Ziauddin Yousafzai, a proud Muslim father of his daughter

Ziauddin Yousafzai, a proud Muslim father of his daughter


There are great men living among us, but sometimes it take an epic event for their presence to be known outside their limited geography.  

Rarely do men take the lead in fighting for women’s rights.  But I have just read about a man who has been fighting for women’s rights for his entire life.  That man’s name is Ziauddin Yousafzai.  Ziauddin is the Pakistani father of the very famous Malala Yousafzai, his daughter, and the courageous young woman who stood up for the education of girls in Pakistan.  As a result, Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.  


As you might have guessed, I just read “I AM MALALA.”  It’s an outstanding book that I recommend to everyone.  There is no more worthy book being sold today.   

Malala is an exceptionally brave young woman.  But, her father was more brave.  There could have been no Malala without Ziauddin, a man of astounding courage who has fought for his entire life for the education of all children in Pakistan, boys and girls.  When Malala was born, no one in the family was happy because she was a baby girl.  But Ziauddin stunned all by not only being happy about his daughter’s birth, but was extremely vocal about his pride to be the father of a daughter.  He insisted that his daughter be included in the family tree, much to the horror of other family members.  (Sadly, in most of the Muslim world, when daughters are born, everyone goes quiet with grief.  When sons are born, celebrations go on for days.) 

And so from the beginning of her life, Ziauddin’s daughter was lavished with love, attention, and books.  From the moment she reached the age of understanding, she knew that her father “had her back” and he would fight to the death to ensure that she, a mere girl in other’s eyes, would be treated equally with her two brothers.  And so Malala grew into her teenage years feeling confident that she had the right to speak her mind, to study, to learn, and to have and pursue dreams.  Ziauddin had taught his daughter how to struggle against injustice.  And Malala learned how powerful a person can be who speaks out against injustice.  Every child born deserves such a life.  

When reading this book, I adored Malala, and I marveled at Ziauddin.  He grew up at a time when women’s feelings  were not even considered, yet he respected women, and was proud to  express his respect for females, insisting that his school be open to girls, too. 

Ziauddin is not only passionate and confident with his beliefs, but he is exceptionally wise about many aspects of life.  Here are just a few tidbits in the book shared by Malala:  “My father also loved to write poetry, sometimes about love, but often on controversial themes such as honor killings and women’s rights.”   

When a Mullah in their village started a campaign against Ziauddin’s school, open to girls and boys, Ziauddin was not afraid to fight back, telling others, ‘Nim Mullah khatrai iman’ or, “A Mullah who is not fully learned is a danger to faith.”  (After living in the Muslim world for many years, I KNOW that it takes extraordinary courage for anyone to speak out against a Mullah.  Even powerful kings and dictators chose their words with care when addressing or discussing a Mullah!) 

When a doctor’s clinic was closed by the Taliban, the doctor approached Ziauddin for advice after the Taliban later offered to reopen the hospital.  Ziauddin advised his friend, “Don’t accept good things from bad people.”  He didn’t believe that a hospital protected by the Taliban was a good thing.  He was right, and not afraid to speak out against the brutal Taliban.

When the Taliban first came to their valley (SWAT) many people welcomed them with open arms, much to Ziauddin’s dismay, for he knew they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Later after the Taliban completely took over and began to murder many people, everyone was forced to flee.  When they returned to their village, they found a letter from a Pakistani soldier condemning the villagers for allowing the Taliban to gain control Swat.  Ziauddin told his daughter, “This is typical.  We people of Swat were first seduced by the Taliban, then killed by them and now blamed for them.  Seduced, killed and blamed.”  In fact, Ziauddin was being generous.  He was never seduced.  In fact, he fought against the Taliban from the first day until the last.

When Ziauddin received death threats from the Taliban, he refused to give up his activities to educate children or to stop warning his friends against cooperating with the Taliban.  Even after his friends were shot in the face by the Taliban, he kept on course.  Everyone believed that Ziauddin would be next.

But it was his daughter who was shot. 

After the attempted murder of Malala, Ziauddin “…argued that all he had ever wanted was to create a school in which children could learn….”  “My only ambition,” Ziauddin said, is to educate my children and my nation as much as I am able.  But when half of your leaders tell lies and the other half negotiating with the Taliban, there is nowhere to go.  One has to speak out.”

Although Ziauddin was unusually courageous, he was often frustrated, once saying, “I have a school, but I am neither a khan nor a political leader.  I have no platform.  I am only one small man.”

I beg to differ:  Ziauddin, you are NOT a small man.  You are a lion of a man, the greatest of men, one of the most courageous men I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about — a man unafraid to go against entrenched ideas and prejudices fully embraced by your society.  

When Mala’s mother continued to believe that women should not go out of the house, and should not speak to any man not of her family, Ziauddin told his wife:  “Pekai, purdah is not only in the veil, purdah is in the heart.”

Ziauddin kept a famous poem (written by Martin Niemoller, who lived in Nazi Germany) in his pocket:

First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.

I have discovered that it is very difficult to bring change to our world.  And, as hard as women might fight against abuses, we cannot bring this kind of massive social change until men stand by our side.  If only every thinking men would come forward like Ziauddin Yousafzai to fight for women’s rights.  If only every man would live as Ziauddin Yousafzi has lived, soon we could defeat the abuses man inflicts upon women.

Ziauddin Yousafzi is a modest man, calling himself a “small man,” but in fact he is one of the greatest men ever to walk this earth. 

We should all nominate Ziauddin Yousafzi for next year’s Nobel peace prize, and for the TIMES man of the year.  We need to hold him up as the kind of hero young boys should emulate. 

Ziauddin Yousafzai is a real man.  




About jeansasson

I'm a woman with a keen interest in a wide range of topics including women's issues; animal rights issues; humanitarian issues and political movements, such as the events currently sweeping the Middle East. I am an avid reader and collector of books, mainly about travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries. I have enormous curiosity about other people and relish hearing about lives and opinions of people from all over the world. I’m the author of the PRINCESS series, GROWING UP BIN LADEN, MAYADA DAUGHTER OF IRAQ, FOR THE LOVE OF A SON, and more. Over the past few years the princess and I have met and worked together to bring out a 4th, 5th and 6th book. The 4th is titled: PRINCESS, MORE TEARS TO CRY while the 5th is titled: PRINCESS, SECRETS TO SHARE. The 6th, titled PRINCESS, STEPPING OUT OF THE SHADOWS is to be released in October 2018. I am currently working on my memoirs. Details to be released soon. You can visit my website ( or check out my books on Amazon for more info.
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  1. Wonderful post. I remember when I’d first read about Malala, one of the first things that really struck me was that her father had a school and was one of her fiercest supporters. You are absolutely right that this is not a woman’s fight alone. More men need to do more than just speak up. Well articulated, Jean!

    • jeansasson says:

      HI Vicky, I hope you read the book. You will be amazed by the father. Then you will understand how Malala came to be such an extraordinary young woman. We need many thousands of men like Malala’s father and indeed, the world would change!

  2. Maria Babich says:

    Jean, I am afraid to say that as much as I am passionate for woman’s rights in that part of the world, and cannot understand how people can be so cruel, I am afraid that if I lived there, the terror of the Taliban would keep me silent, due to their brutality.
    I have to say, just like the silent, fearful Germans in Nazi Germany, the Pakistani moderates can’t be blamed unless one is willing to walk in their shoes. That said, I am hoping and praying that because strength lies in numbers, people like the incredibly brave Ziauddin will spark a uniting front against the Taliban, like the produce worker who sparked the Arab spring.

    • jeansasson says:

      Maria, you are right that it would be very daunting to stand up to a large aggressive group like the Taliban. One has to be willing to give up their life, and that’s a lot to ask of anyone. Malala’s father is a very unusual man, more courageous than most.

      It is true that the Muslim moderates for the most part have been silenced, but if they don’t stand up to this kind of brutality unleashed by the Taliban, then they are the ones who suffer the most. I always felt that way about Iraq. If only the Iraqi people had been able to stand up to Saddam before he was so firmly entrenched in power, perhaps their history would have been different.

      But, of course, it is easy to give advice when one is a long distance from the danger, so I try not to criticize, but do wish that large groups of people might come together to fight these tyrants before they have a death hold on the populace…

      Thanks for writing. I do hope you read Malala’s story. It’s well worth it. I may re-read it, just to absorb the goodness of these two people fully in my mind…


  3. Reblogged this on Missunderstood Genius and commented:
    There is no greater need in a daughter’s childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. I am lucky to be born to a father who is a step behind me always and has backed me in my decisions. Malala is special and lucky to have a courageous father who backed her when his country opposed such gestures!

    • jeansasson says:

      Thank you so much for reblogging. I greatly admire this father and his daughter. We need about 1 million men as bold and courageous and the world of women would improve greatly!

  4. Becky Martin says:

    Way to persevere against the Spiral of Silence, Ziauddin!!! 🙂

    Thank you for this thoughtful post, Jean. I cannot wait to read Malala’s story.

    • jeansasson says:

      Thank you, Becky. I am giving the book as Christmas gifts this year. It’s a wonderful story that the entire world should know about. And, it lets us know the kind of men we need in our fight to bring full dignity to all women walking on this beautiful planet. Let me know what you thought of the book.

  5. 功夫熊貓 says:

    Hi there,I checked your article named “HERE’S A REAL MAN, ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: father of MALALA YOUSAFZAI | Jean Sasson” like every week. Your story-telling style is spectacular, keep it up! And you can see our website about 功夫熊貓.

  6. Himani Khatavkar says:

    we need such men….SALUTE to u both….

  7. Hamayun Masaud says:

    Thank you Jean Sasson for writing about Ziauddin Yousafzai, particularly at a time when a deliberate malicious campaign has been launched by the forces of darkness to undermine the struggles of this brave man. Yousafzai is personally known to me and I am an eye witness to the Swat mayhem and what you have articulated about his courage is not hyperbole!

    • jeansasson says:

      Dear Mr. Hamayun Masaud, Thanks very much for your note. It is clear to me that what you are saying is very true. I even had Pakistani people writing to me on my Facebook page telling me the wildest, most false, and hateful stories about this very brave man and his courageous daughter. Of course, I defriended them on the spot but not before asking them why they could not be proud of such a man… You are fortunate to know this very unusual man and I am glad that he has someone very honorable like yourself setting the record straight. Dark forces always go after the light and try to destroy goodness. It’s a great sadness and pity to me personally. Thank you again for writing. With very best wishes, Jean

    • jeansasson says:

      I am not surprised Mr. Masaud. I felt his courage through the pages of his daughter’s book. He is such an admirable man…

  8. gold price says:

    Yousafzai spoke out against the Taliban on the national current affairs show Capital Talk on 18 February.

    • jeansasson says:

      I’d like to have seen it — but missed it. But she is very articulate and so impressive for someone her age… She will be a great force for Muslim women, I believe.

  9. Hi Jean,
    I have also read the book ‘I am Malala’ and am in awe of both Malala and her father. I am an astrologer and am researching to give a powerpoint presentation on Malala for our astrology association in Sydney Australia.

    • jeansasson says:

      This is very interesting. I’d love to know the gist of what you discover when doing the astrology on Malala. I wish I could be there! What is the date? Can anyone attend or is it just for your association.. Let me know as I’d like to tell a friend about it… Thanks, so much, Jean

  10. esha says:

    hey jean i really wanted to read this book but my country INDIA is not atall fond of pakistani ppl….u know 26/11,mumbai and others…specially us army ppl caz da pakistani forces keep on doing ceasefire violations and we are in a constant threat of attacks specially during festivals…so whenever i try to buy a pakistani book or appreciate a pakistani no one approves!!! i hate this!!! i am a strong supporter of women rights and hate these artificial barriors of sex,caste,religion or nationality!!!

    • Hamayun Masaud says:

      esha, your comment surprises me! From your very country, India, a couple of journalists flew all the way from India to the out-of-step place Swat, the birthplace of Malala to do documentaries on Malala Yousafzai. If I wouldn’t have met them personally I would have bothered you with a reply comment.
      Let’s us all work together for the benefit of humanity irrespective of what nationality, religion, caste or sex we belong to.
      My kindest regards,

    • jeansasson says:

      I hate these differences, too. I hope that India and Pakistan can come together to work for good things — all of us are the same — we only want good things for our families and our countries, and all this squabbling does no one any good. I’ve never seen a war that made things better! So, time to stop fighting and start working together, all of us! Thanks for replying. J.


    I like it
    Malala You grow up

  12. Laine Hickle says:

    I’m a student working on the History Fair in Texas, and my subject is Ziauddin Yousafzai and how he stood up fir Women’s education. This website and text really helped with my website. Thank you!

  13. Solfrid says:

    How come that Ziauddin Yousafzai never taught his own wife how to read and write?

    • jeansasson says:

      I read where he wanted to do so but that she did not feel it was necessary for her life. But he certainly helped many others to learn to read and write.

  14. Solfrid says:

    Thanks for your reply. It is still strange to me that a woman, married to a man withc such views on education for girls, wants to stay illiterate! She had the very opportunity within the safety of her home to learn this being married to an educated man like him. If he realy was interested to help her he could easily have convinced her to do so. As a matter of fact the husbands wishes are to be obeyed in Pathan society.

  15. Pingback: Thai- Malala’s Biography | Fa's Blog

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