Dr Rahma Mohammed Kunju, the grandniece of freedom fighter and social reformer Vakkom Moulavi and one of the first Muslim women doctors from Kerala, died at her residence in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
Dr Rahma, 91, had served the medical services in Singapore and Malaysia for several decades that included her stint as a medical officer in the University of Kuala Lumpur. She was honoured by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, for her selfless service in the south-east Asian country.
Born in 1926 in Travancore, Dr Rahma had her education in different places in Kerala, Aligarh, Karachi and London. She took her MBBS from the Karachi Medical College before partition and did advanced courses in medicine in London.
“It was a period when Muslim women were hardly there in higher education, let alone in professional degrees. Names such as Justice Fathima Beevi, (the first female judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court of India and the first Muslim woman to be appointed to any higher judiciary) and Dr Souda were the only exception,” said Dr Rahma’s niece, K. M. Seethi, who is a professor at the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. “Dr Rahma stood out among them as she stepped ahead to pursue her education abroad,” he added.
Dr Rahma’s great-uncle, Vakkom Moulavi, was a prolific writer, journalist, teacher and Muslim scholar in Kerala during the pre-independent period. He is considered as one of the greatest reformers in the Kerala Muslim community who had campaigned for the education of women among other things. He was the founder and publisher of the newspaper Swadeshabhimani which was banned and confiscated by the government of Travancore due to its criticisms against the government and the Diwan of Travancore.
Dr Rahma’s brother MA Shakoor was a veteran journalist and the former London correspondent of Pakistan Times and senior editor of the Dawn.
She is survived by two sons and three daughters. The funeral was held at Subang Jaya.