The history of Indo-Pak sub-continent witnessed courageous women whose strength and will power made them role model for the Muslim women of 20th century. Without mentioning their contributions, portrayal of freedom movement is incomplete. Their active participation in pre-independence politics spread the freedom movement of Pakistan throughout the sub-continent.
One such marvellous woman was Amjadi Bano Begum, widow of Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar. Amjadi Begum belonged to a prominent family of Rampur. She was the daughter of Azmat Ali Khan who was an eminent officer in the state of Indore. A historian writes, "She lost her father during her childhood and was brought up by her grandmother. In the absence of suitable institutions for the education of Muslim girls at that time, she was educated at home.
In 1902, she was married to Maulana Muhammad Ali. She was fortunate in having in her husband a passionate lover of his country and a great Muslim leader." This outstanding woman of her times always remembered as the first Muslim political leader of British India. She started her political career at that time when Muslim women of sub-continent were restricted to their homes and their main apprehension was to take care of their household and children. She was the first Muslim woman to break the barriers and joined her husband and mother-in-law to support the Khilafat Movement in first decade of twentieth century.
She was greatly inspired by Maulana Johar's philosophical and political principles. She went along with the Maulana in every journey, meeting and other activities. She accompanied her husband during his tour to London to attend Round Table Conference in 1930. She did not discontinue her mission and struggle even after the sad demise of her husband.
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah understood the importance of women's participation in politics. He once said "No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live."
Quaid had great admiration for Amjadi Bano Begum. Quaid realised that women like Amjadi Bano Begum could bring consciousness to Muslim women. She proved her abilities by hard work promoted political consciousness amongst Muslim women and brought them under the League banner. She herself was a leading representative of the UP's Muslim women during the freedom movement.
Keeping in mind abilities of Amjadi Bano Begum, Quaid appointed her as a member of working committee of Pakistan Muslim league. She had pride of being the only woman among 25 members of working committee. All-India Muslim League's Twenty Seventh annual session held at Lahore, from 22nd to 24th March 1940. The resolution drafted by the AIML's First Working Committee, then presented, and unanimously approved at the general public session on 23rd March. Being a member of the committee, she attended meeting and participated in the drafting of the historic resolution of Pakistan.
Earlier, during the annual session of the All-India Muslim League held at Lucknow, she formed a separate section of the Muslim women to work under the All-India Muslim League. This was just a beginning of women's participation in politics. It was in 1938 that the All-India Muslim League organised a women's central sub-committee and presided over the first annual session of the women's central sub-committee in 1940.
A Turkish woman Halide Edib visited India after the death of Molana Mohammad Ali. She found her very significant. She writes "The intermediary between me and purdah club was Begum Mohammad Ali. She has remained true to her husband's teachings and as definite, a character as one may meet anywhere. To me she was the type of those Turkish women of twenty-eight years ago who threw themselves into the service of their country, especially in the social side. She will not be hustled. She wants change but in her own good timer. If Muslim women want to do things they must do it without leaving Purdah. She herself mixed with men, though she kept her veil, which is that of Turkish women of 1908 of middle class."
She adds, "In the lecture hall of the Jamia, there were two types of women audience: one who sat on the same side with men and second, those who sat behind the stretched curtain. She sat alone on the platform at the backward. She is neither with those who has surmounted the barriers nor with those who remained where they are. I think her seat at the lectures was symptomatic of her attitude.
She motivated many Muslim women of prominent families to participate in political activities. One such woman was Noor-us-Sabah Begum who belonged to Sherpur family. It is said that Noor-us-Sabah Begum joined the Khilafat Movement with her husband's support and changed her lifestyle inspired from the personality of Amjadi Bano Begum. It was the motivation of Amjadi Begum which gave Noor-us-Sabah Begum courage to spread freedom movement's message to common women of Old Delhi.
Amjadi Begum died on 28 March 1947. On her death, Quaid-i-Azam declared that her death was undoubtedly a great loss for the nation in particular and the Muslim women in general. The great contribution of this brave lady should be brought to the knowledge of our present generation.