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Habba Khatoon was an Arifa, not a peasant girl, history tells us.

The popularly held belief is that the legendary poetess and the last Queen of Kashmir belonged to a farmer-family. After getting divorced from her abusive husband, she was singing in a secluded-forest when Yosuf Shah Chak happened to pass. Bewitched by her beauty and voice, he fell in love, and the couple tied the nuptial knots. However, this story is straight out of a cinderella story or a classic Bollywood script that our writers have been parroting for too long.

Ink Bind decided to dig into the story and found that the narrative is completely false. Furthermore, the marriage between Habba Khatoon and Yosuf Shah Chak was an arranged marriage between the two families.

The two brothers:

In the year 1364, two brothers arrived in Kashmir from Khwarzam. Sayyid Fakhruddin and Farid-ud-din, and both of the brothers settled in the capital city called Shahar. The former was a discipline of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani and indulged in various missionary activities. The family chart of both of the brothers has been produced as below:

Lineage of Habba Khatoon traced by a Kashmiri scholar/ Muslim Kashmir

The third-generation of the family entered into a matrimonial alliance and Biba Habiba was born who later on became the last queen of Kashmir, and was named Habba Khatoon. She obtained her early education from a local institution where she learned the holy Quran. After that, she read various Persian, Koshur, and Shina works and started composing in these languages. Apart from that, she had an excellent knowledge of music and also sang Nasheeds and local songs. By this time, she gained the position of an Arifa in the religious hierarchy.

Her marriage with her third-generation cousin Kamaludin was a total failure. The conflicts between the highly-educated Habba Khatoon and primitive Kamal-ud-din arose to a point that they could no longer like each other in addition to the intolerance of Kamal’s sister towards Habiba. Her interest in poetry and music added to the fire and in no time the relationship collapsed. She obtained the divorce and returned to her father’s place.

Yousuf Shah Chak married his first wife in 1547 and from the marriage he had two sons namely Ibrahim, and Prince Yaqub. However, after the death of his first wife, the king sought refuge in separation and poetry. He had learned about the tragic story of the mystic, and he was impressed by her beauty and wisdom. The meeting between the couple was arranged by his emissaries. He decided to marry her and titled her Habba Khatoon – Lady Love who became the queen of Kashmir in 1579 when Muhammad Yosuf Padshah Gazi Chak ascended the throne.

The falsification of the story of the last queen of Independent Kashmir is an injustice to the not just to the memory of Habba Khatoon, but also history of Kashmir. It needs to be corrected and challenged. It’s interesting that none of the readers and writers have challenged and verified the narrative that is completely false. In her poetry, Habba Khatoon also mentions her lineage:

Molis nav chum Sayyid-al-Bahro,

Maji Nav chum Badr-al-Jamal,

Sayyid Koor Chess Por Kamalo

Watho lalo Nendaryai,

Maliin mein arbaab ase,

Tohai duram Habba Khatoon nav


My father’s name is Sayyid-Al-Bahro,

My Mother’s name in Badr-al-Jamal,

I am a Sayyid girl full of virtues.

Awake! O beloved from thy sleep.

My parents held position of authority.

Hence, my name was fixed as Habba Khatoon.

Habba Khatoon, Yosuf Shah Chak, and Yaqub Shah were buried in Nalanda, in today’s Bihar, never to return. When Kashmir’s legendary poet Mehjoor died. His wish was to be buried next to a grave that he believed to be of the legendary poetess. It was fulfilled as promised, but the unknown grave was not of Habba Khatoon.

The story of Yosuf encountering Habba Khatoon in a forest singing is false, and her being a peasant is absolutely a figment of the imagination. It needs to be corrected not just in our mainstream media, but also in our debates. The decedents of the last royals of Kashmir in Bihar have recently raised concerns about the intimidating attempts of the land mafia trying to gain the yard where the family is buried. Neither Kashmiris nor the followers of the poetess seem to care. The place is in shambles without any attention. The irony is that many of the Kashmiris are asking for the remains of the royals when they could care more about its restoration to preserve one of the most important chapters of Kashmiri history.

The article has been produced for the general audience and can be shared in any form, given that the content of the write-up is never changed, and the copyright maintained.

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