Abadi Bano Begum: First Muslim woman to address a political gathering wearing a burqa

Not only was Abadi Bano Begum one of the first Muslim women to participate in politics actively, she was also a revolutionary who had a strong desire to see her country free from the British rule

Abadi Bano Begum, who was popularly known as ‘Bi Amma‘ was one of the prominent voices of the freedom struggle in the Indian sub-continent. Not only was she one of the first Muslim women to participate in politics actively, she was also a revolutionary who had a strong desire to see her country free from the British rule.

Early Life
Bi Amma was born in 1850 in an ardent nationalist family in Uttar Pradesh whose family members suffered great losses during the revolt of 1857. She was married to Abdul Ali Khan, who was a senior official in Rampur state. Bi Amma had one daughter and five sons including Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar who were popularly known as the Ali brothers.


Advocate of education
Abadi Bano Begum was a progressive thinker. Even though she never received any formal education, she believed deeply in the advantageous effect of acquiring modern education. She sold off her jewellery and property to educate her sons at the Aligarh Muslim University and the Oxford University.

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Raising freedom fighters in her sons
Bi Amma was widowed at a young age. She raised her sons with utmost sincerity instilling the value of nationalism in them. Her son Maulana Muhammad Ali was a prolific English and Urdu writer and one of the founding members of the All India Muslim League. Both Muhammad Ali and his brother Shaukat Ali were among the prominent figures of the Khilafat Movement.

Role in the Indian freedom struggle
Her son joined the freedom movement and was put behind bars for his activities. While her son was in jail, she toured the country addressing the people in large numbers inspiring them to participate in the freedom struggle. All her life, she believed in strict purdah. Even when she spoke to the country on behalf of her jailed son in 1917, she remained behind her burqa. It was in fact, the first time that a Muslim woman addressed a political gathering wearing a burqa. She also took part in the Khilafat movement and Freedom movement encouraging women to join the cause. As a result of her tireless efforts, the entire nation was echoing the lyrics:

“Boleen Amman Muhammad Ali Kee
Jaan Baita Khilafat Pai Daido”.

She passed away soon after the end of the Khilafat movement on November 13, 1924.

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom. This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com

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