Maulvi begum sahib: The eunuch who found her calling as a Quran teacher

Published: February 27, 2012
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Jameela, 70, was born a transgender in March 1941, She never fit in at home or at school, so when an elderly eunuch, Pasham Fakir, offered to take her away, she ultimately yielded and followed him. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Jameela, 70, was born a transgender in March 1941, She never fit in at home or at school, so when an elderly eunuch, Pasham Fakir, offered to take her away, she ultimately yielded and followed him. PHOTO: EXPRESS

SUKKUR: Seventy-year-old Jameela has come a long way from playing as a child with eunuchs to teaching 450 children the Holy Quran every day.

Born a transgender in March 1941, Jameela never fit in at home or at school, so when an elderly eunuch, Pasham Fakir, offered to take her away she ultimately yielded and followed him.

She continued to live in what she later called ‘sin’ until May 1972, when her brother died in a robbery. “This proved to be a turning point in my life because I started learning the Holy Quran,” Jameela told The Express Tribune.

She was born in Syed Mohammad Yakoob Shah’s household in Pishin, Balochistan. “My father had two wives: my mother was from a Syed family, while my stepmother was from a non-Syed family,” she said. “My mother died when I was four and my aunt looked after me for two years after which my father sent me to live with my stepmother in Ranchore Lines, Karachi.”

Jameela’s stepmother sent her to an all-girl middle school near their house, but the young eunuch left school when she was in class three because she used to get teased for her “attitude and strange style of walking.”

After dropping out of school, she helped her stepmother with domestic chores. “When I was 10 years old, a eunuch named Pasham Fakir came to our house and asked my mother to hand me over to him but my mother refused.”

She said that Pasham kept coming back for her and they used to talk outside the house. “Then one day I just went him without telling my mother,” she said dolefully.

Pasham took Jameela to his house in Garhi Yaseen near Shikarpur and she began her ‘training’ as a eunuch.

“I lived with him for three years but I wanted to get away because I didn’t like his company,” said Jameela. “Luckily, the fakir took me to Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s shrine for the annual Urs celebrations, where eunuchs come together from every part of the country.”

This is where Jameela met her new guru, Fakir Ameer Zadi, also known as Saboo. “He looked quite decent so I told him I wanted to go with him,” she said. Saboo talked to Pasham and after paying Rs5,000, Saboo adopted Jameela.

Saboo took Jameela to Sukkur, where he lived in a double-storey house in Makrani Muhalla. With his permission, Jameela purchased a house at Takkar Muhalla for Rs4,000 in 1970. “I knew how to read Urdu, even though I had dropped out of school. One day I was reading the newspaper when I came across news of my elder brother Syed Muhammad Rasool’s death,” she recalled, her eyes filling up with tears. Rasool used to run a car showroom on Tariq Road, Karachi, and was murdered during a robbery.

Jameela said she rushed to Karachi to reunite with her family but they had left with her brother’s body for Pishin. “His death was a turning point in my life. A female neighbour taught me how to read the Holy Quran. With Allah’s grace, things just fell into place for me after this.”

In 1975, Jameela began teaching her neighbour’s child, four-year-old Aasia, the Quran. “Since she proved to be a brilliant student, other neighbours started sending their children to my house to learn,” she said. The number of students grew day by day and now Jameela has a total of 450 students, who she teaches in seven different shifts without any charge.

“I started teaching when I was 31 years old and at that time people used to call me Khala (aunt) Jameela. Then it became Amma (mother) Jameela and now that I am 70 years old, they call me Nani (grandmother) Jameela.”

Jameela added that her neighbours have always respected her, irrespective of their age or gender.

A student’s mother sends Jameela two meals a day and offers to wash and iron her clothes. Since she teaches her students free of charge, their parents give her money and clothes as gifts. Jameela said she was lucky enough to perform Hajj four times and Umrah once.

“I teach in groups for an hour each and the children start coming at 10 am until 5:30pm,” she said. There is no age limit for female students but Jameela said that she does not take boys older than 10 because she does not believe in intermingling between “big boys and girls.”

“Allah created me the way I am, but nowadays being a eunuch has become a profession,” she regretted, adding, “teenage boys turn into fake eunuchs by taking hormonal injections and this is a big sin.” If you meet 1,000 eunuchs, Jameela added, you will seldom find a real fakir.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • abdul moiz
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:26AM

    It’s sad that eunuchs can only find tolerance in our society when they become religious and start preaching religion.as long as they sing praises of religion they are tolerated and accepted as human beings but why is it only that they can find tolerance by society if they don the garb of religious people,why can’t they be accepted as equal human beings on the basis of being humans just like everyone else?

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  • Shantanu G
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:20AM

    Mashallah, what an inspiring story. Another miracle by the Holy Quran.

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  • Truth From Pakistan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:21AM

    If what she says is true, I have all the respect for Nani Jameela. She has been able to successfully change her life despite the congenital condition.

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  • Citizen
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:48AM

    Very inspiring story . May Allah bless you .

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  • zehra
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:06AM

    i find it pretty sad, she has lived a very tough life.

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  • Shantanu G
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:30AM

    “It’s sad that eunuchs can only find tolerance in our society when they become religious”

    That is the miracle of the Holy Quran. All praise be to Allah alone and to nothing else.

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  • Awan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:27AM

    Masha’Allah an inspiring read

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  • wasim
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:28AM

    salute to this women, what a painful life she has spent. and what remarkable work she is doing for our religion. may allah give her happiness.

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  • jock
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:50AM

    I’m happy for her that she has found peace in her life.

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  • Sirajul ISlam
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:56AM

    The story is self contained inspiration for all those who want to see that gender only begging or singing. It is the miracle of QURAN too

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  • Err.
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:43PM

    @abdul moiz
    Yes the fault lies with the society which includes its liberals who think eunuchs are only good enough for dancing at weddings or as sidekicks in comedy serials. The fact that people send their kids to her to study Quran is proof that those of religious mind were more tolerant of her and trusted her with kids. WHy dont the liberals or other not so religious people give these people access to more respectable means of education? Why dont they allow them to teach in schools? They even now have official representatives. Stop as usual blaming religion, when something is a collective society!

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  • Muhammad Usama Aziz
    Feb 27, 2012 - 12:59PM

    @abdul moiz
    when you turn to ALLAH, the help of ALLAH is with you and then the same society which don’t accept you, accepts you by the grace of ALLAH. That’s the power of religion which we unfortunately does not understand!!

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  • Feb 27, 2012 - 4:12PM

    @abdul moiz:
    the same way anyone has no respect in our society unless he is very powerful financially or is religious.

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  • Feb 27, 2012 - 4:15PM

    @Err.:
    you are absolutely right.
    The very same liberals will not let eunuchs study with their children in same school. But they are happy to shout at religious people whenever they have a chance.

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  • Yousaf Ali
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:04PM

    @Muhammad Usama Aziz: Very True

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  • sun
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:42PM

    Salute to Jameela.
    Born transgender is unfortunately bane in our society but Jameela bravely faced this bitter truth and submitted her/his self to the Almighty by devoting her life for teaching the words of Allah. Its a lessen for us that whatever the Creator provided us is blessing for us and we should submit ourselves to His will always that would ease our live here and hereafter.

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  • Samra Alauddin
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:40AM

    Brilliant and very inspiring indeed! Beshak Allah jisay chahta hay, hidayat deta hay.

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  • xoxo
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:11AM

    Inspiring indeed,other transgenders should learn from her/his life

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