Maritta Schleyer, MPI Berlin
Gendered emotional styles and female agency in Khwaja Hasan Nizami's writing
Khwaja Hasan Nizami (1878-1955), an enigmatic Sufi master, a prolific Urdu author and a controversial Muslim activist in early twentieth century Delhi, addressed in several of his published magazines and books a specific female audience. Most of these works were dedicated to the cause of female education and social reform and reflected on the role of Indian Muslim women in the spheres of religion, the community and the nation. Unlike other social reformists’ writings of colonial India which mainly catered to the new Muslim middle class, these publications appeal to females of all sections of society, from illiterate beggars and dancing girls to members of the rich upper class.
The proposed paper looks at Nizami’s Sufi vision of the Indian Muslim woman and of possible female agency as laid out in selected of these writings. It traces the specific perspective from which the author attempted to empower women and increase their autonomy and equality in the fields of every day social life, religious practice and politics questioning the binary paradigm of modern and traditional female agencies.
By identifying the emotional styles which Hasan Nizami suggests for women in their various expanding domains and by comparing them to the sets of emotions Nizami offered for the national and the religious community the paper aims to demonstrate ways in which Khwaja Sahib tried to mould the female Indian citizen and the “modern” Muslim woman. It further exemplifies changes of gendered social spheres through the merging of gendered sets of emotions.
One focus of the paper will be the shifts of female emotional spaces in the course of Nizami’s writings which aimed to promote the position of the Muslim community within society. In the context of the tabligh movement which Nizami launched in the 1920s as a reaction to the shuddhi activities of the Arya Samaj, women were a central target of his efforts to win over active tablighi workers to carry out the missionary work on the ground. Here he clearly envisioned an increased social responsibility of women as political activists bound to save the religious community. Besides, these publications point to a shift from a high value of feelings which were connoted as mainly female, Sufi, and old ashraf, in the context of an inclusive Indian nation, to a high esteem of sentiments connoted within other emotional landscapes, obviously serving the community in a better way within a changed political context.