Plight of Muslim women in Tehmina Durrani’s Autobiography My Feudal Lord

                                                                                                         - Yasmeena Jan

Tehmina Durrani is a well known Pakistani novelist born to an influential family of Pakistan. This paper is based on her autobiographical novel My Feudal Lord published in 1991. My Feudal Lord is a struggle by women towards the contention of her identity. The study reveals the life of an educated lady who has been trapped between the society and the religion which hampers her own individuality. Her marriage turns into a nightmare violently possessive and jealous, her husband succeeded in cutting off her from society. Durrani suffers alone in silence and when she decided to fight back she suffered duplicity, brutality and wickedness entrenched in the society. She articulates her own experience and embraces the political, religious and social apparatus painstaking for such graze of women in the social order and this paper through My Feudal Lord attempts to highlight the various institutions like patriarchy, feudalism, and society responsible for the oppression and subjugation of women in a Muslim Community.
Keywords: Feudal Lord, Patriarchy, Religion, Sexual Harassment, Society, Women Identity.
Tehmina Durrani, born on 18 February 1953, is a Pakistani author and women’s rights activist. She was born in an educated and influential family. Her father was the managing director of Pakistan International Airlines. At the age of seventeen she was married to Anees Khan which ends up with the birth of one daughter. She was divorced in 1976. After that Tehmina Durrani was married to Mustafa Khar the former chief minister and Governor of Punjab. She was Mustafa Khars sixth wife. With Mustafa Khar Durrani had four children. After being mistreated by Mustafa Khar many times in her life she ended her marriage of thirteen years in Divorce. In 2003, Durrani is married to Mian Shabaz Sharif, the then chief minister of Punjab. It was in 1991 that Durrani wrote an autobiography titled My Feudal Lord alleging abuse by Khar. In her autobiography she argued that the real power of feudal lords like Mustafa Khar is derived from the imprecise version of Islam that is supported by the silence of women and of society as a whole.  
Tehmina Durrani is the author of four famous novels. Her first work is autobiographical entitled as My Feudal Lord 1991 and has been translated into forty languages. She wrote her second novel A Mirror to The Blind 1996, which is the biography of Abdul Satar Edhi, who was Pakistan’s highly decorated social worker. Her third novel Blasphemy 1998 was successful but also controversial. This book narrates the lives of Muslim spiritual Pirs. In it she also describes the several cases resulting in the humiliation and torture of Muslim women. Her fourth novel is Happy Things in Sorrow Times 2013, which is based on the childhood and youth of an Afghani girl Rabia. This is the first work where Tehmina Durrani uses her artwork as well.
My Feudal Lord revolves around a woman who belongs to a conformist, conventional and typical feudal background, where the culture norm for women is to remain silent against domination by society as well as by religion. The present paper attempts to explore various conventions like feudalism, male supremacy, religion and culture as the core cause of exploitation, subjugation and oppression of women responsible for their plight in a society. Durrani’s My Feudal Lord reflects the female oppression and sadness encountered by the majority of women in the unsurprising milieu of society in Pakistan. In this novel Tehmina Durrani takes us on a expedition from being born and raised in a exploitive society to undergo a distressing marriage as a wife of Ghulam Mustafa Khar. Durrani talked about the assertive and principled teachings of Pakistani society in her work. The novelist here is forced to come upon the brutal dealing by her husband. In fact women are provided the vague version of Islam, and feudalism is pragmatic in the name of Islam. Women themselves don’t know their own rights. This can be seen in the following lines as:
Regrettably, at the individual level, women themselves are also aware of the rights enshrined to them in Islam. Islam considers both men and women equally human and grants them equal rights. Both have similar duties to perform, for instance prayer, rituals and fasting etc. […] but in reality, women are more conversant with the concocted version, as preached by religious leaders with a certain bent of mind. Severe ease of ignorance or may be lihaaz that is engrained in their psyche by family and surroundings cause such passive identity. This docility is definitely visible in Pakistan, as female try to reconcile with violence and the sense of guilt is very strong within them. (Bhattacharya 182-183)  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          She faces both physical and sexual aggression at her husband’s house. She portrayed her husband as a man who reveals total repression and suppression of his female complement. Durrani’s conventional backdrop by her patriarchal social environment in which she lived made her to agree to the husbands’ sexual viciousness. Durrani was apprenticed by her mother who has an overriding behavior. She wanted all her children to be obedient. This can be seen in her autobiographical novel My Feudal Lord as:
My mother demanded total obedience and, although I always compiled, she discerned early signs of rebellion in both my expression and my body language. I obeyed, but my crime was that I did not look obedient. I was sullen, and she resented my resentment […] when my mother spoke it was a command, and we were to carry out orders in silence. (24-25)
Tehmina Durrani held responsible patriarchy, feudalism and society responsible for women’s domination. She opens her spirit that she falls into the catch of Mustafa Khar. It was a custom that if the women could not carry out her duties in agreement to the background of society she faces carnage through physical violence, suppression and nervousness. Her husband imposes many obligations upon her, restricts her to imprisonment and abandons her from the world. Durrani narrates this in My Feudal Lord as:
That Mustafa Khar was authoritative, conservative and overpowering. I knew from the start, but that was precisely what attracted me so much. Psychologically I had suffered from my father’s weak role in our family. Now here was someone who presented a quite different personality. (39)
There was not a single day when he did not hit her up. He cannot bear any disobedience from her at any cost. Mustafa persuaded her not to spit a single word against him which will ruin the name of the family and he will be defiled. Religion was misapprehended and distorted account is accessible to women to make them subjugated. Women were trained that they will get respect in the society only when they are married, a detached or divorced women does not get esteem in culture. In Pakistani tradition a separate women was measured as unrespectable. It was Mustafa Khar who manipulated that their community (religious and Islamic) would not respect her of being a good wife. This can be seen in the following text lines of My Feudal Lord as:
Your position will be reduced to the lowly one that all my other wives had. I don’t want you to be humiliated. Nobody should ever say that I dared or wished to lift my hand to you. I want people to respect you. If they thought that I didn’t, why should they? […] Fear of the indignity made me cringe. I was conditioned to believe in the concept that image is a paramount thing. This was a personal and private matter between my husband and me. (104)
Tehmina Durrani had been restricted to surrender to the role of an ideal wife. The control on her was so severe that men where strange creatures for her. There were a number of don’ts for her to follow. Her husband justifies his position by falsification of the interpretation of Quran. She was asked to live according to the desires of her husband. In a patriarchal society women are well thought-out as property, men were of the belief that women are made for them. They wish to maintain women under their thumb at all the time. The novel is the good example of hegemonic masculinity, sexual harassment and aggression against women as highlighted by Tehmina Durrani herself. This novel is the primary example of women’s dilemma and their reserved condition. It has been written specially in Pakistani background referring to the complexity of women in pertaining to male leadership abstract order. This novel conveys the inequitable ruling of patriarchy which is truthfully answerable for the present prejudiced status of women. The male character in the novel Mustafa Khar acts upon the precise role of a patriarch and of a manly tormentor in addition to an excessive and energetic man.
Khar represents a wild animal who spoils the life of many guiltless women with his power and unexpected rights. Khar was not a common Pakistani man, he was accessible as a respectable elected official and harsh feudal lord who toughened to pluck woman on every incident and from all over he wanted and put them into the cage of boundaries and conventions. He used women for sexual desires only. Khar took advantage of his mannish gender in order to take improvement of feminine world through violent behavior, sexual harassment and blow. He never showed his affection with his children. When he attained the position of governor, he violated against many women in Heera Mandi on the basis of his status and feudality. He was a lady killer, and no women can escape from his sexual thirst. Mustafa is the true picture of male dominant society where women have no personal will rather they are puppets in the hands of males and feudal lords. Tehmina Durrani received many injuries from her husbands’ side. She at times has to confer with a doctor for serious injuries. This has been highlighted by Tehmina Durrani in My Feudal Lord as;
Suddenly he threw me down on to the bed and jumped on me. Sitting astride my belly, he slapped me in the face repeatedly with his open palm, forehand and backhand. The sounds of his blows seemed too loud to remain confined to the four walls of the room. I fought to stifle my screams as he pulled at my hair, thrusting my head from side to side. Like lightening he leaped off me. One hand clutched my long, braided hair and jerked me off the bed on the floor. I felt wetness run down my legs, but had no time to realize that my bladder lacked the strength to face this kind of fear. He threw ma against the wall, picked me up and threw me against another one – again, again and again. (102-103)
Thus the novel My Feudal Lord highlights that women face physical or mental exploitation throughout their life cycle in a male dominated society. According to Durrani women should raise voice against violent behavior and abuse by their husbands’ and lords. She believes that Islam is not accountable for the depressed plight of women, rather she holds patriarchal institutions, social and familial habituation and feudalism conscientious for their anguish. By rising up alongside the life of sufferings, mental trauma and exploitation, Tehmina Durrani has enthused thousands of women like her. She has the audacity to confront him after publishing a book about his duplicitous character. Her attempt would not go unsuccessful and other women would take motivation from her.

                                                Works Cited
Bhattacharya, Sanchita. “Status of Women in Pakistan.”  Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan (JRSP) 51.1 (Jan- June 2014): 79-211. Print.
Durrani, Tehmina. My Feudal Lord: A Devastating Indictment of Women’s Role in Muslim Society. London: Corgi Books, 1994. Print.

Author’s Bio:
Yasmeena Jan is a Research Scholar at the Department of English, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir, India. 

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