Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 7: Sultana Shajarat ad-Durr

Global media, our educational systems and cultural centres have repeatedly shown Muslim women as suppressed. These 5 days I am going to attempt and show powerful Muslim women who used their resources, wealth and status with extreme political acumen in ruling their reigns and transforming civilisations.

Shajarat al-Durr (Arabic: شجر الدر, "Tree of Pearls") [1][2]  (d. 1257, Cairo) was the widow of the Ayyubid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub who played a crucial role after his death during the Seventh Crusade against Egypt (1249–1250). of Turkic origin[4][5]. She became the Sultana of Egypt on May 2, 1250.

Sultan Al-Salih Najm Al-Din Ayyub was responsible for bringing a large number of slaves to Egypt, who  later came to rule Egypt as the Mamluks. Shajarat al- Durr was amongst these slaves but later bore the Sultan a son and a favourite of the king's wife.

While the Crusades were underway, Louis IX came with his troops to occupy Cairo. During this time Sultan as Salih Ayyub died of an unknown fever. This was the perfect opportunity for the Franks under Louis IX to take over the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt. However, Shajarat taking the chief of the Mameluke guard, Fakhr al-Din, and the Sultan's chief eunuch, Jamal al-Din into her confidence  concealed the sultan's death and managed to control Egypt long enough so that Sultan al-Salih's son Turan Shah could return from northern Syria and take over the command!

In the meantime the Sultana with her strength of mind and character managed to stabilise the country politically and militarily and eventually managed to be victorious over the Crusaders.

Due to her political acumen, she received some reverence from the incoming Mamelukes, too that they raised her to the throne with the title, Umm-Khalil, meaning "mother of Khalil". She became the first female leader to have coins struck and the Friday sermon pronounced in her own name. To begin her reign, she continued Turan Shah's negotiations with Louis, preserved the  lives of the French prisoners, regained Damietta and ransomed the French king for 1,000,000 bezants, and maintained peace in Egypt.

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