Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah


Shaista Ikramullah
شائستہ اکرام الله
Begum Shaista Suhrawardy.jpg
Begum Shaista Ikramullah
Member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan
In office
10 August 1947 – 24 October 1954
Constituency East Bengal
Personal details
Born (1915-07-22)22 July 1915
Calcutta, British India
(now in West Bengal, India)
Died 11 December 2000(2000-12-11) (aged 85)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Spouse(s) Mohammed Ikramullah
Children Inam Ikramullah
Naz Ikramullah
Salma Ikramullah
Sarvath Ikramullah
Alma mater University of Calcutta (B.A)
SOAS, University of London (Ph.D)
Occupation Politician, Diplomat, Writer

Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah (22 July 1915 – 11 December 2000) was a Pakistani politician from Bengal, diplomat and author.[1] She was the first Muslim woman to earn a PhD from the University of London.[2] She was Pakistan's ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967, and was also a delegate to the United Nations.[1]

Family and education

Ikramullah was born as Shaista Akhtar Banu Suhrawardy . Her mother was Nawab Abdul Latif's granddaughter, and her father was Hassan Suhrawardy.[1]

She studied at Loreto College, Kolkata.[3] She was also the first Muslim woman to earn a PhD from the University of London.[2] Her doctorate thesis, "Development of the Urdu Novel and Short Story", was a critical survey of Urdu literature.[4]

Marriage and children

She married Mohammed Ikramullah in 1933.[5] They had four children:[6]

Political career

After she was married, she was one of the first Indian Muslim women in her generation to leave purdah.[1] Muhammad Ali Jinnah inspired her to be involved in politics.[1] She was a leader in the Muslim Women Student's Federation and the All-India Muslim League's Women's Sub-Committee.[1]

In 1945, she was asked by the Government of India to attend the Pacific Relations Conference. Jinnah convinced her not to accept the offer, as he wanted her to go as the representative of the Muslim League and to speak on its behalf.

She was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946, but never took the seat, as Muslim League politicians did not.[7][1]

She was one of two female representatives at the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947.[4]

She was also a delegate to the United Nations, and worked on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Convention Against Genocide (1951).[1][7][3][8]

She was Pakistan's Ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967.[4]


She wrote for Tehzeeb-e-Niswan and Ismat, both Urdu women's magazines, and later wrote for English-language newspapers.[1] In 1950 her collection of short stories, called Koshish-e-Natamaam, was published.[9] In 1951 her book Letters to Neena was published; it is a collection of ten open letters supposedly written to Indians, who are personified as a woman called Neena.[10] The real Neena was one of her in-laws.[10] After the Partition of India, she wrote about Islam for the government, and those essays were eventually published as Beyond the Veil (1953).[1] Her autobiography, From Purdah to Parliament (1963), is her best-known writing; she translated it into Urdu to make it more accessible.[1][11] In 1991 her book Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography, about her uncle, was published.[11] She also was one of the eight writers of the book Common Heritage (1997), about India and Pakistan.[12] In her last days, she completed an English translation of Mirat ul Uroos and an Urdu volume on Kahavat aur Mahavray. In 2005 her collection of women's sayings and idioms in Urdu, called Dilli ki khavatin ki kahavatain aur muhavare, was posthumously published.[1] She also wrote Safarnama, in Urdu.[11]


She died on 11 December 2000, in Karachi, at age 85.[3]

Awards and recognition

In 2002, President of Pakistan posthumously gave her the highest civil award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Order of Excellence) award.[13][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bonnie G. Smith (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford University Press. pp. 528–. ISBN 978-0-19-514890-9.
  2. ^ a b Muneeza Shamsie (11 July 2015). And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women. Feminist Press at CUNY. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-55861-931-9.
  3. ^ a b c d "NCRI Women's Committee - Women in History - 22 July". 28 July 2018. Archived from the original on 14 February 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Begum Shaista Ikramullah website, Retrieved 8 April 2019
  5. ^ Nayantara Pothen (30 January 2012). Glittering Decades: New Delhi in Love and War. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 218–. ISBN 978-81-8475-601-2.
  6. ^ Muhammad Ikramullah (3 February 2006). "Doc Kazi's collection by Muhammad Ikramullah". The Friday Times. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b Rachel Fell McDermott; Leonard A. Gordon; Ainslie T. Embree; Frances W. Pritchett; Dennis Dalton, eds. (15 April 2014). Sources of Indian Traditions: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Columbia University Press. pp. 574–. ISBN 978-0-231-51092-9.
  8. ^ Status of the Convention Archived 24 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Hussein, Aamer (29 December 2013). "COLUMN: Forgotten literary past". Dawn. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b M. Reza Pirbhai (27 May 2017). Fatima Jinnah. Cambridge University Press. pp. 143–. ISBN 978-1-107-19276-8.
  11. ^ a b c "Begum Shaista Ikramullah - Former First Female Representative of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan". 21 October 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  12. ^ Ṣiddīqī, Muḥammad ʻAlī; Ikramullah, Shaista Suhrawardy (13 February 1997). Common Heritage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195778083.
  13. ^ President gives away civil, military awards Dawn (newspaper), Published 24 March 2002, Retrieved 9 April 2019

External links