Saiyada Imam-Begum composed Ginans to the accompaniment of a fiddle

Mausoleum of Imam-Begum in Karachi Image: The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Mausoleum of Imam-Begum in Karachi. Image: The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Image: Musical instruments of India

Imamshah (d. 1512), a son of Pir Hasan Kabirdin, had settled in Gujarat in the Indian subcontinent. A tradition in the Indian Ismaili community distinguishes Ginan composers after Imamshah as Saiyads from Pirs, a title interpreted as a formal appointment by the Imam. Most of the Saiyads who authored Ginans after the death of Imamshah, were either his descendants or those of Pir Hasan Kabirdin; there were a total of seventeen Saiyads. The term Saiyad was also used to refer to Sufi masters and notable theologians.

Imam-Begum, the last in the line of the Saiyads who composed Ginans, and the only known female composer, spent most of her life in or near Bombay (now Mumbai), but is believed to have died in Karachi sometime during the late nineteenth century or  the beginning of the twentieth, although very little is know about her life. Imam-Begum, who composed a small number of Ginans of great beauty, was an accomplished player of the fiddle (sarangi) and sang her compositions to the accompaniment of this instrument.

Listen to the Ginan Marna hayre jarur composed by Imam-Begum and the English translation at

Sayyida Imam-Begum, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

Research by Nimira Dewji

The Pir Series:

Ginans: Rendition & Expression:

Qasidas: Rendition & Expression:

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