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Mariyumma Mayanali Maliyekkal; The One Who Walked Ahead Of The Ages

Today men and women enjoy equal status guaranteed by our Constitution. But there was a period when men dominated, especially in the field of education and occupation. Yet, there were people whose thought processes were ahead of their age. Such a family was Maliyekkal, a prominent Muslim family of Thalassery, Kannur. O.V Abdulla senior, a member of Maliyekkal was a well-known Islamic scholar and a commission agent in a tea estate. As a nationalist, ignoring the words of the religious heads, he made her daughter Mariyumma study at the Sacred Hearts English Medium Convent School.

Mariyumma studied in Sacred Hearts Convent from 1938 to 1943, run by Christian Missionaries in Thalassery at a time forbidden by Muslim families to send their children to school and to study any other language than Arabic. She was the only Muslim student in that school. She suffered a lot to pursue the goal of becoming the first Muslim woman to achieve an English education.

Her cousins, Dr Amina Hashim, Aisha Rauf and Aleema Abutty were the first to attain education from Maliyekkal and were the inspiration for little Mariyumma. She had to undergo many barriers to reach that goal. It was challenging to study a new language as a Malayalam medium lower primary school student. But her father supported her. She went to school in an auto-rickshaw wearing a burka. The insult from the religious groups made little Mariumma in tears. The support from her teachers and family raised her spirit. She completed her fifth forum after marriage as her husband V R Mayanali was very supportive.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” says Nelson Mandela. With the power of education, Mariyumma was at the forefront of many social and cultural events. She got an opportunity to make a speech on Muslim women’s education in English before Sheik Abdulla in Mananjira Square. Mariyumma took part in Muslim Mahilasamajam in 1935. She led a protest against dowry. She shared the memory of literary events conducted in Maliyekkal, where eminent leaders like Panampilly Govinda Menon and Kuttimalu Amma participated. She also organised free tailoring classes under the Samajam. She concentrated on women’s empowerment activities.


The women of Maliyekkal were always at the forefront of conducting social events at that time. They were good at dancing, singing etc. As per the P N Panicker’s request, a literacy centre was started in Maliyekkal. According to Mariyumma, seeking knowledge is more important than Considering gender. She got an opportunity to select announcers at Kozhikode Railway station in 1976. In her old age too, she was fond of reading English and hence called by the name ‘English Mariyumma’. She is an icon of English education for Muslims in the north Malabar region. She advised the girls not to marry at a young age, to continue their studies, find a job and live happily. Then if you find a good match, marry.

‘Learn the Qur’an by understanding its meaning’ The words by Muhammed Abdul Rahman sahib deeply inspired her and the Thalassery revolt remained an unforgettable pain in her. She passed away, at the age of ninety-five on the sixth of August, 2022. Her inspiring talks and pleasant smile will remain in our hearts forever. She was an inspiration for all. She worked hard for women’s empowerment and her death was a loss in all aspects. Eminent personalities from different walks of life expressed their grief on her sad demise.

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