Malika VI: Sayyida Al-Hurra

Malika VI: Sayyida Al-Hurra

From Bangladesh to Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan to Nigeria, Senegal to Turkey, it is not particularly rare in our own times for women in Muslim-majority countries to be appointed and elected to high offices—including heads of state. Nor has it ever been.

Stretching back more than 14 centuries to the advent of Islam, women have held positions among many ruling elites, from malikas, or queens, to powerful advisors. Some ascended to rule in their own right; others rose as regents for incapacitated husbands or male successors yet too young for a throne. Some proved insightful administrators, courageous military commanders or both; others differed little from equally flawed male potentates who sowed the seeds of their own downfalls.

This six-part series presents some of the most notable historical female leaders of Muslim dynasties, empires and caliphates. 

The sixth and final story in this series takes place in the early 16th century, when Morocco offered haven to Muslim and Jewish émigrés in the wake of the fall of Al-Andalus to Christian Spain.

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