Sultana’s Sisters

Genre, Gender, and Genealogy in South Asian Muslim Women’s Fiction


Haris Qadeer and P. K. Yasser Arafath (eds.)

This book traces the genealogy of ‘women’s fiction’ in South Asia and looks at the interesting and fascinating world of fiction by Muslim women. It explores how Muslim women have contributed to the growth and development of genre fiction in South Asia, and brings into focus diverse genres including speculative, horror, young-adult, romance, graphic, dystopian amongst others, from the early 20th century to the present. 

The book debunks myths about stereotypical representations of South Asian Muslim women, and critically explores how they have located their sensibilities, body, religious/secular identities, emotions, and history, and have created a space of their own. It discusses themes such as Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and Qurratulain Hyder’s writings as genre fiction, Hijab Imtiaz Ali’s romance fiction, early women Urdu novelists, Bangladeshi women authors, and the deployment of graphic stereotypes.

A volume full of remarkable discoveries for the field of genre fiction, both in South Asia and for the wider world, this book in the Studies in Global Genre Fiction series, will be useful for scholars and researchers of English literary studies, South Asian literature, cultural studies, history, Islamic feminism, religious studies, gender and sexuality, sociology, translation studies, and comparative literatures.


“This rich collection of essays counters the enduring vision of South Asian Muslim women as mute, passive and docile by tracing their fiction from the ‘new women’ of the early twentieth century to today’s ‘future girls’. Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s utopian Sultana’s Dream (1905) provides a starting point from which to explore the contributions of Muslim female authors to fiction’s convoluted genealogy in South Asia through their participation in multiple and often overlapping genres. New and established international scholars take a fresh approach to a fascinating array of fictional works in Urdu, Bengali, and English by celebrated and less renowned authors. This exciting literary journey takes the reader from horror, romanticism, fantasy, erotica, and dystopia to partition fiction and graphic novels.”

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Professor of Global History, University of Sheffield, UK.


“In bringing together a set of brilliant new studies of Muslim women writers in modern South Asia,Sultana’s Sistersmakes a timely and important intervention in the literary history of the region. Linking genre, gender, and the genealogy of forms, the essays cover both established and little-known authors, multiple languages, and a plurality of genres from utopian fable to romance, horror, historical realism, and speculative fantasy. The editor is to be congratulated on this fascinating and critically nuanced venture, filling a gap in current scholarship by revealing the imaginative and creative range of Muslim women’s fiction.”

SupriyaChaudhuri, Professor Emerita, Jadavpur University, India.


“An incisive and pioneering collection of critical essays, which traces the development, expansion and cross-fertilization of sub-continental Muslim women’s fiction, across different genres in the sub-continent from the early twentieth century to the present day. The informative introduction gives this further context with a discussion of Muslim women’s writing since Mughal times and also engages with the nineteenth century reformist literary movements in Urdu, including new women’s journals which gave Muslim women a public platform and a new voice. This is a truly remarkable collection which makes a major contributions to sub-continental women’s literature and illuminates it with new insights.”

Muneeza Shamsie,Author ofHybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani Literature in English.


“Sultana’s Sistersis one of the most significant publications on Muslim women’s writing in South Asia in perhaps a decade and will be critical reading for scholars from a range of fields. The book brilliantly opens out new approaches to the study of South Asian fiction while remaining alert to the multiple trajectories and complex subjectivities of the authors it studies. Moving quickly beyond the core canon of Muslim women’s literature, Sultana’s Sisters acquaints readers with authors from an impressive range of linguistic traditions and social backgrounds, thus introducing fresh nuance to key questions about what it meant to write and publish as a woman in Islamicate South Asia.”

Daniel Majchrowicz, South Asian Literature and Culture, Northwestern University, USA.


Haris Qadeer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, University of Delhi, India. He was visiting faculty at the Department of English, Potsdam University, Germany (2019). His research interests include literatures and cultures of South Asian Muslims, refugee narratives, postcolonial studies, translations, and South Asian writings in English. He has coedited a special issue on Postcolonial World Literature, Thesis Eleven. He has translated writings by Joginder Paul, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Zafar Ali, Anis Rafi, Krishna Chandra, and Tarannum Riyaz. His forthcoming work includes The Silence that Speaks: Short Fiction by Muslim Women from India.

P. K. Yasser Arafath is Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Delhi, India. He was Dr. L. M Singhvi Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge University, UK (2017). His research papers and articles have been published in major journals that include Economic and Political Weekly, Social Scientists, Medieval History Journal, IESHR, and Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Currently, he is completing a book manuscript, entitled, Malabarnama: Intimate Texts and Lyrical Resistance in the Age of Disorder (c. 1500-1875). He has a PhD in History from Hyderabad Central University (HCU), India.   

Table of Contents



Section I  Genres and Early Fiction

  1. Barnita Bagchi. Fruits of Freedom: Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Writings as Genre Fiction
  2. Shweta Sachdeva Jha. Locating Romance and Women Writers in Urdu Literature: Hijab Imtiaz Ali’s Genre Fiction 
  3. Jaideep Pandey. “I’m nobody! Who are you?” Mrs. Abdul Qādir’s Horror Fiction and the Non-Authorial
  4. Mohammed Afzal. Gendering the Urdu Novel: Muhammadi Begum, Abbasi Begum, and the Women Question   


Section II  Genres and Modernity

  1. Mehr Afshan Farooqi. Women Who Wielded Pens: Khadija Mastur
  2. Fatima Rizvi. “Studies in [ ] Dying Culture[s]”: Qurratulain Hyder and Urdu Fantasy Fiction in Self-translation
  3. Wafa Hamid. “The Forbidden City”: An Exploration of Wajida Tabassum’s Fiction 
  4. Mosarrap Hossain Khan. ‘1971 Novels’ in Bangladesh: Women’s Writing between the Popular and the Literary   
  5. Mobeen Hussain. Sunlight on a Broken Column and The Heart Divided as Autobiographically-Inspired Realist Texts: Navigating Gendered Socio-political Identities in Genre Fiction


Section III  Postcolonial Genres

  1. Christel Devadawson. “Obedient daughters” and the Deployment of Graphic Stereotypes 
  2. 11. MohammadAsim Siddiqui. Contemporary Politics and Prehistoric Past through Popular Genres: Maha Khan

Phillips’ Novels

  1. Aysha Munira Rasheed. Occupying Educational and Intellectual Space: Woman as Radical Flâneuse in Zahida Zaidi’s Campus Novel Inqilab Ka Ek Din
  2. Madeline Clements. Making Sense of Conversion to Christianity in Twentieth-Century Pakistan: Two Women’s Co-Authored Autobiographies as Crafted Accounts  
  3. Umme Al-wazedi. Feminist Futures in the Speculative Fictions of Andaleeb Wajid and Bina Shah



©CoFutures, 2020