Sitt al-Mulk

Country

Egypt

Known for

Prominent Fatimid Princess

Dates

Hijri 357-413 (AH); Common Era 970-1023 (CE)

Sitt al-Mulk

Biography

Sitt al-Mulk became one of the most prominent women rulers of the Fatimid Empire, widely written about it in contemporary chronicles, after the disappearance of her brother. After the death of her father, her younger brother, Al-Hakim, ascended to the throne, but his relatively long reign was marked with unrest. Initially, she attempted to force her brother from the throne with the aid of a cousin but was arrested by her brother’s eunuch vizier Barjuwan. Sitt al-Mulk was particularly motivated against her brother after he savagely abused women of his harem including concubines and mothers of his children, some of whom were drowned in the Nile, according to gossip of the time. After his death (in which she is implicated by some sources for she was apparently worried that al-Hakim’s rule might risk the dynasty and her own safety), she became regent for his son Ali az-Zahir, who had lived with her. After he came of age, she still wielded influence as a key advisor. Largely, she was responsible for the smooth transition between the two reigns. She is praised by contemporary chroniclers for her personal attributes and her public policies, evoking an aura of royal authority. She spent much of her time erasing the vestiges of al-Hakim’s reign. Women were permitted greater freedom, music was allowed as was the consumption of alcohol. However, the regime also imprisoned and executed those who believed that God had been reincarnated as al-Hakim. Non-Muslims were permitted to restore their houses of worship and those who had been forced to convert under al-Hakim were permitted to return to their faiths. Sitt al-Mulk also reorganized the financial affairs of the state.

Sources

Cortese, Delia and Simonetta Calderini. Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.
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