Begum Shafi Ahmad was born in 1898 in Meerut. Her grandfather, Khan Bahadur Ghulam Nabi was the Raees-e-Azam (Chief) of Meerut who served as the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister of the State of Bahawalpur. Begum Shafi’s father was Sajjad Nabi Qureshi.
At the age of 16, she married Hazrat Syed Shafi Ahmad (ra) of Delhi, who had accepted Ahmadiyyat in 1903. He belonged to the family of Hazrat Khawaja Mir Dard (rh), and was the son of a cousin of Hazrat Syeda Nusrat Jehan Begum (ra), wife of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as).
Begum Shafi came to know that her husband was an Ahmadi after her marriage, but she was very much impressed by her husband’s regularity in prayers, recitation of the Holy Quran and high morals. When this came to the notice of her family, they made it clear that the nikah had been abrogated. But after much difficulty, she returned to her husband and said that they would follow their respective beliefs.
Hazrat Syed Shafi Ahmad (ra) was writing the first Ahmadiyya pocketbook ‘Muhaqqaq’ in those days. He wisely said to his wife, ‘You do recitation [of the Holy Quran], please help me to write the book, and during the recitation, write down the verses about the fate of those who believe in the prophets and those who disbelieve.’ Thus, Begum Shafi’s heart opened and she accepted Ahmadiyyat in 1920.
When there was a fundraising movement for the Fazl Mosque in London, Begum Shafi Ahmad presented her necklace.
On 18 April 1927, when Lajna Imaillah was established in Delhi, through Hazrat Syeda Nawab Mubaraka Begum (ra), Begum Shafi Ahmad was appointed as the first Secretary Finance.
She was a very good speaker as well and had the opportunity to deliver a speech at Women’s Jalsa Salana in 1934.
Her husband passed away on 31 October 1941, and one day she saw her husband in a dream who was telling her to re-launch the newspaper called Dastkari, which was published from 1913 till the death of her husband. After this dream, in 1943, Begum Shafi Ahmad also entered the field of journalism and launched the weekly Dastkari.
Many of her editorials not only brought her to fame but also made her a member of many organizing committees in Delhi.
She was also an ardent member of the Muslim League. In 1938, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah appointed her as the in-charge of the local women’s department and later nominated her as a member of the Working Committee. She used to attend press conferences and meetings with full care of her purdah, along with her son.
On one occasion, Mrs Sarojini Naido hugged her and openly admitted that the burqa (veil) did not really hinder her progress. Begum Shafi Ahmad also attended the Shimla Conference and the inauguration of the Interim Government in 1946 as a correspondent.
After the partition of the Indian subcontinent, she also played a significant role in the protection of Muslims and Qadian Dar-ul-Aman.