Thursday, 09 April 2020


I love unearthing examples of early Science Fiction.  Part of it has to do with that quasi-adolescent view of the future from the 19th and 20th century, and part of it is the sheer audacity of a person who can visualize a future reality completely disparate from their own.  When you think about it, people rarely look at the possibilities of the future unprompted. In modern times, technology has begun to move so quickly that the things, so-called crackpots dream of today, often become reality in only a few years.  So in order to keep it fresh, I really sifted through a lot of material to find this one.  Not only was it published in 1905, but it also visualizes a future dystopian society.  What's even more interesting is that this plot of the story proceeds from a premise in which women are the dominant sex.  What I found most interesting was the fact that the story was written by a woman in pre-partition Bangladesh.  Not because it was written by a woman or a Muslim woman.  Muslim women have an extremely long and established history of scholarship.  I was drawn to this concept because it predates any such concept in the West (that I know of), and it conveys a point of view that makes one wonder how much was influenced by patriarchal attitudes of the day.

"Sultana's Dream" was written by Roquia Sakhawat Hussain a social worker and feminist in pre-partition Bangladesh.  It takes place in a technologically advanced future where women are the dominant sex and men are subservient to them.  The workday is only 2 hours long because "men waste six hours a day smoking" (lol), and female scientists have learned to harness the power of the sun for all of the power needs of society.  This was an interesting element because it injects the idea of green energy into a story that predates climate science.  Essentially everyone is living in a utopia and all due to the fact that women are running society.  Download the story and read it if you want to see how it ends.

Later she founded a school for girls which still exists today.  Most of her life was spent fighting gender bias and discrimination.  She founded a woman's conference that would convene regularly and report on the state of education among women and girls.  To me, this is the most interesting thing about her.  The story is excellent, but finding this example of early Islamic feminism makes the fiction that much sweeter.  There are many Muslim feminists today and it is interesting to see a tradition that stretches back so far.  I am sure there are other earlier examples but I will leave that to someone else to dig up.  The intersection of Science Fiction, Islam, and Feminism is enough for us for now.  I hope you will enjoy this story!

Sultana's Dream (pdf)