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Whom can a Muslim Woman Represent? Begum Jahanara Shah Nawaz and the politics of party building in late colonial India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2021

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This article argues that gendered ideas about political representation were pivotal to the All-India Muslim League's new self-imagination as the exclusive representative of Indian Muslims after the Pakistan Resolution of March 1940. I offer a gendered reading of League politics during the crucial decade of the 1940s by examining the historical implications of Begum Jahanara Shah Nawaz's expulsion from the party in 1941 for accepting a post on the National Defense Council. When she claimed that she was appointed to the Council as a representative of all Indian women and Punjab, the League leadership condemned her for disobeying the party's resolution to remain aloof from British India's wartime administration. With an unusual intensity, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the League's president, censured her for endangering Indian Muslims’ fragile unity and asserted that League members could either represent Muslims—or no one. Her arguments functioned as an effective foil against which the League solidified its homogenizing narrative of an Indian Muslim identity and its universalizing project of Pakistan. As the demand for Pakistan increasingly dominated the League's rhetoric, alternative models of representation that drew upon cross-religious, gender-based, or regional solidarities became progressively untenable for female Muslim League politicians. Shah Nawaz's expulsion, and the discourse on representation it generated, demonstrated that gender issues were central to League politics at both the provincial and the all-India level.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers of Modern Asian Studies for their insightful comments which helped me clarify the core argument of this article. I am indebted to Deborah Cohen, Samira Sheikh, and David Gilmartin for their careful commentary on early drafts of this piece. Thanks also to participants of the ‘Gender in and out of Punjab' workshop held at Yale University in Spring 2019 for their encouraging questions and feedback on this article’s earliest iteration.


1 The Tribune (Lahore), 13 September 1941, p. 1; India Office Records, British Library (hereafter IOR) NEG 10768/10, File No. 97.

2 Other nominated League members were: the premier of Punjab, Sir Sikander Hayat Khan; the premier of Assam, Saiyid Muhammad Saadullah; the premier of Bengal, A. K. Fazl al-Huq; the Nawab of Chhatari; and Sir Sultan Ahmad. See The Tribune, 22 July 1941, p. 1. By the end of August 1941, Khan, Saadullah, and Chhatari had resigned under pressure from the League. Fazl al-Huq, after criticizing Jinnah for his high-handed approach to the issue, resigned early in September 1941 from the NDC as well as the League. This event marred Huq's personal relationship with Jinnah thereafter. The Tribune of July–September 1941 covered the entire controversy extensively. Sporadic coverage also appeared in The Hindustan Times (New Delhi) and The Times of India (New Delhi) from August–September 1941.

3 Resolution of the Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League dated 27 May 1940, IOR NEG 10797/1, File No. 834.

4 The premiers relied on Secretary of State Amery's statements in which he argued that these League members had been appointed to the expanded Council and the NDC in their official capacity as provincial premiers. See The Tribune, 2 August 1941; The Hindustan Times, 18, 19, and 25 August 1941; and The Times of India, 21 August 1941.

5 Public embarrassment, orchestrated by Jinnah, contributed to the resignations of the Muslim premiers. After Amery had issued statements reiterating that the premiers were appointed to the NDC in their official capacity, Jinnah released his private correspondence with the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, conducted through the governor of Bombay. In these private letters, the viceroy freely admitted that the Muslim premiers were appointed as Muslim representatives and not exclusively as provincial representatives. Such contradictory statements from top-ranking Government of India officials left the provincial premiers with no leg to stand on in their exchanges with the League. Sikander Hayat Khan resigned from the NDC—a move that was widely interpreted in the English press as Jinnah's outfoxing of Sikander and the Unionist Party, the League's primary rival in Punjab. See The Tribune, 29 August 1941, p. 7, and The Times of India, 27 August 1941, p. 6.

6 The Tribune, 13 September 1941, p. 1. Also reproduced in Ahmad, Waheed (ed.), The Nation's Voice, United We Win: Annotated Speeches and Statements, April 1940–April 1942, Vol. II (Karachi: Quaid-e-Azam Academy, 1996), p. 297Google Scholar.

7 The Tribune, 4 September 1941, p. 4. Similar sentiments about enforcing party discipline, regardless of a leader's position, appeared in an editorial in The Hindustan Times, 25 August 1941.

8 Jalal, Ayesha, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Sinha, Mrinalini, Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), pp. 45CrossRefGoogle Scholar. While Sinha centres her discussion on the regulation of women's sexuality, my focus in this article is on contemporary debates about Muslim women's inheritance rights, and the ways in which this issue was put to work to articulate competing visions of Muslim politics in late colonial India.

10 Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, rev. edn).

11 Gilmartin, David, ‘Kinship, Women, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Punjab’, in The Extended Family: Women and Political Participation in India and Pakistan, (ed.) Minault, Gail (Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1981)Google Scholar.

12 Of course, by this time, many Muslim women were active in women's organizations that remained politically unaffiliated to the Muslim League. For instance, Begum Sharifa Hamid Ali, a member of All-India Women's Conference (AIWC, established 1927) and Begum Shah Nawaz's contemporary, opposed separate electorates for women on the grounds that it would reinforce religious identities as the basis of legal personhood and preclude reform of religious personal law. During the late 1940s and 1950s, Begum Anis Kidwai worked with AIWC leaders like Mridula Sarabhai to rehabilitate women affected by the 1947 partition. The novelist Ismat Chughtai was affiliated with the Progressive Writers Movement. Without denying or understating the ideological diversity of Muslim women's political participation in late colonial India, I want to emphasize the threat that accepting, or leaving unrefuted, Shah Nawaz's ideas presented to a League that had recently articulated its demand for Pakistan.

13 The other was Sir Sultan Ahmad, a Shia lawyer from Bihar, who was appointed as law member in the viceroy's Executive Council. In response to charges of indiscipline by the League leadership, Ahmad pointed out that the law member's post pre-dated the Second World War and was, therefore, outside the purview of the League resolution of June 1940 that asked party members to boycott British India's wartime administration. Jinnah rejected his argument as an irrelevant technicality. Although Ahmad was also expelled at the same time as Shah Nawaz, it is crucial to note that his arguments did not challenge Jinnah's leadership nor the singularizing politics of the post-1940 League. Similarly, when Begum Hamida Momin, a member of the Bengal Legislative Council, was dismissed from the League for joining a war committee sometime before 1941, her expulsion too did not generate a conversation about the representational potential of female Muslim League politicians, even though it showed that the controversies surrounding League members joining war committees had existed since at least 1940. See Khan Bahadur M. A. Momin to Jinnah dated 24 July 1941, IOR NEG 10814/2, File No. 1099.

14 Devji, Faisal, Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Ali, Azra Asghar and Tariq, Shahnaz, ‘Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz and the Socio-Cultural Uplift of Muslim Women in British India’, Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan 45, no. 2 (2008)Google Scholar; Bharti, Suman, ‘Living Patriotism: The Experience of “Freedom” among the Muslim Women of Colonial Punjab’, Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan 21, no. 2 (2014)Google Scholar; Singh, Amarjit, ‘Foundation of Pakistan: A Study of the Women Leadership of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League’, Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan 45, no. 1 (2008)Google Scholar.

16 Ali, Azra Asghar, The Emergence of Feminism among Indian Muslim Women, 1920–1947 (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000)Google Scholar; Mirza, Sarfaraz Hussain, Muslim Women's Role in the Pakistan Movement (Lahore: Research Society of Pakistan, University of Punjab, 1969)Google Scholar; Saiyid, Dushka, Muslim Women of the British Punjab: From Seclusion to Politics (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Samiuddin, Abida and Khanam, Rashida, Muslim Feminism and Feminist Movement (Delhi: Global Vision Publishing House, 2002)Google Scholar; Willmer, David, ‘Women as Participants in the Pakistan Movement: Modernization and the Promise of a Moral State’, Modern Asian Studies 30, no. 3 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Mirza, Muslim Women's Role in the Pakistan Movement, pp. 56–58 and 74, mentions her expulsion from the League, but reiterates that the party was ‘naturally’ paramount.

17 Shah Nawaz's contributions to the campaign for Indian women's right to vote appear in the following: Forbes, Geraldine, Women in Modern India (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jalal, Ayesha, ‘The Convenience of Subservience: Women and the State of Pakistan’, in Women, Islam and the State, (ed.) Kandiyoti, Deniz (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991)Google Scholar; Jenkins, Laura Dudley, Identity and Identification in India: Defining the Disadvantaged (New York: Routledge, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mukherjee, Sumita, Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Networks (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018)Google Scholar; Roy, Anupama (ed.), Gendered Citizenship: Historical and Conceptual Explorations (Hyderabad: Orient Blackaswan, 2013)Google Scholar; Sinha, Mrinalini, ‘Suffragism and Internationalism: The Enfranchisement of British and Indian Women under an Imperial State’, Indian Economic and Social History Review 36, no. 4 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Also see Everett, Jana, ‘“All the Women Were Hindu and All the Muslims Were Men”: State, Identity Politics and Gender, 1917–1951’, Economic and Political Weekly 36, no. 23 (2001)Google Scholar.

18 For an account of Muslim women's political participation during the 1910s and 1920s, especially in the Khilafat Movement, see Minault, Gail, ‘Sisterhood or Separatism? The All India Muslim Ladies Conference and the Nationalist Movement’, in The Extended Family: Women and Political Participation in India and Pakistan, (ed.) Minault, Gail (Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1981)Google Scholar; Minault, G., ‘Purdah Politics: The Role of Muslim Women in Indian Nationalism, 1911–1924’, in Separate Worlds: Studies of Purdah in South Asia, (eds) Papanek, Hanna and Minault, Gail (Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1982)Google Scholar.

19 Mirza, Muslim Women's Role in the Pakistan Movement.

20 Willmer, ‘Women as Participants’.

21 Jalal, Ayesha, Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850 (London, New York: Routlege, 2000)Google Scholar. Without challenging Jalal's observations about the tension between individual and community in Muslim politics, this article delves into the place of gender in League politics of the 1940s.

22 Ibid., pp. 384–385.


23 Saiyid, Muslim Women of the British Punjab.

24 Gilmartin, David, Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan (London: I. B. Tauris, 1988)Google Scholar; Jalal, The Sole Spokesman; Ian Talbot, Provincial Politics and the Pakistan Movement: The Growth of Muslim League in North-West and North-East India, 1937–1947 (Karachi, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); I. Talbot, Khizr Tiwana: The Punjab Unionist Party and the Partition of India (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002). Male actors also predominate in recent works of political history such as Devji, Muslim Zion; Venkat Dhulipala, Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India (Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Neeti Nair, Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011); Ali Usman Qasmi and Megan Eaton Robb (eds), Muslims against the Muslim League: Critiques of the Idea of Pakistan (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

25 Gilmartin, ‘Kinship, Women, and Politics’; D. Gilmartin, ‘Biraderi and Bureaucracy: The Politics of Muslim Kinship Solidarity in Twentieth Century Punjab’, International Journal of Punjab Studies 1, no. 1 (1994).

26 Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000); Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin, Borders and Boundaries: Women in India's Partition (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998).

27 I use the terms ‘sharafat’ and ‘sharif’ to indicate the ‘new’ sharif of the nineteenth century, defined not by noble birth alone, but also by Islamic piety and good ethical conduct. Gail Minault, Secluded Scholars: Women's Education and Muslim Social Reform in Colonial India (Delhi, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 2–9.

28 Major works in this historiography include: Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982); Minault, Secluded Scholars; Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf ʻalī Thanawi's Bihishti Zewar: A Partial Translation with Commentary, (ed.) Barbara Daly Metcalf (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Muhammad Qasim Zaman, The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); M. Q. Zaman, Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age: Religious Authority and Internal Criticism (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

29 See, for instance, Zoya Hasan, ‘Minority Identity, Muslim Women Bill Campaign and the Political Process’, Economic and Political Weekly 24, no. 1 (1989); Khawar Mumtaz and Farida Shaheed, Women of Pakistan: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? (London; Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books, 1987); Elora Shehabuddin, ‘Jamaat-i-Islami in Bangladesh: Women, Democracy and the Transformation of Islamist Politics’, Modern Asian Studies 42, no. 2–3 (2008); Sylvia Vatuk, ‘Islamic Feminism in India: Indian Muslim Women Activists and the Reform of Muslim Personal Law’, ibid.; Afiya Shehrbano Zia, ‘The Reinvention of Feminism in Pakistan’, Feminist Review 91, no. 1 (2009).

30 The terms ‘agriculturalist’ and ‘non-agriculturalist’ concealed a complex socio-economic hierarchy based on differential access to landownership—the basis of socio-economic power and political personhood—in colonial Punjab. Each group comprised several castes. Jat, Arain, and other castes were identified as landholders and ‘peasants’ (zamindar) and hence ‘agriculturalists’. Service-providing, artisanal, and commercial castes (kamin), such as Chamar (leather worker), Lohar (ironsmith), and others were identified as ‘non-agriculturalist’ and prohibited from purchasing land. These two groups mapped onto other dichotomous ethnographic categories that dominated colonial policy in Punjab: rural and urban, martial and non-martial, custom and religious law. Despite its attempt at sorting Punjabi society into two neat groups, the terms of the 1901 Act were far from final or non-controversial. In fact, the 1901 Act was frequently challenged in colonial courtrooms and in the press. Norman G. Barrier, ‘The Formulation and Enactment of the Punjab Alienation of Land Bill’, Indian Economic and Social History Review 2, no. 2 (1965); N. G. Barrier, The Punjab Alienation of Land Bill of 1900 (Durham: Duke University Program in Comparative Studies on Southern Asia, 1966). On the profound ways in which this colonial legislation reshaped caste hierarchies in Punjab, see Navyug Gill, ‘Limits of Conversion: Caste, Labor, and the Question of Emancipation in Colonial Panjab’, The Journal of Asian Studies 78, no. 1 (2019).

31 Although there is much slippage among these terms, many reform-minded Muslim intellectuals in colonial India used the terms ‘Islamic law’, ‘sharia’, and ‘Anglo-Muhammadan law’ synonymously. I use the term ‘Anglo-Muhammadan law’ to indicate Islamic law as enumerated and codified in British India where both the colonial state and colonial subjects conflated Muhammadan law with Islamic law/sharia. Anglo-Muhammadan law or Muhammadan law, as it developed historically in colonial India, privileged a textual approach towards Islamic law and overlooked the diversity of Islamic legal thought and practice. Assuming that classical Islamic texts reflected a law code that was applicable to all Muslims equally, British jurists selected some classical Hanafi legal texts and derived their version of ‘Islamic law’ by interpreting, translating, and publishing them as legal digests and textbooks. These included works by William H. Macnaghten, Neil B. E. Baillie, Roland Knyvet Wilson, Dinshah Fardunji Mulla, and Syed Ameer Ali. For an insightful reading of how the colonial state homogenized and simplified Islamic law for administrative certainty, see Scott Alan Kugle, ‘Framed, Blamed and Renamed: The Recasting of Islamic Jurisprudence in Colonial South Asia’, Modern Asian Studies 35, no. 2 (2001); Michael Anderson, ‘Islamic Law and the Colonial Encounter in British India’, in Institutions and Ideologies: A SOAS South Asia Reader, (eds) David Arnold and Peter Robb (London: Curzon Press, 1993).

32 Imran Ali, The Punjab under Imperialism, 1885–1947 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); Gilmartin, ‘Kinship, Women, and Politics’; Gilmartin, Empire and Islam; Jalal, Self and Sovereignty; Talbot, Provincial Politics.

33 Rajit K. Mazumder, The Making of Punjab: Colonial Power, the Indian Army and Recruited Peasants, 1849–1939 (London: SOAS University of London, 2001); Tai Yong Tan, The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab 1849–1947 (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005).

34 Newal Osman, ‘Dancing with the Enemy: Sikander Hayat Khan, Jinnah and the Vexed Question of “Pakistan” in a Punjabi Unionist Context’, in Muslims against the Muslim League: Critiques of the Idea of Pakistan, (eds) Ali Usman Qasmi and Megan Eaton Robb (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

35 The Legislative Assembly Debates (Official Report) (Delhi: Government of India, 1937), Vol. III, pp. 2528–2544 and Vol. V, pp. 1426–1447, 1819–1865. Also see Julia Stephens, Governing Islam: Law, Empire, and Secularism in South Asia (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 167–172.

36 Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan: All-India Muslim League Documents: 1906–1947, Vol. II (Karachi: National Publishing House, 1970), pp. 340–344.

37 Sikander Hayat Khan and Fazlul Huq to Jinnah dated 5 July 1940 and Jinnah to Sikander Hayat Khan and Fazlul Huq dated 11 July 1940, IOR NEG 10768/10: 1940–41, File No. 97, pp. 3–10. Also see Osman, ‘Dancing with the Enemy’.

38 Qasmi and Robb, Muslims against the Muslim League.

39 The Tribune, 21 March 1944, p. 8.

40 David Gilmartin, ‘A Magnificent Gift: Muslim Nationalism and the Election Process in Colonial Punjab’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 40, no. 3 (1998); D. Gilmartin, ‘Muslim League Appeals to the Voters of Punjab for Support of Pakistan’, in Islam in South Asia in Practice, (ed.) Barbara Metcalf (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

41 Although Baghbanpura was a village located a few miles east of Lahore's walled city during much of her childhood and youth, it had become a suburb of a rapidly expanding Lahore City by the time of her death. The Mians were hereditary custodians of Lahore's famous Shalimar Gardens, built on the family's ancestral land by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The family was awarded two revenue-free villages in Baghbanpura and the hereditary custodianship of the Gardens in return for Ishaqpur, their ancestral village. This award was reaffirmed by post-Mughal Sikh and British sovereigns in the region. Syad Muhammad Latif, Lahore: Its History, Architectural Remains and Antiquities, with an Account of Its Modern Institutions, Inhabitants, Their Trade, Customs & C. (Lahore: New Imperial Press, 1892), pp. 344–345. Also see Begum Jahanara Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter: A Political Autobiography (Lahore: Nigarishat, 1971), p. 1. For an analytical look at Muslim women's autobiographical voices in South Asia, see Anshu Malhotra and Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (eds), Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015).

42 Her maternal and paternal grandfathers, Mian Nizam al-Din and Mian Din Muhammad respectively, were brothers and well-known landholders in the area. Mian Nizam al-Din also worked as a district judge for many years. Shafi completed primary education in Baghbanpura, attended Rang Mahal Mission High School and Forman Christian College in Lahore, and was called to the Bar from Middle Temple in 1892, earning a specialization in constitutional law. Nizam al-Din's eldest son Mian Zahur al-Din was the first Mian man to study law in England and establish a legal practice in Dera Ismail Khan. Shah Din graduated from Government College Lahore in 1887 and was called to the Bar from Middle Temple in 1890. The next generation of Mian men followed in the footsteps of their fathers and uncles. Zahur al-Din's son Muhammad Shah Nawaz and Shah Din's son Bashir Ahmad both studied law in England, with the latter, after attending Government College Lahore, being called to the Bar from Middle Temple in 1914. See Bashir Ahmad, Justice Shah Din: His Life and Writings (Lahore, 1962), pp. 16–20, and Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 2–5. Also see Renu Paul and Mitra Sharafi, ‘South Asians at the Inns of Court, Middle Temple, 1863–1944’, available at, [accessed 11 February 2021].

43 While Nizam al-Din was one of the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam's founders, Shafi and Shah Din remained active members, contributing their time and money to it. In addition, Shah Din presided over the Muhammadan Educational Conference's annual sessions in 1894 and 1913, and Shafi served in the same position in 1916. Shah Din's wife, Zeb al-Nisa, presided over the AIMLC's annual session in 1915, while Amir al-Nisa, Shafi's wife, did the same in 1920. Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 7–8, 24–25, 49–50; All-India Muslim Educational Conference and Anvar Ahmad Zubairi, Khutbat-I ‘Aliyah: Ya‘Ni, Al Indiya Muslim Ejukeshnal Kanfarans, ‘Aligarh Ke Cahal Salah Khutbat Ka Majmu‘Ah, Vol. 2 (Aligarh: Muslim Yunivarsiti, 1927). Also see Nafis Dulhan, Riport Ijlas Haftam Al Indiya Muslim Lediz Kanfarans (Hyderabad, Deccan, 1920), pp. 2–20, and Nafis Dulhan, Riport Mutalliq Ijlas Dom Al Indiya Muslim Lediz Kanfarans (Aligarh: Aligarh Institute Press, 1915).

44 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 23–24, 65–66.

45 Shafi had helped to establish Queen Mary's School, later renamed Queen Mary's College, in Lahore in 1908. Ibid., pp. 8–9, 23–24, 33, 59–60, 66, 91–92. Also see Gail Minault, ‘Coming Out: Decisions to Leave Purdah’, India International Centre Quarterly 23, no. 3/4 (Winter 1996).

46 See debate held on 7 December 1925 in Index to Debates of the Punjab Legislative Council Official Report (Lahore: Government Printing, 1926), pp. 1505–1507.

47 Memorial to Lord Minto dated 1 October 1906, IOR NEG OR MIC 14143.

48 Shafi's obituary in The Times (London), 8 January 1932, p. 9. Also see Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan, Vol. II, pp. 107–138 and Mian Muhammad Shafi, Some Important Indian Problems (Lahore: Model Electric Press, 1930).

49 The Eastern Times (Lahore), 24 February 1946, pp. 2–3.

50 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, p. 13.

51 Ibid., pp. 14–15. Shah Nawaz's uncle Mian Shah Din exhorted the women of his family to ‘Become worthy daughters of today and develop into women who could be the leaders of tomorrow.’ Such family associations were not entirely uncommon during this time. Women of the Tyabji clan of Bombay also ran a similar ladies’ association within the family during the late 1880s. Siobhan Lambert-Hurley and Sunil Sharma (eds), Atiya's Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 21.


52 Her essay on women's education was published in Tahzib al-Nisvan of November 1906. Her novel, entitled Husn Ara Begum, first serialized in Sharif Bibi, was published by Paisa Akhbar Press in 1915. Husn Ara Begum told the story of a young woman who faced life's obstacles with dignity, and simultaneously devoted herself to social reform and the educational advancement of Muslim women. Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 9, 15, and 41.

53 Minault, ‘Sisterhood or Separatism’, pp. 94–95. Also see Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 42, 49–50.

54 Parda, literally ‘curtain’, is the term used to denote a variety of veiling practices in South Asia. In the nineteenth century, parda usually referred to spatial segregation of genders within the home, with men's quarters (mardana) being spaces of socialization with unrelated males, and women's quarters (zanana) being the space of private domesticity and interaction between women and their near male relatives. For an extensive discussion of the variety and historical evolution of parda practices, see Papanek and Minault (eds), Separate Worlds.

55 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 9, 11, 23–25, 35, 38. Also see Minault, Secluded Scholars, Chapter 3.

56 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 144–146, 159–161.

57 Minault, Secluded Scholars, Chapters 5 and 6.

58 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 92–94.

59 Separate electorates referred to a system of exclusive representation earmarked for Muslims in colonial India's representative bodies. The Government of India introduced this system in the Indian Councils Act of 1909 (Morley-Minto Reforms), shortly after a delegation of Muslim leaders articulated their anxieties to Lord Minto, India's viceroy at the time. These leaders argued that Indian Muslims' political aspirations would remain forever obstructed by India's Hindus, whose demographic majority could keep Muslims out of future representative institutions. To offset the potential electoral impact of a Hindu majority, these leaders demanded a system that could guarantee the entry of Indian Muslims into such institutions. Separate electorates used demographic distribution of Muslims to demarcate some areas as Muslim constituencies from which qualified Muslim voters elected Muslim candidates. Other constituencies—in which neither candidates nor voters were limited by religious identification—were occasionally rendered as ‘non-Muslim' or ‘General’ in colonial records. Although controversial, separate electorates remained in effect until the partition of colonial India in 1947.

60 Minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Special Franchise Committee of the N.C.W.I., the W.I.A., and A.I.W.C. held on the 25th and 26th March 1933, All India Women's Conference Papers (hereafter AIWC Papers), Instalment I, File No. 34, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. Also see Circular letter from Rani Rajwade dated 13 May 1933, AIWC Papers, Instalment I, File No. 37.

61 Minault, Secluded Scholars, p. 297. Also see Sinha, ‘Suffragism and Internationalism’ and Mukherjee, Indian Suffragettes, Chapters 4 and 5.

62 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 135–136.

63 Ibid., p. 154.


64 Ibid., pp. 159–161. Also see Saiyid, Muslim Women of the British Punjab, p. 89.


65 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 164–173. Outer Lahore was an urban Muslim women's constituency.

66 Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan, Vol. II, pp. 318–319.

67 This is evident from Punjab Legislative Assembly debates of the period. See Punjab Legislative Assembly Debates (Lahore: Superintendent, Government Printing) from 1938 to 1944.

68 Ansari, Sarah, ‘Pakistan, Partition and Gender: Fashioning the Shape of Pakistani Womanhood’, International Journal of Punjab Studies 6, no. 1 (1999)Google ScholarPubMed.

69 The Pakistan Times (Lahore), 27 January 1948, p. 1 and 30 January 1948, p. 1. Also see Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 233–234.

70 Ibid., pp. 250–252.


71 A taluqdar is a landholder, sometimes one responsible for revenue collection.

72 Begum Aizaz Rasul belonged to the royal family of Malerkotla on her father's side, and Loharu on her mother's. Begum Ikramullah belonged to the well-known Suhrawardy family of Midnapore and Calcutta in Bengal. Her paternal aunt Khujista Akhtar Banu Suhrawardy was a reformist author and educationist; her cousin Husain Shahid Suhrawardy was premier of Bengal in the mid-1940s and prime minister of Pakistan in 1956–57. One of her daughters, Sarvath, is married to Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Rasul, Begam Aizaz, From Purdah to Parliament (Delhi: Ajanta Books International, 2001)Google Scholar; Ikramullah, Shaista Suhrawardy, From Purdah to Parliament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)Google Scholar.

73 The constituencies of each member were listed in the Punjab Legislative Assembly Debates at the beginning of each session and alongside each member's name when they made a speech on the Assembly floor. See, for example, Punjab Legislative Assembly Debates for 1941.

74 This is evident from the images of League's women leaders included in Husain's autobiography. See Husain, Salma Tasadduq, Azadi Ka Safar: Tehrik-I-Pakistan Aur Muslim Khawateen (Lahore: Pakistan Study Center, Punjab University, 1987)Google Scholar.

75 Marguerite B. Walter, ‘The All India Moslem Ladies Conference’, The Moslem World 9, no. 2 (July 1919), pp. 169–175, doi: Also see Minault, ‘Sisterhood or Separatism’, pp. 94–95, and Alam, Asiya, ‘Polygyny, Family and Sharafat: Discourses amongst North Indian Muslims, circa 1870–1918’, Modern Asian Studies 45, no. 3 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

76 Dulhan, Riport Ijlas Haftam, p. 90. All translations from Urdu are mine, unless otherwise indicated.

77 Ibid., p. 92. Shah Nawaz's speech is on pp. 87–94.


78 Ibid., p. 93.


79 Mary Hancock, ‘Gendering the Modern: Women and Home Science in British India’, in Gender, Sexualilty and Colonial Modernities, (ed.) Antoinette Burton (Florence, KY: Routledge, 1999). Shah Nawaz herself experienced such formal instruction as a student at Lahore's Queen Mary's College.

80 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 170–171.

81 Ibid., pp. 159–160.


82 Everett, ‘“All the Women Were Hindu and All the Muslims Were Men”’, pp. 2073–2074.

83 Jahanara Shah Nawaz to Rani Rajwade dated 3 March 1933, AIWC Papers, Instalment I, File No. 37. In emphasizing the need for an independent women's sphere of politics that encompassed all Indian women, regardless of caste or religion, Shah Nawaz echoed a sentiment often articulated by the AIWC during the 1920s and 1930s. See ibid., p. 2073.

84 This suspicion of male politicians, especially when it came to representing women's needs, was typical in the Indian women's movement, many of whose leaders campaigned for increased representation of women in the administration. See Forbes, Women in Modern India. Also see discussion on the Primary Education Bill in Punjab Legislative Assembly Debates, 8 January 1940 Official Report. (Lahore: Government Printing, 1940), pp. 115–118; and the discussion on nominations to district boards in Punjab Legislative Assembly Debates, 23 February 1945 Official Report (Lahore: Government Printing, 1945), pp. 184–185; Rohit De, A People's Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), p. 179.

85 The Tribune, 11 September 1941, p. 1. Also see The Hindustan Times, 11 September 1941, p. 7.

86 The Hindustan Times, 11 September 1941, p. 7.

87 The Tribune, 11 September 1941, p. 1.

88 Douglas M. Peers, ‘The Martial Races and the Indian Army in the Victorian Era’, in A Military History of India and South Asia, (eds) Daniel P. Marston and Chandar S. Sundaram (Connecticut, London: Praeger Security International, 2007). As is well-established in scholarship on the British Indian Army, the Second World War proved to be a moment when the wartime need for men overpowered the Government of India's long-standing notions about the martial superiority of some Indian communities over others. This development led to an unprecedented expansion of military recruitment in India, most notably in Punjab where predominantly Sikh and Muslim men of various castes joined the army.

89 Gilmartin, ‘Kinship, Women, and Politics’.

90 The Tribune, 11 September 1941.

91 Dulhan, Riport Mutalliq, pp. 74–75. Similar lamentations about Punjabi Muslims proclaiming their adherence to custom appeared during discussions on the Shariat Application Act of 1937. See The Legislative Assembly Debates (Official Report), Vol. III, pp. 2528–2544.

92 The Tribune, 13 September 1941, p. 1, and The Hindustan Times, 13 September 1941, pp. 1 and 5. Jinnah's statement of 12 September 1941 is also in IOR NEG 10768/10, File no. 97 and in Ahmad, The Nation's Voice, pp. 295–298.

93 The Tribune, 13 September 1941, p. 1. Also reproduced in ibid., p. 297.

94 Ibid., p. 295.


95 This is evident from the disproportionate amount of coverage given to the exchanges between League leaders and Muslim premiers in the contemporary English-language press. Shah Nawaz received greater attention from the press only after it became evident that the League's disciplinary impulse would be directed towards her. See coverage of the controversy in The Tribune, The Times of India, and The Hindustan Times of August and September 1941.

96 Resolution passed by the All India Muslim League's Women's Sub-Committee at a meeting held in Lucknow on 30 November 1941, IOR NEG 10814/3, File No. 1099, p. 331. Sent as attachment in a letter from Begum Aizaz Rasul to Jinnah dated 1 December 1941, IOR NEG 10812, File No. 1092, pp. 145–146. Begum Aizaz Rasul was the secretary of the Women's Sub-Committee when this resolution was passed.

97 Begum Shah Nawaz to Jinnah dated 6 October 1945 as reproduced in Ahmad, Waheed (ed.), Quaid-I-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah: The Punjab Story, 1940–47: The Muslim League and the Unionists Towards Partition and Pakistan (Islamabad: National Documentation Wing, Government of Pakistan, 2009), p. 389Google Scholar.

98 Viquar al-Nisa Noon to Jinnah dated 18 October 1945, Punjab Papers, Shamsul Hasan Collection, Vol. IV, Center for Historical Studies Library, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

99 The Eastern Times, 8 January 1946, p. 1.

100 While speculating about Shah Nawaz's personal motivations can be a fascinating exercise, discerning the reasons why she stayed on the NDC, or offering a biographical or psychological explanation of her decision, are not central concerns of this article. Ascertaining her motivations is, although interesting, ultimately of limited analytical use because historians can only speculate about such things at this distance from the historical past. Instead, I narrate a familial, social, and ideological biography of Begum Shah Nawaz in order to historicize her political choices and reveal the ways in which her disagreement with Jinnah shaped League politics. That said, it is possible that her family's circumstances may have been a factor in her decision. In the early 1940s, her natal family was still recovering from the heavy debt in which her father Mian Muhammad Shafi had left them upon his sudden death in 1932. Soon after, Begum Amir al-nisa Shafi, as the widow of a former member of the Viceroy's Executive Council, secured a loan from the Government of India to repay some of that debt and defray the expenses of her younger son's education in England. The Government accepted the family's houses in Lahore and Shimla, and their land in canal colonies of Montgomery District, as collateral for this loan. In the early 1940s, although Shah Nawaz had inherited some property from her husband after his death in 1939, the family's financial situation may not have been completely secure. It is possible that financial constraints may have been another factor in her acceptance of the NDC position, which came with a secure salary. All this, however, is my speculation. For official discussion and records on Begum Shafi's loan, see the following: Home Department files at the National Archives of India: File no. 233/33—Pub; File no. 206/33—Pub—1933; File no. 257/32—Pub—1932; File no. F. 61/32—Pub—32. Also see Collection 313/14 for discussion of Begum Shafi's eligibility for a loan in the Secretary of State's office, IOR L/F/7/1601: 1932

101 Shah Nawaz, Father and Daughter, pp. 174–175.

102 The Tribune, 22 July 1941, p. 1.

103 See coverage in The Tribune, 28 and 29 August 1941.

104 Punjab Legislative Assembly Debates, 21 February 1941 Official Report (Lahore: Government Printing, 1941), pp. 1030–1031.

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Whom can a Muslim Woman Represent? Begum Jahanara Shah Nawaz and the politics of party building in late colonial India
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