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Author: M. Reza Pirbhai

Although many women participated in the Pakistan Movement (1937–1947) with significant effect, their role is only incidentally considered in major monographs, and virtually unpublished in the realm of articles. This essay seeks to begin the redress of this oversight by focusing on the lives and works of three leading women of the Muslim League, and two who found its message appealing enough to leave India when Pakistan was established in 1947. Placing these women firmly within the theoretical discourse of the ‘New Woman,’ the essay reviews primary literature relevant to women’s social reform in South Asia and the Muslim World more broadly, defines the understanding of womanhood represented by the five women in focus, and outlines their roles in and/or understanding of the Pakistan Movement’s ideals particularly concerning gender. It argues that understanding themselves as ‘New Women’ and the Pakistan Movement as their advocate, coupled with the alienation of South Asian Muslims at the hands of Indian and Hindu nationalist initiatives, most thoroughly explains Pakistan’s appeal among the elite, educated Muslim women of the late colonial era.

In: Hawwa
In: Hawwa
Author: M. Reza Pirbhai

Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah was a Pakistani author, politician, diplomat and social-activist whose life bridges the late colonial and post-colonial phases of South Asian history. Her biography illustrates the discursive pressures shaping the lives of upper and intermediate class men and women of her generation, particularly as manifested in the unquestioned tropes of modernization theory. However, the same life reveals that her notion of the tradition-modernity dichotomy does not extend to the equation of Islam with tradition. The secular-religious divide, in fact, does not feature in her thought or activism at all. The latter activism also problematizes the assumption that Muslim women, any more of less than non-Muslims, are marginal or peripheral players in the history of the twentieth century.

In: Hawwa
Author: M. Reza Pirbhai
Despite late reconsideration, a dominant paradigm rooted in Orientalist essentialisations of Islam as statically ‘legalistic’ and Muslims as uniformly ‘transgressive’ when local customs are engaged, continues to distort perspectives of South Asia's past and present. This has led to misrepresentations of pre-colonial Muslim norms and undue emphasis on colonial reforms alone when charting the course to post-coloniality. This book presents and challenges staple perspectives with a comprehensive reinterpretation of doctrinal sources, literary expressions and colonial records spanning the period from the reign of the 'Great Mughals' to end of the 'British Raj' (1526-1947). The result is an alternative vision of this transformative period in South Asian history, and an original paradigm of Islamic doctrine and Muslim practice applicable more broadly.