Islamic Values in the Urdu naval Rasheed un Nisa
رشیدالنساء کے اردو ناول میں اسلامی و اخلاقی اقدار
Rasheed un Nisa was the first female novelist who ushered in the era of female novel writing by penning “Islah un Nisa”. The novel, despite being written in 1881 could not be published as late as 1894 due to the conservative environment that prevailed at that time. Some of the salient issues highlighted through this novel include women’s education, superstitions and condemnation of frivolous rituals/customs. The author has exquisitely delineated the social and familial issues that plagues the society at that time. Hence, its literary significance cannot be gainsaid. But, unfortunately, not very many critics have acknowledged Rasheed un Nisa’s stature as first female novelist. It is an irrefutable fact that no novel, other than Islah un Nisa was published at the end of 19th century. Formal novel writing commenced at the turn of 20th century. But, it is a stark reality that female novel writing had begun with Islah un Nisa. Hence, there is no denying the fact that Rasheed un Nisa was actually the first female novelist in Urdu Literature.
A cursory glance at the literary works of that time clearly shows that only two novels, namely Miraat ul Uroos (Maulvi Nazeer Ahmed) and Surat Khayal (Shad Azeem Abadi) held social and moral significance. However, as Miraat ul Uroos highlighted improvement in women’s moral behavior, hence Rasheed un Nisa had followed in to Maulvi Nazeer Ahmed’s footsteps in her novel Islah un Nisa. Nevertheless, it is also imperative to mention that whereas Maulvi Nazeer Ahmed had laid emphasis merely on women’s domestic grooming’ learning, Rasheed un Nisa went a step further and sought the right of western education for women. Indeed, it was an astounding development in those conservative and stifled times. The women of that era were being treated like cattle. Their limited access included and was restricted to basic necessities only. Any recognition beyond their household obligations was equivalent to a stigma. Therefore, in such a conformist and traditional era, raising voice for women’s right to education was indeed a huge achievement and a milestone. For this exact reason, Rasheed un Nisa’s novel could not be published for twelve years until her son returned from Europe after becoming a barrister and got his mother’s novel published.
The major reason behind writing this novel was reformation of the society which simultaneously led her to women’s reformation since the women of those times were superstitious and gullible. The main reason behind their credulous nature was lack of education. Rasheed un Nisa focused on how an educated woman can bring about a sea change in society through her own and her children’s grooming. She turned out to be a trailblazer as her successors in female novel writing followed suit and played a pivotal role in betterment of society. Some of the most prominent figures in this respect include stalwarts like Sughra Humayun Mirza, Akbari begum, Abbasi Begum, Zafar Jehan Begum, A-Z, Hasan Begum, Fatima Begum, Tayabba Begum, Zia Bano and B-Sadeed. These novelist created characters on the pattern of Islah un Nisa and raised their voices against the menace of illiteracy, outdated customs and illogical beliefs. In modern times, Saleha Abid Husain, A.R.Khatton, Razia Fasih Ahmed, Razia Butt, Deeba Khanum, Iffat Mohani, Amna Iqbal Ahmed, Salma Kanwal and Bushra Rehman’s works also bear strong imprints of Islah un Nisa.
Hence, it is quite evident that the campaign that was spearheaded by Rasheed un Nisa was duly and successfully followed by her female successors in Urdu Literature. The burning issues of those times were adequately portrayed in their works which eventually led to societal reformation. As woman holds a pivotal position in the social pyramid of the society and only she can understand and gauge the sufferings and problems of her fellow women, hence reformation of one woman tantamount to the reformation of an entire generation and subsequently the entire nation.