Atiya Fyzee


Born in Istanbul, Atiya Fyzee was the daughter of Hasanally Feyzhyder, an Indian merchant attached to the Ottoman Court, and his first wife, Amirunissa. Belonging to the prominent Tyabji clan of Bombay, Atiya was one of the first elite Indian Muslim women to receive a modern education, appear in public unveiled and participate in women’s organizations. In her youth, she made important contributions to reformist journals for women in Urdu, including Tahzib un-niswan (Lahore) and Khatun (Aligarh).

While studying at a teachers’ training college in London in 1906-7, she also kept a travel diary that was first serialized in a monthly journal then published as Zamana-i-tahsil ('A Time of Education', 1921). Along with her sisters, Zehra (1866-1940) and Nazli Begum of Janjira (1874-1968), she patronized celebrated Muslim intellectuals such as Maulana Shibli Nomani and Mohammad Iqbal. Their published correspondence, Khutut-i Shibli ba-nam-i muhtarma Zahra Begum sahiba Faizi va ‘Atiya Begum sahiba Faizi (ed. Muhammad Amin Zuberi, 1930) and Iqbal (1947), attests to the close friendships that brought Atiya notoriety in literary and social circles.

Following her marriage to the artist and writer Samuel Rahamin, in 1912, Atiya pursued a variety of cultural activities on the international stage. Among their collaborations was an authoritative book in English on classical Indian music that ultimately went into three editions: Indian Music (1914), The Music of India (1925) and Sangt of India (1942). In this work, Atiya’s impressionistic and colourful prose was used to explicate Samuel’s illustrations of Indian melodies (ragmalas). Atiya also arranged music and choreography for two of her husband’s plays, Daughter of Ind and Invented Gods, when they were staged in London in the 1930s. While abroad, she gave lectures on Indian women, like ‘Epic Women of India’ (1919), which were published in international journals.

At partition, Atiya and Samuel migrated to Karachi with Nazli where they continued to bring together artistes in their private salon at their home, Aiwan-e-Rifat, modelled on their famous Bombay residence. After being evicted in the 1950s, they lived in reduced circumstances, suffering great hardship in their final years.

Published works: 

Indian Music (London: Goupil Gallery and W. Marchant, 1914)

Zamana-i-tahsil (Agra: Matba‘ Mufid-i-‘Am, 1921)

The Music of India (London: Luzac, 1925)

Sangt of India (Bombay, 1942)

Iqbal (Bombay: Victory Printing Press, 1947)

Gardens (Karachi: Ameen Art Press, n.d.)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1877

Shaikh Abdul Qadir, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Syed Ali Bilgrami, Alma Latifi, Syed Ameer Ali, (Arthur) Oliver Villiers Russell Ampthill, M. A. Ansari, Thomas Walker Arnold, Badruddin Tyabji, the Maharaja and Maharani of Baroda, Emilie Barrington, Emma Josephine Beck, Mancherjee M. Bhownaggree, Mary Frances Billington, Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Blood, Hemangini Bonnerjee, Camruddin Abdul Latif, Vazirunnisa Latif, William Coldstream, Sunity Devi - the Maharani of Cooch Behar, Sir Henry Cotton, Catherine Crisp, Frank Crisp, Major-General John Baillie Ballantyne Dickson, Princess Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh, Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh, Lady Alice Louisa Elliott, Sir Charles Alfred Elliott, Bhagwatsinghji Sagramsinhji - the Thakur of Gondal, Mrs K. G. Gupta, Lala Har Dayal, Major Saiyid Hasan Bilgrami, Edward Hughes, Syed Husain Bilgrami, Mohammad Iqbal, Jabir Ali, Margaret Elizabeth Child-Villers, countess of Jersey, Jagatjit Singh - the Maharaja of Kapurthala, Emily Kinnaird, Dame Maude Agnes Lawrence, Esther Lawrence, Sir William Lee-Warner, Sidney Low, Sir Charlies Lyall, Lady Florences Lyall, Miss A. J. Major, Mrs Sarala Bala Mitter, Theodore Morison, Nazli Begum of Janjira, Rafia Tyabji, Donald James Mackay, the eleventh Lord Reay, Lady Margaret Rice, George Frederick Samuel Robinson - first Marquess of Ripon, John Gerald Ritchie, Mrs P. K. Roy, Mrs P. L. Roy, Salman Tyabji, Sarhan Camruddin Latif, Flora, Mozelle Sassoon, Rachel Sassoon, Lady Edgeworth Leonora Scott, Lady Sinha, Cornelia Sorabji, Sydney Sprague, Navajbai Tata, Ratan Tata, Lady Mary Augusta Temple, Tyab Ali Akbar, Mary Augusta Ward, Helen Webb, Raymond West, Alice Augusta Woods, Sir (William Hutt) Curzon Wyllie.

Maria Grey Training College

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Indian Magazine and Review (‘Some Reminiscences of Kashmir’, 432, December 1906, pp. 314-16)

Asia (as “Shahinda” (Begum Fyzee-Rahamin), 'Epic Women of India’, 19.6, June 1919, p. 580)

Tahzib un-niswan (series of articles on studying in Britain in issues dated 26 January 1907 - 30 November 1907)

Precise DOB unknown: 

Kathleen Schlesinger, ‘The Basis of Indian Music’, The Musical Times (London) 56.868, 1 June 1915, pp. 335-9

Secondary works: 

In English:

Lambert-Hurley, Siobhan and Sharma, Sunil, Atiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Justuju, Naeem-ur Rahman, ‘Portrait of a Lady’,

In Urdu:

al-Qadri, Mahir, 'Atiya Faizi', in Yadgar-i-raftagan, vol. 2 (Lahore: al-Badr, 1984)

Jafri, Ra’is Ahmad, 'Atiya Begum Faiz', Nigar 58.5 (November 1979), pp. 25-7

Nasrullah, Shaikh, 'Atiya Begam Faizi', Kya qafila jata hai (Karachi: Tahzib o Fan, 1984)

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

A. H. Fyzee (used in print)

Atiya Fyzee-Rahamin (used after marriage in 1912)

Atiya Begum (used after marriage in 1912)

Shahinda (pen-name)

Date of death: 
01 Jan 1967
Precise date of death unknown: 
Location of death: 
Karachi, Pakistan
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
17 Sep 1906
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1906-7, 1908, 1914, perhaps mid-1920s, 1937-9.


Primarily London

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