KARACHI, Dec 13: From writer Rashid Jahan to Malala Yousufzai, there’s a noticeable history of the movement for women’s rights in our region, articulated distinguished novelist and short story writer Intizar Husain while presiding over an event organised to celebrate 105 years of publication of the monthly Ismat on Friday evening.
The founder of Ismat, Allama Rashidul Khairi, paved the way for a new history of consciousness (shaoor ki naee tareekh), said Mr Husain.
As a child, he added, after learning how to write letters (takhti likhna) it was Ismat that he read first before reading any other book. The first picture of a literary person that he saw was of Allama Rashidul Khairi. He recalled the couplet that he often read in the magazine ‘Islah-i-qaum aap ko manzoor hai agar/ Bachon se pehle maa’on ko taaleem deejyey’ (If you want your nation to progress/ Educate mothers before educating children).
Mr Husain said writers began to think about women’s issues after the 1857 war of independence. Maulana Hali wrote poems on the subject, ‘Chup Ki Daad’ being one of them. Before 1857 there was no mention of women’s plight in our classical literature. It was in the post-1857 period that writers like Nazir Ahmed and Hali highlighted the issues faced by Muslim women. Then came the time when women didn’t need others to speak for them. In the beginning, men writers contributed to Ismat. Later on women joined in and did wonders.
Mr Husain informed the attendees on a problem that reared its head at Aligarh following the establishment of an educational institution for boys. Some people suggested that there should also be a school for girls. The person who demanded that was Sheikh Abdullah Aligarh Waaley, who originally hailed from Kashmir. Even Sir Syed hummed and hawed on the matter because he and his team had already had a tough time with the orthodoxy. Eventually a school was made and Sheikh Abdullah’s three daughters were the first ones to get enrolled in it. Writers Rashid Jahan was one of the three girls. From Rashid Jahan to Malala, a big number of female activists had struggled for women’s rights in the region, he said.
Dr Aslam Farrukhi was not feeling well, so he didn’t come to the event. His paper was read out by his son, Dr Asif Farrukhi. He said Ismat had set a tradition the likes of which could not be found in literature of any other language, leave alone Urdu. It was a result of the passion that Rashidul Khairi had to rid oppressed women of their woes. The magazine was the initiation of a mission that continued to date.
Dr Farrukhi said the occasion had brought back two memories from his childhood. One, when his mother, after dusk, used to go through Ismat while perched on a takht; two, all the children in the family were asked to keep an eye on the postman as he would bring Ismat in the first week of every month. He argued that although there were other magazines meant to highlight women’s issues, such as Tahzeeb-i-Niswan, Ismat had the distinction of getting published without fail. The magazine fought for women’s rights and at the same time helped educate them. Dr Farrukhi lauded the efforts of Allama Rashidul Khairi and his son, Raziqul Khairi, for doing a great service to society.
President Mamnoon Hussain was the chief guest on the occasion.
He said it was an honour for him to be part of the event. He congratulated Safoora Khairi, Allama’s granddaughter, and her team (who these days take out the magazine). He praised Allama Rashidul Khairi and Raziqul Khairi’s endeavours because of which Ismat had a special place in literature. He said the magazine had worked for the cause of women’s rights without severing ties with our values. He pointed out that women constituted 50 per cent of the population and society would only progress if women played their role.
Prof Dr Satyapal Anand suggested that Ismat should be made available on the Internet and selected articles and essays of Allama Rashidul Khairi and Raziqul Khair should be compiled into a book. His suggestion was seconded by President Mamnoon Hussain.
Writer Zahida Hina said Allama brought out the magazine in 1908 because he felt strongly about the plight of women at the time (unke dil mein uss waqt ki aurat ka dard tha). She remarked that Ismat editions were a compendium of our social history. If anyone doubted its worth, they should read Gail Minault’s book ‘Secluded Scholars’. She also heartily praised Dawood Usmani for researching the history and achievements of the magazine.
Writer Haseena Moin went down memory lane and told the audience that her mother would keep copies of Ismat and Allama Rashidul Khairi’s books in her cupboard. She also touched upon the fact that both families knew each other well.
Earlier, Safoora Khairi, who these days edits the magazine, welcomed the guests. Dr Fatima Hasan and Dawood Usmani also spoke.