaum pe adbar nikhattu. [Annisa, Taranah-e-amal,1922, 8].
[Useless to the mother land are they who sit idle
As body parts are which have stopped working.
A burden to the community are those lazy ones. “Poem on
However we find that there are rarely instructional articles which deal with the specific local identity of being a Deccani Muslim. Perhaps, when the call seems to be to build a national and even international Islamic modernity, the local was too uncomfortable to be fore grounded. An example would be the article “Khandhar-e-Deccan” which is about the historical importance of the place Khandahar in Deccan. But even here, the recounting of local history is meant to contribute to a global Muslim identity and alliance by equating Deccan’s Khandahar with Afghanistan’s city of the same name, a very important place for SouthAsian Muslims. One of the reasons for this absence of the local might be that Sughra herself, though born in the Deccan, but belonging to an elite family, might have identified more with the high culture of Lucknow or other North Indian cities rather than with the Deccan. Islamic contributions to science are very important for the building of a global Muslim identity at this stage when the national/global identity of the Muslim is being forged in early twentieth-century India. An example of an important Muslim who figures in the above mentioned series is Allama Mohammad bin Moosa, known for his contributions to Algebra; his achievements are highlighted by the editors in “Musalman Namvaron ke Karname” (“Famous Muslims and their Achievements”) [Annisa, Musalman Namvaron ke Karname, 1920, 4-5]. In this editorial, a comparison with other cultures, especially those of the West, is evident. It is yet another effort to build alternative roads to modernity other than those imposed by British colonialism. The point seems to be that when the rest of the world, including the Western world, was in darkness; the Islamic world was blooming in the Middle Ages. The identity of the community is built through constant comparisons, especially with Western colonizers. There are direct comparisons with the British in many articles, and one can read the sub-text of this comparison in almost all the general articles as well. An example of a direct comparison occurs in an article on women’s education where the writer brings in a direct reference to European women, who are perceived to be able to do everything as well as their men.
In “Talim-e-Niswan” (“Women’s Education”) the author, Noorani Begum Saheba, wonders how the children who are brought up by these women will turn out to be compared to “our children” [Annisa, Talim-e-Niswan, 1925, 8-10]. There are also other comparisons at work, mostly with the rest of th elite communities in India with whom middle-class Muslims may have been competing. In a piece of fiction titled “Ladki Tumhari Ghar Mehman Hai” (“A Girl is a Guest in Your House”), again on the methods of education, a “modern” Muslim father admonishes his wife for the brutal methods she uses in imparting religious education to their daughter [Annisa, Ladki Tumhari Ghar Mehman Hai, 1925, 1-8]. He compares his house, where the mother is shoutingat the daughter for being such a fool, to the more “sophisticated ”Bengali Hindu friend’s house in Calcutta. In this ideal household, children do their work and play when they should. The girls learn piano and sewing, both Victorian occupations of an elite woman. There is an ayah who comes home to instruct the children. Thus, the desire for a different life in the house in which women’s education plays a major role is expressed by the male character through comparison with the more “advanced” upper caste Hindus. Yet another community to which Muslims are compared is the Parsi community, where women are perceived to be better dressed and more presentable: “Look at women from other communities. For example, we feel happiness in seeing the cleanliness of Parsi women, the simplicity of their clothes, and the way their houses are kept.(“Saleeqah”- “Good Ways”) [ Annisa , Saleeqah, 1923, 18]. This method of comparison was not singular to the Muslim community. All over India, community reforms were going on and comparisons, either with Europe or with other communities in India competing for modernity, were constantly made.
The effort to build a modern identity is visible in the pages of the magazine. This effort does not constitute a total acceptance of the Western way of life; neither does it totally replicate the Hindu upper caste campaign for reform. The Islamic identity expressed is quite specific in the sense that it attempts to build a global Muslim identity which is constructed in comparison, contrast, and sometimes in alliance with many other communities. Thus, while the global Muslimis an ally, the West sometimes appears as a category worthy of emulation, and sometimes as a competitor. Other elite communities also serve the function of fashioning elite Muslim identity.
While the issue of women’s education assumed such importance perhaps because it stood for all reformist debates in a concentrated form. The building of the educated and “reformed” Muslim woman was seen as the most important step towards modernity. Sughra Humayun Mirza, along with other women, had established schools for girls to apply her theories on women’s education. At least one piece in each issue of Annisa, catering to the Muslim community, emphasised the importance of education for Muslim women. The question of women’s education that the magazine took up with missionary zeal. The Safdariya school, the Urdu medium girls’ school started by Sughra Humayun Mirza in 1934, still exists in Humayun Nagar (the area named after Sughra’s father) in Hyderabad.. The importance of education and national progress is explicit in some of the articles, e.g. in “Ahl-e-Mulk ki Taraqqi ka Ek Tariqah” (“A Method to Develop the People of the Nation”) [Annisa, Ahl-e-Mulk ki Taraqqi ka Ek Tariqah, 1920, 9-16]. A closer examination of the articles in support of women’s educationreveals the contradictory nature of modernity built around “reforming”women. One example is the article, “Mardon ki Taleem Muqaddam Hai ya Auraton Ki?” (“Is Men’s Education or Women’s Education More Important?”), which apparently supports the latter even at the expense of the former [Annisa, Mardon ki Taleem Muqaddam Hai ya Auraton Ki?, 1920, 16-22]. This gendered argument, however does notsupport women’s education for its own sake; in fact, the argument isquite patriarchal. The greater importance of women’s education is derived from the view of women as the first educators of men. Such arguments underline the importance of the female roles of wife and, above all, mother. Sometimes men take more responsible stances regarding women and their education. An article written by Janab Maulavi Muhibb-e-Hussain Sahib, “Kya Purdah Nashinan-e-Hind ki Taleem Angrezi Zaban ke Zarieh Zaroori Hai?” (“Should the Education of India’s Veiled Women Necessarily be through the English Language?”) takes the position that women need not be given an English education [Annisa , Kya Purdah Nashinan-e-Hind ki Taleem Angrezi Zaban ke Zarieh Zaroori Hai?, 1922, 4-]). What prompts the author is not the usual expectation that women should not surpass men; he is clear that women have a right to English education. Instead, his driving force is practicality: he argues that women have very little time for education from the age of eight till he age of fifteen, when they would be removed from school due to marriage. He takes the stand that it is not wise to expect them to become proficient in another language and also acquire a decent education. Moreover, the author thinks that not just women, but men as well should be educated in their mother tongues.
While there is an effort discernible in Annisa to build a universal Muslim identity, one need to be clear that it is a particular class that is articulating this need. The magazine clearly stands for the elite sections of Muslims in the country; there are many instances where the class basis of Annisais revealed. Most of the writers are from aristocratic backgrounds; only they could have taken up the cause of the community at that time. Often their right to speak is supported by a proud display of families and social backgrounds, and sometimes this class basis is revealed in the very names of the authors themselves. Women gain this legitimacy by announcing that they are the wives, sisters, or daughters of aristocratic and “honourable” gentlemen. For example, Mehmooda Begum Sahiba, in “Insan ka Koi Kaam Gharaz se Khali Nahin” (“No Human Action is Devoid of Purpose”), announces herself as Mehmooda Begum Sahiba Mahal Nawab Qadir Nawaz JangBahaddur, i.e. the wife of Quadir Nawaz whose military title (in theNizam’s army) is Jang Bahaddur and whose aristocratic lineage is signified by the title Nawab [Annisa, Insan ka Koi Kaam Gharaz se Khali Nahin , 1920, 8-9]. As Vir Talwar points out, this practice was not confined to the Muslim community at that time. Sometimes this class bias is revealed quite openly in the magazine. For example, in the appeal for charity towards the poor (central to the Islamic religion itself) [Talwar, Vir Bharat. 2006,.205]. One volume announces in an advertisement that Annisa copies will be given to poor women who request it. The charitable activities of many of the patrons are listed along with the monthly meeting proceedings of the Anjuman-e-khavatin-e-dakin (All India Deccan Ladies’ Conference). The contradictions of charity areclearly visible in the “Shazrat” (“Editor’s Comment”) of one issue of the magazine. The author mentions the increase in the number of beggars and recounts how forty beggars, most of them women and children, died due to starvation in Bombay. She is also concerned about how many more will die from diseases. While she says it is important to wipe out begging, she also describes a group of beggars who are out to exploit the hard-working and generous people from good families. The phrase she uses to describe these beggars in Urdu is hatte, kattemustande ‘hale and hearty.’ The contradiction between this and her own observation that so many beggars are dying from diseases is not noticed by the author. She goes on to criticise the custom of khairat or giving alms to beggars propagated by Islam. Though claims about a universal Muslim identity seem to be made constantly, the magazine is exclusive in its scope. The class identification of its contributors and readers clearly defines its ideology. It is within this context that gender should be analysed in the magazine.
Therefore what we see through the 19th and the 20th century is the woman of Hyderabad state slowly coming into their own. Initially reform was slow and the early women during the formative period had to face a lot of restrictions. However, through the 19th century with the period of reform setting in and women’s education becoming the focus one could see that ground was laid for the modernization not only of the state but of the women folk also. This resulted in the birth of the new women who was on the threshold of modernity. However there was a paradox to this modernity. There was a contradictory position that gender seemed to occupy in the social reform discourse; the debate surrounding women’s education encapsulates this contradiction of vouching for women’s education, yet trying to limit it at the same time. Yet many women’s organizations came up and women also started writing. The fact that women were taking up the pen for the first time, using print media as editors, publishers, and writers would make them inscribe themselves as subjects into a hitherto male sphere. But that they primarily spoke of matters related to the private realm, or were mainly concerned with the creation of a private realm of a particular shape, made the use of print media a contradictory step for women. This was the paradox for they tried to create a modern woman who was sufficiently domesticated. However, for the first time we see that certain space was created for the women and they formed networks and associations and met many like minded women outside their family and to whom they were not connected through their family and hence used these spaces very creatively.
I would like to acknowledge the help received from and K.C.Bindu for her comments and Viqar Atiya, for the Urdu translations of Annisa
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