Rabiya: An iron woman of South India




A Year-long Series on Education, Sponsored by The Aligarh Forum : - A Mirror on our Efforts, our Successes & our Shortcomings ; Stories of triumphs, tribulations and struggles of the Indian Muslims in improving their educational status, in illiteracy alleviation, and in their professional and social uplift.

By Abdul Basith MA, TwoCircles.net,

Vellilakkadu, Tirurangadi: “The Kerala society always looked at and the media hyped me as a literacy mission crusader but they always took care to turn a blind eye towards the inspirational role of Islam behind my activities, the role of Islam in ‘the making up’ of me was never discussed and now I need to do something desperately to convey ‘the right message’ out of my life. I feel I am nearing death, so visualising my life in a documentary - well in lines with my dreams and ideas - is an important and urgent task before me”, says KV Rabiya.

As the documentary is intended at carrying out Da’wat by portraying her life, which she has tried to live according to Islamic principles, she wanted that the documentary should be directed by a non-community member, having an affinity and willingness towards Islam. She was fortunate enough to find such a director in Suresh Iringaloor, and the documentary is under way.

“I believe it is the passion to release this documentary, which still keeps me alive despite all these life threatening diseases I am subject to”, says Rabiya.



KV Rabiya

Beginning of the mission
Born handicapped to Kariveppil Moosakutty Haji and Allipara Biyyachutty Hajjumma, Rabiya had her legs weakened by Polio, but this couldn’t stop her from going to school, with immense passion, she read books aloud, thus wiping tears off her parent’s eyes. As she reached the Pre Degree level, when she was seventeen, being unable to stand sound on her weakened legs, she had to stop studies. Unlike most others who would weep over their fate, Rabiya started living a meaningful life thereafter. She was not ready to blame her destiny nor did she shed a single drop of tear. She started taking tuition classes to her neighbouring students and this indeed was the start of a big leap in her life as well as the history of Kerala. It was such efforts by Chelakodan Aishumma, Khadeeshumma and Rabiya, that initiated the complete literacy mission in Kerala.

She joined the literacy mission as a temporary instructor and took the Vellilakkadu village by her hand to the magical world of letters. Even her mother and grandmother learnt letters from her and literacy units across the state came to know about the complete literacy achievement of Vellilakkadu village. Rabiya was of the opinion that mere literacy rate won’t be sufficient enough for the development of her region, so she emphasised on the need for getting engaged through jobs.

Development of Vellilakkadu village
With complete support from the villagers who were mostly potters by profession, she set up cottage industries, a publication group called ‘Chalanam’, vocational training programmes, tuition centres, village libraries, a school for the mentally retarded and deaf students, discussion and debate rooms, inter family get together, family counselling centre, reading promotion club, blood donation team, small investment plans and pain and palliative campaigns. Along with Rabiya, Vellilakkadu village was thus entering a new phase of development. The income from ‘Chalanam’ publications made her financially self sufficient and was able to meet the needs of those dependent on her.

Awards
The awards and recognitions which she received were numerous. She even won the UN international award in 2000. The other awards and recognitions which she received were Nehru Yuva Kendra Award [1992], National Youth Award [1993], Bajaj Trust award [1995], Ramashram Award [1996], Karunakara Menon Smaraka Award [1997], Jaysees Zone Award [1998], MSS Ahmed Maulavi Smaraka Award [1998], Junior Chamber International Award [2000], The central govt’s first Kannaki Sthree Shakthi Award, Kuwait Tahira Award [2000], IMA Award [2002], Yuva Kala Sahithi Award [2003], Kerala Handicapped Social Service Organisation Award [2004], Murimattathil Bava Award [2004], Star Friends Creation Literary Award, Riyadh [2006], Nahdi Malayalam Association Award [2007], Bhaskar Foundation Award [2008], Mahila Tilakam Award of the Kerala Social Welfare Ministry [2012].

Though in wheel chair, Rabiya involved in every spheres of the village life and had thus set an example for the whole state. She married her cousin brother and Rabiya was the second wife. Fate had a few more harsh games to play with her life as she was diagnosed with cancer when she was 32 and had her left breast removed as part of the treatment. When she was 34, she accidentally slipped in bathroom and damaged a few spinal nerves which almost dumped her into an inactive phase of life for years.

During those bedridden days she wrote a book named ‘Ente Mauna Nombarangal’ [my silent grievances] and after publishing it she was feeling tensed as she feared that the world might misunderstand - this book - as her life. The book reflected her state of mind and it was full of grievances. So she later wrote an autobiography named ‘Swapnangalkku Chirakukalund’ [dreams has wings] and was published by Lipi publications. The Kerala govt has included a part of her autobiography in the fifth standard Malayalam text book.

Now Rabiya is 46, her liver and kidneys are not functioning well, her words are not that crispy and continuous because of memory loss but her unending passion to serve others has now forced her to make a Documentary on her life and her village.

Documentary on her life and village
The documentary ‘Charitram Sakshi, Rabiya ennennum Jeevikkunnaval’ is intended at giving a message to the victims of fate so that they could stay bold despite physical challenges. “Since times everybody focused on portraying me as a literacy worker, so my other works and things which I had to convey to my society went unnoticed. My literacy works were just another part of my social service efforts. Every similar ventures which accompanied the literacy alleviation attempts, too was out of the ideal set by my prophet Muhammed [SAW]” says Rabiya

Talking on the relevance of her documentary she told TCN, “The inspiration indeed was Islamic values and the reward from the Almighty; so portraying my life by making use of the possibilities of visual media, I believe is a far more efficient form of Da’wath [invitation to Islam]. So by my life, the educational and social services I undertook, I have tried to practically live as a Muslim and now I feel this should stay as a source of inspiration for the world even after my death. Besides I would like to introduce my villagers and lot other good hearted comrades before the world, so that their lives could make more people interested in undertaking educational and social causes”.

“I am not sure whether I would live until its completion and not sure whether I could pay out the debt of around 15 lakhs spent on the documentary film before my death, as I have produced the film on my own. Another 10 lakh rupees is required to complete the rest visualisation, dubbing, editing, brochures and advertising. My Director Suresh Iringalloor has done justice to my dreams and ideas regarding this documentary, and we hope to telecast it in the Samasta EK Sunni owned channel, Darsana TV as episodes, within a few weeks” said Rabiya.

Married life
The feminists, intellectuals and writers favouring west have always attacked Islam over topics like Polygamy. I was married as the second wife to my cousin brother. By portraying my married life, the documentary has a role to prove regarding the purity of Polygamy; even in the present day world. The first wife was indeed possessive over him but what else would make a wife happy than the husband’s words like “Rabiya is the greatest asset in my life”, asks Rabiya. He was kind enough to give a life and wipe tears of a weakened, marginalised lady by accepting me as his wife. Polygamy in his life, Rabiya believes was not different from what is said in the religion. Understanding the emotions of first wife and husband, their married life, she believes if portrayed could be an ideal justification for Polygamy in Islam.

She always tried to hold intact family relations and her husband’s first wife too was not different and this she says as how said in the Holy Quran will bring Allah’s blessings and thus prosperity in to one’s life. She believes this was the only reason why she is able to meet the needs of her family members dependent on her, even in this bed ridden state.

She hopes that her documentary with its English subtitles would travel across the world and would take a blow at writers like Taslima Nasreen, keen on attacking Islam baselessly.



“It is a fact that people within the community are misusing such provisions within Islam, but that doesn’t mean such rules within the religion are to be discouraged and writers like Taslima should have the least sense to distinguish what is said in Islam and what it is now being practised by the vested interests within the community”, said Rabiya.

She will live forever
The profit from the documentary if any, after paying out the debts will be used for setting up a trust called Rabiya Foundation Trust. The trust is intended at supporting the sidelined and victimised lives of the society by continuing those educational and palliative services, she hopes.

Rabiya is proud as she quotes the recently demised, Kerala’s most eminent intellectual and literature giant Sukumar Azheekode who once said that, “The Pope of Catholic Church, Vatican might have easily stepped on to the procedures of canonizing and proclaiming Rabiya as Saint, if she was born a Christian”.

She considers her people’s affection, encouragements, criticisms and their respect for being the teacher who made them learn letters, as the biggest achievements in her life. Thus she is able to forget her physical pains on being loved and respected by her dear ones.

Rabiya lived on alphabets and words and so through the educational light which she had set for her people, she will live forever.