Maulvi Mumtaz Ali –A Nineteenth Century Advocate of Women’s Rights
Asghar Ali Engineer
It is generally thought that movement for women’s rights began with western educated people and in 19th century. But very few people know about Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan, a traditional ‘alim, product of Darul ‘Uloom Deoband who was very enthusiastic supporters of gender equality. There are two things to be noted here: one, he was a traditional ‘alim and was not under the influence of western thought and two, he was advocating gender equality purely on the basis of Islamic traditional sources i.e. Qur’an and hadith.
The Maulavi was enthusiastic supporter of women’s rights and was one of the colleagues of Sir Syed. However, Sir Syed had lot of troubles on his hand due to his campaign for a modern educational institution for north Indian Muslims. He was facing stiff resistance from orthodox ‘ulama and did not want more trouble and so he advised Mumtaz Ali Khan not to publish his book Huququn Niswan the manuscript of which he showed to the Syed. However, the Maulavi was very enthusiastic about women’s rights and wanted to educate Muslim men and women and went ahead with its publication.
Huququn Niswan, I dare say without any exaggeration, is like charter of rights for Muslim women. Mumtaz Ali Khan proves from Qur’an through his interpretations of relevant Qur’anic verses that men and women have equal rights and that women have no authority over women, as believed by Muslim men. This book, because of its advocacy of women’s rights, soon went into oblivion and was not available.