Women’s College of Aligarh Muslim University

Aligarh Movement: Struggle for Women’s Education and establishment of Women’s College

By Afzal Usmani

After establishing the MAO College at Aligarh, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his associates in Aligarh Movement started to realize the need for women’s education. In 1896, the annual executive session of Muslim Educational Conference was held in Aligarh and a proposal to start a women education section in Muslim Educational Conference was accepted and Justice Karamat Hussain was appointed as its Founding Secretary. Nawab Mohsinul Mulk, Sahabzada Aftab Ahmad Khan, Janab Sultan Ahmad and Haji Ismail Khan were asked to assist Justice Karamat Hussain.

In the annual session of Muslim Educational Conference of 1898 in Lahore, a separate department of women’s education was established and Sahabzada Aftab Ahmad Khan was elected its Secretary. This started a wrath from the conservative Muslims but a dedicated team of Janab Ummid Ali, Ghulam-us-Saqlain and Haji Ismail Khan wrote several letters and article in Aligarh Institute Gazette and other reputed journals to defend the decision of Muslim Educational Conference to start a women’s educational movement. Justice Amir Ali presided over the annual session of MEC in 1899 at Calcutta and the idea to start girl’s schools is all of the state capital was accepted. It was also agreed that the Ulema will be consulted to develop the curriculum of the schools and the modern subjects of Science and Social Science will also be included the syllabus. In the session of December 1902 in Delhi under the leadership of H.H. Sir Agha Khan, young Shaikh Abdullah was appointed as Secretary to look into the women’s educational project and was asked to start the activities very aggressively.

Shaikh Abdullah’s leadership shaped the women’s educational movement and played a very important role for the future of women’s education in India. Young Shaikh Abdullah and his team started writing articles in favor of women’s education in different journals. A special issue of “Aligarh Monthly” in November 1903 was published on women, entitled “Hum aur hamari khawateen”. Articles related to women’s education and their problems were written by, Syed Ghulam Neerang, Syed Sajjad Haider Yaldaram, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulvi Muhammad Akhtar. To further promote the cause of women’s education, in 1904, Shaikh Abdullah published a journal “Khatoon” from Aligarh which enabled the foundation of “Female Education Association”. The journal was continuously published till 1914 and the articles of Nawab Mohsinul Mulk, Mualvi Zakaullah Khan, Justice Karamat Hussain, Shaikh Abdul Qadir, Syed Ahmad Dehlavi, Maulana Aslam Jairajpuri, Muhammadi begum, Nazar Sajjad, Nafees Dulhan (wife of Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani), Z.K.S. (daughter of Nawab Muzammilullah Khan) and Sughra Humayun Mirza were regularly published to this journals. In the annual session of 1905 at Aligarh, Begum Zahra Faizi (Murood-Janjeerah Bombay) lead the women education section and with the help of President of the session, Khalifa Muhhamad Hussain, Minister, State of Patialah, a resolution to start girls school under the Islamic tradition of ‘purdah’ and with modern science and sports activities were approved. This was the idea of Shaikh Abdullah which he had spread among the supporters of women’s education.

Founders Shaikh Abdullah alias Papa Mian and Begum Waheed Jahan alias Aala Bi

Shaikh Abdullah led a delegation to Lt. Governor of United Province and also wrote a proposal to promote women’s education to Begum Sultan Jahan, ruler of Bhopal. Begum Sultan Jahan accepted the proposal and One Hundred Rupees per month grant was allocated to Shaikh Abdullah for women’s education. He faced a strong and stiff resistance from the community, but his commitment paid and finally he managed to start a girl’s school with 5 students and one teacher at a rented facility in Aligarh town on 19th October, 1906. His wife Begum Waheed Jahan, alias ‘Aala Bi’ provided him the strongest support. After 3 years, school received more support and popularity so they moved to a bigger rented facility in the area of ‘Bani Israilan’ of Aligarh town.

The building where the school was started in 1906

In 1908, Shaikh Abdullah bought Fourteen Beegha (14 Beegha) of land which was known as “Rai Bag” at that time. Shaikh Abdullah wrote to United Province state government for help the state government allocated Seventeen Thousand Rupees (17000/-Rs) for building of the school and a regular grant of two hundred fifty (250/- Rupees) were allocated for Girls School. On 7th November, 1911, foundation stone for the school building was laid down by H.H. Lady Porter, wife of Lt. Governor of United Province. A building for hostel was also constructed, which was named as “Waheedia Hostel”. The school and hostel buildings were inaugurated on 1st march, 1914 by H.H. Begum Sultan Jahan, ruler of Bhopal. In 1916, foundation stone of another hostel, “Sultania Hostel” was laid down by Begum Sultan Jahan, the ruler of Bhopal. In 1917, for the first time, the girls of this school appeared in Middle School Examination and one of the students, Hanifa Begum secured First Position and a scholarship was awarded to her. In 1919, the first batch of this school appeared in Matriculation examination of UP Board and all of them were successful. Begum Sultan Jahan, the founding Chancellor of newly formed Aligarh Muslim University was Chief Guest in the annual function of 1922 and emphasized the need of women’s education and requested AMU authorities to adopt this school as the role model of women’s education.

In 1929, the school became Intermediate College and in 1930, during the Vice-Chancellorship of Sir Ross Masood, Dr. Ziauddin Ahmad made a recommendation and girl’s college became women’s college under the affiliation of Aligarh Muslim University and till date is an integral part of Aligarh Muslim University. In 1932, Begum Khatun Jahan, daughter of Shaikh Abdullah, who had just returned from England after completing her M.A. in Education from Ladies University, was appointed as Principal of Women’s College. In 1935, graduation course of B.A. was introduced in the college. UP Government helped to establish new hostels and Science laboratories. In 1937, Shaikh Abdullah’s another daughter Mumtaz Jahan was appointed as Principal and she served for more than 30 years as Principal of women’s college.

Mumtaz Jahan Haider, Principal 1938 - 70 with Nawab Chattari, Chancellor AMU Aligarh

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad visited Aligarh in 1949 to address the annual Convocation. He paid a visit to women’s college was very much impressed by the progress of women’s college and announced an annual grant of Nine hundred thousand rupees (Rs. 900,000/-) and assured to get a regular due share from all the grants which the government of India will make to Aligarh Muslim University.

Women’s College provides extensive instructional and residential facilities for girl students. A Career Planning Centre has also been established for counseling and career planning of women students with University Grant Commission’s assistance. Women’s Polytechnic is running several diploma level courses in Electronics and Computer Engineering, Information Technology, Costume Designing, Secretarial Practices etc. These courses are a part of vocationalisation scheme. The University has a Grievance Redressal Cell for matters exclusively relating to the women, part from General Grievance Cell for looking into the complaints of staff and the students. It has a Coaching and Guidance Centre for training and grooming of students, especially for the weaker sections of the society, and for preparing them for various All India Services. Women's College provides undergraduate teaching to women students in the faculty of Arts, Social Science, Science, Life Science, and Commerce.

The college has recently started a post graduate course in Home Science. An Institution with international standard of undergraduate teaching, students of women's college are always front runner. Every year a number of girls are selected in M.B.A., M.C.A., MIBM, MBBS, B.Tech. and other competitive tests of AMU and other institutes of India.

The women’s college campus includes an academic complex of class rooms and seminar rooms, an auditorium, a well equipped library, administrative buildings, and several residential hostels for about 1500 students. A career planning centre for women has been established in the college premises. A wide range of opportunities are available to College students for co-curricular and extra curricular activities. A large number of clubs and societies are run by the students. There are facilities for cultural events, N.C.C., Yoga, Teakwood, Volley Ball, Table Tennis and Basket Ball.At present a total of around 2699 students are enrolled in women's college. There are around 95 faculty members in the college. The following subjects are taught in women's college campus: English, Urdu,. Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Linguistics, Fine Art (Faculty of Arts), History, Economics, Education, Political Science, Islamic Studies. Sociology (Faculty of Social Sciences), Botany, Zoology, Biochemistry, (Faculty of Life Sciences), Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Geology, Geography (Faculty of Science), Home Science (Faculty of Agriculture), Theology (Faculty of Theology) and Physical Education. Prof. Bilquis N. Waris is the Principal of the college since 2008.

The following people have served as Women’s College Principals; Mrs. Mumtaz Jahan Haider Mrs. Khatoon Jahan(1931-38), (1938-70), Dr. Razia Khan (1970-83), Prof. Miss A. Thomas (1983-87), Prof. Zakia A. Siddiqi (1987-96), Prof. Shan Mohammad (Actg-1996-97), Prof Shaista Bano (Actg-1997-2000), Prof. Amina Kishore (2000-07) and Prof. Arunima Lal (Actg -2007-08).

From the very beginning, the women’s college alumni were at par with their fellow University alumni in all fields whether education, sports and live traditions of Aligarh Muslim University. The residential life in women’s college hostels and their activities are still remembered by their alumni and that mesmerized them even after many years of their departure from the college. They often share the nostalgic moments and events in their gatherings. The traditional introductions in the college campus for the fresher’s and on Saturday night in hostels have similar stories as of their counter part in the Muslim University campus. They are not far behind in allocation of Honorary Titles and nicknames to the fellow alumni and their teachers. Teasing fellow male visiting University students in women’s college campus is one of their favorite games. While we were participating in the annual literary and cultural activities of Abdullah Hall in women’s college campus, our fellow women’s college alumni punctured our bicycles and we were forced to walk from women’s college to our hostel on our way back. They even did not spare their male teachers too. I came to know from my elders who had served as faculty in women’s college, had to walk to their residence quite often.

There is a long list of prominent alumni who graduated from Women’s College and made a reputation in their respective walk of life. Begum Khatun Jahan, Mrs. Mumtaz Jahan Haider, Khursheed Jahan and Birjis Jahan (daughters of Shaikh Abdullah, Papa Mian) were among the early alumni of this college. Later the ranks were joined by literary giants like Ismat Chugtai and Dr. Salma Siddiqi, a prolific fiction writer, biographical sketcher and daughter of Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi, famous painting artist based in United States of America, Zarina Hashm, Nayyar Sultana, a well know actress of Pakistan and well known Hindi and Sanskrit writer, Mrs. Kusum Ansal. Begum Abida Ahmad, wife of President of India, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, Mrs. Salma Ansari, wife of present Vice-president of India, Mr. Hamid Ansari also belongs to the same fraternity. Dr. Qudsia Tahseen, first female of Aligarh Muslim University to become a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore is a proud alumni of Women’s College of Aligarh Muslim University.


Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad and Begum Abida Ahmad Arriving at Aligarh

Women's college at AMU

AMU Girls' High School

Centennial Celebration in 2006

Centennial Celebration in 2006

Prof. Zakia A. Siddiqi (Left), Principal (1987-96), receiving guests of centennial celebration in Feb 2007

Kusum Ansal inaugurating the centennial issue of Women's College Magazine "Emergence of the new Women" at the centennial celebration in Feb 2007

Prof. Miss A. Thomas (Principal - 1983-87) receiving H.H. Giani Zail Singh, President of India at Aligarh during his visit to attend annual convention of AMU

[Photos courtesy of Rahat Abrar]




Dear Afzal Sb.

Dear Afzal Sb. Congratulations for such a well researched and well written article on the history of Women’s College. I have always wondered and still not sure, so I would like to take this opportunity to ask you. Is Shaikh Abdullah alias Papa Mian the same Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir? probably not! but are they related somehow?
It would also be nice to have something about Papa Mian himself from you in future if possible. We definitely need more articles like this to educate ourselves about our past.

Thanks and Regards,
Shariq M. Usmani

Shaikh Abdullah and Shaikh Abdulla(Papa Mian)

Dear Shariq Usmani sahab,
Thanks for the nice comment.
This is for sure that these two Shaikh Abdullah are different persons.
To the best of my knowledge, these 2 are not at all related each other.
Shaikh Abdullah Papa Mian (Founder of Women's College) was a revert (convert muslim) and moved to Aligarh during his youth and never went back to Kashmir. Spend his whole life in Aligarh and his final resting place is also in Aligarh.

Thanks for the suggestions and my write-up on Shaikh Abdullah Papa Mian is almost complete and Insha-Allah you will see it very soon on TCN.


Afzal Usmani


Excellent article sir. I'm the editor-in-chief of hadi hasan hall for medical undergraduates. Dr Rahat Abrar has been very helpful to our editorial board also in providing such valuable info and historical photos. What an informative webpage, what an eyeopening website!

a good piece by the great

a good piece by the great chronicler of our times "Mr. Afzal Usmani". Hope the College has now all the facilities for its students though a decade or so back it lacked some of the basic facilities. Extreme reverence of parents for their almamater came in the way of issues being raised by their wards.

This Old building used by 1906, I have seen

"""He faced a strong and stiff resistance from the community, but his commitment paid and finally he managed to start a girl’s school with 5 students and one teacher at a rented facility in Aligarh town on 19th October, 1906"""

I am not that old like this buliding, But I have seen and played cricket a lot in this building. But this is now changed into marriage hall.

A nice Historical review

Salam O Alikum,

An impressive article is posted by Dr. Afzal Sb. How the dream of Women education in Muslims transform from theory to practice and Existing college.
In my view just after 100 year we need another movement to empower Muslims of India and aware them about their rights. We shud take collective step to develop our own media to address their problems. We are Humans and from the past activities we design our future.

Allah Hafiz


Dear Afsal sb.A fantistic work... worth appreciating. We are indebted to Papa Mian and Alabi because of whom we are enjoying our educated life. Today i m really mersmerised after seeing my time women's college Principals..Prof A.Thomas n then Prof Zakia .A.Siddiqui..A dignified personalities whom i still admire.Another personality MRS. Amina Kishore wonderfull teacher in whom we saw a passion for her teaching which is in scarcity today.

Sabahat Ahmad
Principal kidzone


Thanks for all the nice comments.


A glorious recollection of

A glorious recollection of history of Women's college.Its worthmentioning.
The building where the school started in 1906 was later bought by mr.Riaz mohammad khan ,now known as Riaz Manzil.

we are waiting for more such articles,a real insightful webpage.

Gr8 work!!

Assalam o Alaikum...
It really feels better and much better any step for A.M.U. dedicated work.
apnacircle allready doing gr8 for muslim of India and community vice versa.

Warm Regards,
Md Qayed Alam

Women's College of Aligarh Muslim University

Dear Dr. Afzal, Thank you so much for this inspiring article. As a Great-granddaughter of this amazing couple Papa Mian and Ala-Bi ( my late grand-mother was their daughter Khurshid Jahan, the only one of their children who migrated to Pakistan in 1947. Known as Begum Khurshid Mirza); I was moved to tears reading about our family history. I am sharing this historical perspective with my children and also feeling heart broken at the state of affairs of Women's education in Pakistan.

As a Psychiatrist living and working in Boston, MA on the Harvard Medical School faculty; I believe the solution to the extremism and radicalization we are dealing with can only be "neutralized" by improving the mental health of the masses and providing education.

I'll be waiting anxiously to read your completed work. Regards, Batool Kazim,MD


dear dr.kaniz batool,i felt affinity for you.i am oldboy of papa mians school.i saw himas a boy there.papa mian was quite old then,older than shown in the picture or it so looked to me then.now i am myself an old man living at karachi. i saw mirza saheb also at karachi.he was my uncle shaukats boss in police.shaukat did his B.A from aligarh university and he was with col.hyder khan in UTC.you indeed belong to good family.it is good you are telling this to your children.Take care--asadkhan

my alma mater

i lived in nearby khurja in 1947.i had not yet started going to school.my two elder sisters zubeda and husna went to JAS high school,khurja.it was boys school.conservative pathans of khurja objected girls going to boys school.amman said ,give us money we will to aligarh.they silenced.it was friday 21st march boys fought with other.it escalated to the whole town.amman said,no way out,let us go to aligarh.we rented portion of a bungalow namedshanti niketan at marris road. miss ram was head mistress.with sisters she also permitted.i joined class1.husna vith class,zubeda ix class.the teachers were ichchan apa,zeenat apa.miss lal.mrs.bhatacharjiraunaq apa.for senior students afzal apa,fatma apa,ghizal apa,safia apa.mumtaz apa was the principal.after some time i went to mint circle.husna passed matric,zubeda inter.we migrated to pakistan.there were some other boys of my age.among girls,rosi,daisy and sabiha were my class mates.in 1949 college magazine published after a gap of many years containing articles written as far back as 1944.i remember nargis apas article tragedy is a nobler form of art.a girl under the books i liked most reviewed little women by louisa alcott and hardys tessof d,urbervilles. i had my first aquaintance with letters at the school. kaniz sibtain and luxmy bhargava were zubedas friends.

twonet circle

two circle net provides good news.although separated our hearts united(all indians regardless of what faith they profess).i wish twonet circle Godspeed.

It feels great to be a part of AMU

Dear All,

It feels so proud to be a part of Aligarh Muslim University. I had learnt everything from this place.

maulana muhammed ali jauhar at aligarh.

Maulana Muhammed Ali Jauhars death anniversary falls on 4th january.the writer is tempted to write about the early life of jauhar as a student as narrated by his contemporay said Muhammed khan.After studying upto the then class vii at maktabs and district schools i was packed off to aligarh in the year of the Grace1892 and entered the awe inspiring portals of the college with a heart throbbing with fear.The first comarade that caught my eager imagination was muhammed ali .he was in the middle of his teens and i was just entering into them. these were the days when the unmistable khilandra had the leaven in him.he would move about the place like a monarch of all he surveyed in carefree,easy style dressed in spotlessly clean clothes wearing sleemshahi slippers cracking a joke here and putting up a fight there and exchanging railleries else where.This must have been 1893.Monitorial system was recently introduced in the college and muhammed ali was elected food monitor. Asluck would have it a chooranwalla entered the college premises singing praise of his wares in veryloud and attractive key. No sooner did muhammed ali hear the cry he rushed up to the chooran vender and with folded hands demanded if he wanted his head on a charger.the poor chooranwala was surprised out of his wits but was promply told the boys had such a keen appetite that he was having time of his life to satisfy them and if his wonderful appetiser got added to their digestive system he will have very short shrift.the chooranvender caught the joke and was rarely seen again.In1903 oxford cricket team visted india and played a nuber of cricket matches including one at aligharh.captain of the oxford team stood 6 feet and 4inches in his socks while said muhammed khan was nearly a foot on the short side ..........the two captains proceeded to clear the initial hurdle of tossing the fateful coin.AS the glittering coin went up ,down thundered the humourous remark---dignity and impudence.this referred raven hills cartoon recently published in the punch portraying a tiny little poodle jumping clawing and jumping allover the body a big dane while the big dog looked on patietly and with comendable indulgence.the remark which drew a roar of laughter was of course muhammadalis.Reference having been made to said muhammed khans short stature it will not be out of place to reproduce a few lines of a versified account of a cricket match.Now little said goes to bat with his hair well set,what though his stature be short in pluck and style he well can match the biggest of them all.At aligarh muhammed ali was not just a playboy notwithstanding his funny ways.he had fully understood and imbibed the spirit of the aligarh movement which the folllowing lines bear out. Bataen kia ke sir syed ahmed khan ke kia tum ho humare jumla imraaz aur dukhon ki dawa tum ho sikhaya tha tum hi nain qaum ko ye shoro shar saara jo iski inteha hum hain to iski ibtida tum ho.This happygolucky student of aligarh later rose in stature and rallied the muslims of india undeer the banner of khilafat movementin sympathy with turkey. The following lines are reproduced from the comarade. Before Thesaly was ceded to Greece in 1881 the boundries of turkey ran parallel to the boundries of hungry and astria.the whole expance of the country resembled nothing so much as a big river in the indian plains in flood.those who had seen the river at such a time would hardly recognize it as a shrunken stream in summer.that shrunken stream was turkey on the eve of the balkan warbut eventhen it area was so much and population so much.In less than a year turkey was reduced to third of its size and population evenless.

it was really overwhelming to

it was really overwhelming to see some of my teachers who taught me when i was there in women's coll during 1990-93