RASHID is a middle-class muslim young man, just back from England after a long educational sojourn whose father, MIRZA SAHEB, finds himself as a poet but-being a poor, indifferent versifier-finds no appreciation, least of all from his wife, who is impervious to the beauties of her husband's muse. In the neighbourhood live a poor, pious, old woman, SAIDANI BEE, and her beautiful young daughter, ZUBEIDA, with whom Rashid used to play when they were children. On his return Rashid makes an effort to resume this thread of friendship and, seeing that Zubeida carries bare wrists, tries to present her with a set of glass bangles, but discovers to his horror and dismay that she may not wear them because She is a widow, having been married and widowed during Rashid's absence. From the lonely sequestered life she now leads, he gleans that society has slammed the door of life in her face and that she must for the rest of her life continue to go without the love affection, company and happiness which the enlightened Rashid considers every girl's birthright. Zubeida is practically a family member in Rashid's house and helps his mother in her various domestic duties. She also ministers to Rashid's personal needs.
Rashid has a younger sister, Suraiya, whom her parents wish to give away in marriage to Jhumman, a dissolute young man who acquiesces in the arrangement only because on it depends his inheriting the huge fortune of his mother. Rashid fights this match tooth and nail and makes an enemy of Jhumman who puts up the whole Mohalla against Rashid and Zubeida by spreading false, poisonous rumours. Normal life thus becomes impossible for the widow and her daughter and they are compelled to quit the town. Zubeida is so prostrate with grief at the prospect that she decides to put an end to her life but a last-minute dash by Rashid knocks over the cup of poison she has prepared for herself and she is rescued out of a horrible fate. Rashid, meanwhile has succeed in his right to save his sister from the clutches of Jhumman and has got her married secretly to a young, noble-hearted but impecunious friend of his, Ahmed. In desperation, Jhumman sets in motion a series of events whose ultimate effect, however, far from serving his ends, is ruinous to him and he finds himself in jail, a murderer. The community opposition to Rashid's progressive plans regarding Zubeida thus losses its strongest prop and falls to pieces, ushering in happy endings for all concerned.