ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Women’s Learning and Urdu Literary Scene in 19th-century India

A Most Noble Life: The Biography of Ashrafunnisa Begum (1840–1903) by Muhammadi Begum (1877–1908), translated from the original Urdu, with additional material, by C M Naim, Orient Blackswan, 2022; pp 188, `630.

A Most Noble Life: The Biography of Ashrafunnisa Begum (18401903) by Muhammadi Begum (18771908) is an extension of what C M Naim, a distinguished scholar of Urdu literary culture in South Asia, began in 1987 when he wrote the autobiographical account, How Bibi Ashraf Learned to Read and Write. He expanded his research on Bibi Ashraf by doing a complete translation of Hayt-e Ashraf, an Urdu biography detailing the life of Ashrafunnisa Begum, a Muslim woman who excelled as a writer and educator. The biography, being authored by an equally noteworthy Muslim woman writer and editor, Muhammadi Begum, highlights the indomitable literary zeal and moral and religious proficiency of the two women. Both figures engaged actively in the public sphere, tirelessly championing various womens issues.

Ashrafunnisa Begum defied the traditional Muslim norms of her family by embarking on a personal journey to self-educate in writing and later by joining the Victoria Girls High School to educate young girls in her community. Likewise, Muhammadi Begum etched her name in history as the first Muslim woman to edit an Urdu magazine, Tahzeeb-e Nisvn (the Instructions of Women). Her prolific published writings encompassed 22 books dealing with social issues and offering moral guidance to women and children.

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Published On : 9th Mar, 2024

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