Bibi Soghra was a renowned philanthropist of Biharsharif, a historical city in the Nalanda district of Bihar state. She was born into a wealthy family of Abdul Samad around 1815 in the small village of Hasauri in the Munger district, now in Sheikhpura. She completed her early education in the local Madrasa. Later on, she earned a degree in Urdu, Hindi, Arabi, Farsi, and English.
Bibi Soghra was a beautiful girl. Upon completion of her education, she was married to Moulvi Abdul Aziz, son of a major zamindar Fazal Imam of Bihar Sharif at the age of 21. Abdul Aziz was a genius child of his parents Fazal Imam and Bibi Zahooran. He was a government employee under the British Rule. But during India’s First War of Independence in 1857, he resigned from the service and along with many others joined the war of Independence against the British.
His marriage to Bibi Soghra was a beautiful thing to happen in his life. They lived a wonderful married life and in course of time had a beautiful baby girl named Qadeeran. After her formal education at home, she was married off.
One day Abdul Aziz’s daughter Qadeeran was feeling unwell. A Hakim from the nearby was called upon. After checking on the girl, Hakim told Abdul Aziz that she is suffering from Tuberculosis. After hearing this, everyone in the family got shocked and didn’t know what to do. Because Tuberculosis was almost an incurable disease at that time.
Since she was from a Zamindar family, special care and treatment were given, but even then she couldn’t survive and one bad morning, she passed away. Qadeeran was the only child of her parents. Her untimely demise shattered Abdul Aziz and Bibi Soghra to the core.
It was so shocking for her parents that Abdul Aziz fell ill and after a few years, he too passed away. Now he was survived by his old-aged lonely wife Bibi Soghra. It is said that during her difficult phase of life, her close relatives didn’t support her. This forced Bibi Soghra to gradually isolate herself from her in-laws like never before.
After the death of her husband, Bibi Soghra was left alone. To overcome the loneliness, she decided to keep herself busy with charity work. As she became the sole owner of the entire property, she set up the Soghra Waqf Estate in 1896 and also took over the charge as a Motawalli (manager) of the Waqf.
As per the registration record, the total property of Soghra Waqf Estate was 28,500 bigha spread in different districts of Bihar like Patna, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Nalanda, Nawada, Gaya, Sheikhpura (Barbigha) and Bhagalpur. The Soghra Waqf Estate is also believed to be one of the wealthiest Estates in Bihar.
Most of the properties were in the landed form spread in thousands of villages and districts. Over the time, the Waqf had lost more than 3,000 bigha of land due to mismanagement, personal interests of mutawallis, fake sales, and disputes. Thus, the Waqf gradually failed to fulfill the dream of Bibi Soghra. Nevertheless, the Estate still has heritage houses in Muzaffarpur and Biharsharif.
Even today, the Estate has sufficient valid documents of its properties, but due to a lack of complete information about the identity of towns, villages, or areas, the Estate has no possession of these properties. The Govt of Bihar also acquired some properties for its various projects in different districts and the matter is under scrutiny.
There are many educational and welfare institutions still functioning under the Soghra Waqf Estate.
1. The oldest Madrasa Azizia Bihar Sharif was established in 1896 in Patna. Madrasa Azizia is a well-known center of education having hostel facilities for students and teachers.
2. Soghra High School situated at Kaaghzi Mohalla was established in 1917 and is still operational. Earlier the school was known as Soghra Growing English High School. This is a minority-affiliated and second-best school in the town.
3. Soghra College was established in 1978 under articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India. It is spread over eight acres of land. In 1981, the college was recognized and undertaken by Magadh University. It is a government-approved minority college; now comes under the Patliputra University, Patna.
4. A large dormitory near Jama Masjid in Khuradi Mohalla. It is well-maintained and functioning even today.
5. Bibi Soghra herself took care of the maintenance and proper functioning of at least five mosques which are mentioned in the Waqfnama are:
i. Shahi Jama Masjid, Biharsharif, Pul par
ii. Jama Masjid, Murarapur, Biharsharif
iii. Bukhari Masjid, Kaaghzi Mohalla, Biharsharif
iv. Mohini Masjid, Mohini, Nalanda
v. Jama Masjid, Hasauri, Sheikhpura
The main purpose of setting up a Waqf and endowing her entire property to it was to serve society. And to continue the legacy of legendry Bibi Soghra, the Estate continues to provide medical and healthcare aid to the needy, financial support to students and scholars, and maintenance of hospitals and madrasas.
According to Waqfnama, among all the institutions that receive funds from the Estate, Madrasa Azizia gets the lion’s share of 40% of the total annual income of the Estate for the propagation of religious education. It is probably because Madrasa Azizia is the oldest and a well-known center of education having hostel facilities for a large number of students and teachers and a mosque in the campus.
Also, the motawalli does not have any rights to draw a salary from the Estate, but he only gets some percentage for his services which is stipulated in the Waqfnama. Though the motawalli has full authority over the daily affairs of the Estate and nothing can be done without his permission. But in the letter and spirit of the Waqfnama, the motawalli has no rights to waive off rent dues of tenants and borrowers in any other form in full or partial.
Bibi Soghra set up the Waqf in 1896 and took over the charge of a Motawalli, since then the economic and social well-being of the people got a leg and improved considerably. It was characterized as an age of prosperity as she greatly contributed to the well-being of society. She was very passionate about the socio-economic and educational development of society and was also eager to stretch the boundaries of knowledge and discovery. A handful of Islamic scholars, Sufi saints, and Rishi-Muni thrived during her reign in the region.
This is believed to be the golden age which lasted for over 12 years, but began to fade with her death in 1908 at the age of 97. She is buried alongside her husband in the courtyard of Jama Masjid, Bihar Sharif, Nalanda.
Sources: The records of the Waqfnama, officials of the Estate, and the local old-aged people.