The first feminist utopia story ever written, Sultana’s Dream, was penned by a Bengali Muslim woman, Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain. A truly inspirational figure, Rokheya is considered the first feminist of Bengal–and one of the first Islamist feminists. Believing that education was the key to equality, Rokheya opened the first school for Muslim girls in Kolkata. (Many families wouldn’t let their girls attend because of strict purdah. A true problem solver, she managed to borrow a curtained coach from a friend which would allow the girls to keep purdah and still attend classes). Rokheya also founded the Islamic Women’s Association in Kolkata which hosted many debates and discussions about women and the need for education.
Bangladesh observes Rokheya day every December 9 to celebrate her legacy–it’s really a shame that so few people are aware of her contributions outside the region however! To learn more about her vision, I would recommend taking a few minutes to read Sultana’s Dream–a science fiction piece that includes sustainability, peace-resolution, and many other progressive ideals. Here is a translation of the short story.