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Razia Sajjad Zaheer (15 October 1918, Ajmer – 18 December 1979, Delhi) was an Indian writer in the Urdu language, a translator, and a prominent member of the Progressive Writers Association. She won the Uttar Pradesh Sahitya Akademi Award as well as the Soviet Land Nehru Award.

Razia Sajjad Zaheer
BornRazia Dilshad
(1918-10-15)15 October 1918
Died18 December 1979(1979-12-18) (aged 61)
OccupationWriter, translator
Alma materAllahabad University
Literary movementProgressive Writers Association
SpouseSajjad Zaheer
ChildrenNadira Babbar,[1] Nūr Z̤ahīr

Early life

Razia Dilshad was born in Ajmer, Rajasthan on 15 October 1918[2] in an academic family. Her father was the principal of Ajmer Islamia College.[3] She received an undergraduate degree in Ajmer.[4]

She married Sajjad Zaheer, a poet and communist activist, when she was 20. He was one of the founders of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA), and was not interested in pursuing a career in law that he had trained for. Shortly after their marriage, he was arrested by the British for his revolutionary activities and imprisoned for two years.[3]

Razia obtained a postgraduate degree from Allahabad University.[4] In the 1940s, Razia and her husband were in Bombay, where they were active in the cultural sphere, organising weekly PWA soirees.[3] She acknowledged the influence of the PWA in radicalising her politics,[5] and was among the activist women who were beginning to question "Gandhian ideologies of women's nature and place."[6]

By 1948, Razia had four daughters, and her husband was in Pakistan at the behest of the Communist Party of India, which had supported the Partition of India. She moved to Lucknow with her daughters.[3]


Razia had been contributing short stories to journals like Phool, Tehzib-e-Nisvaan and Ismat since her childhood.[7] In Lucknow, Razia began to teach, write and translate in order to earn a living. She translated about 40 books into Urdu.[8] Her translation of Bertold Brecht's Life of Galileo to Urdu was called powerful.[9] She translated Siyaram Sharan Gupta's Nari (published as Aurat (Woman) by Sahitya Akademi),[10] and Mulk Raj Anand's Seven Years (Saat Saal, 1962).[11]

In 1953, her novella Sar-e-Sham was published, Kante (Thorns, a novel) was released in 1954, while Suman (another novel) came out in 1964. She edited and published her husband's letters to her from prison, Nuqush-e-Zindan (1954). [4]

She worked on a novel on the poet Majaz Lucknowi, which remained unfinished. Along with her literary endeavours, she also edited and copied her husband's writings. [8]

Her short stories have been characterised as having a socialistic purpose.[12] For example, in Neech (Lowborn) she explored class differences between a privileged woman and a fruit-seller, and the prejudices the former has to set aside to obtain strength from the latter.[13] Moreover, given the revolutionary ideology of the PWA, her works - as those of her colleagues in the group - explored gender relations and women's oppression by men and other women,[14] the development of a modernist identity among women,[15] as well as the more deleterious effects of poverty and ostracism on marginalised women.[16]

Zard Gulab (The Yellow Rose, 1981) and Allah De Banda Le (God gives, Man takes, 1984) were two of her short story collections published posthumously.[4]

Later life

Razia's husband was in prison in Pakistan until 1956, whereupon he returned to India and joined his family in Lucknow. In 1964, they moved to Delhi. Sajjad died in USSR in 1973.[8]

Razia Sajjad Zaheer died in Delhi on 18 December 1979.[7]


The literary work of Razia Sajjad Zaheer include:[7]

Awards and honours


  1. Salman 2018.
  2. SA 1961, p. 410.
  3. Mahmood 2020a.
  4. Tharu & Lalita 1993, p. 144.
  5. Gopal 2009, p. 142.
  6. Gopal 2005, p. 21.
  7. Naeem 2019.
  8. Mahmood 2020b.
  9. Husain 1972, pp. 146–147.
  10. Rao 2004, p. 165.
  11. Husain 1963, p. 145.
  12. Machwe 1977, p. 148.
  13. Tharu & Lalita 1993, p. 82.
  14. Gopal 2005, p. 31.
  15. Gopal 2005, p. 68.
  16. Singh 2006, p. 256.
  17. Machwe 1977, p. 145.


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