The Yaqoob Sisters : First Female Muslim Doctors of the Indian Subcontinent
Have you heard of Dr Umm e Kulsoom & Dr Amturraqeeb (also known as the Yaqoob sisters)? Do you know who were they and what are they known for?
Amturraqeeb and Ummekulsoom were sisters who are considered as the first Muslim female Indian doctors. They are claimed to be the first in the entire Indian subcontinent too. Together, in 1920, they attained a degree in Medicine, LMP (licensed medical practitioner), from Agra women medical school (currently known as Sarojini Naidu Medical College). Later LMP was replaced by LSMF (licentiate of State Medical Faculty) and then to MBBS (as known today).
The Yaqoob sisters originally belonged to a prominent and a rich Hindu merchant family. It was their father, Ganeshi Lal, who reverted to Islam at an early age of sixteen and changed his name to Mohammed Yaqoob.
From early on Mohammed Yaqoob believed in educating the girls for the upliftment of the society. He played a vital role in the growth and development of his daughters. His constant love and trust gave the daughters (Ummekulsoom & Amturraqeeb) the confidence to study in an era where the girls were discouraged and barred from attaining their higher education. Despite facing a constant societal pressure, Yaqoob provided the modern education allowing them to pursue medicine and become the first Muslim female doctors of the Indian subcontinent.
Dr Ummekulsoom & Dr Amturraqeeb were born on June 27, 1898 and February 22, 1900 respectively in Ambala, Haryana. They completed their schooling from St. Johns Girls High School in Agra. Later, after graduating from the Agra Women medical College on October 9, 1920 they became the first female Muslim doctors in the entire Indian subcontinent. Both the sisters were influential and had a long academic, medical, social and political career. After attaining LMP degree, Dr Amturraqeeb got married to Dr Ishaq Siddiqi Nashit and was blessed with three daughters and a son; Amtul Haseeb Daud, Afifa Mahmood, Latifa Azim and Professor Dr Hasan Ashfaq Siddiqi (He published a textbook on community medicine). Latifa (daughter of Dr Amturraqeeb) remained an editor of an Urdu magazine”Rahber e Niswaan”. Latifa completed her education from Aligarh Muslim University.
Pre independence, Dr Amturraqeeb had a lucrative practice in Bareli and Aligarh. During the partition she moved to Pakistan and got settled in Karachi and served as a Resident Medical Officer at Kharadar Maternity Hospital. She served people for over a half century and then passed away on July 7, 1971 in Quetta, Pakistan.
Dr Ummekulsoom, after completing LMF, became a member of State Board of Medical Faculty Upper Provinces of the Indian subcontinent. She had a long standing political career as she remained a president of Pilibhit district of the women wing of All-India Muslim League. Ummekulsoom remained a member of the Pilibhit board for almost 18 years.
Ummekulsoom was awarded with an honorary degree of “Fellow of State Medical Faculty” (FSMF) by the government of Uttar Pradesh in recognition of her service s provided to the Indian women in the field of medicine. She was also an activist in the Pakistan movement.
Ummekulsoom was actively involved in several scholastic tasks. She was deeply interested in writing and wrote a book “Rudad e Qafas” along with her husband Dr Abdul Ghafoor Qafas, where they have mentioned about the struggles they faced in creation of Pakistan. She was an editor of “Harem”, a magazine published from Pilibhit, from 1927 to 1930.
Post-independence, Dr Ummekulsoom shifted to Pakistan and married Dr Abdul Ghafoor Bismil. She died on January 4, 1974, almost four years later the death of her sister Dr Amturraqeeb.
Apart from the Yaqoob sisters, there are few other great Muslim women of the pre-independence India, worth mentioning. A need for school for the Muslim girls was felt by Begum Firdaus Mahal. She provided funds for building Madrasa and monthly grants of Rs 150. Fourty six girls were enrolled in this madradsa in 1898.
The 1896 issue of the Bamabodhini Patrika mentions a name of a Muslim young woman, Latifunnisa, who passed the final examination from Campbell Medical School in Calcutta that year, securing second position among 55 students. Therefore, she is considered as the first Muslim woman to attain Licentiate of the Medical Faculty (LMF). But there are no existing recored of her practicing as a doctor.