Mother of the Caliph and Political Leader
Hijri Unknown-321 (AH); Common Era Unknown-932 (CE)
Umm al-Muqtadir-Billah was the mother of the Caliph of Baghdad, Al-Muqtadir, who proved to be a weak and ineffectual ruler. Although her son was an incompetent leader whose unabashed hedonism was a cause of civil unrest, Umm al-Muqtadir-Billah nonetheless managed to reform the Abbasid government. However, her influence and her son’s utter ineptitude led to their downfall. According to sources, she created a tribunal, instating a female courtier as a judge, to hear disputes, petitions, and lawsuits in the public square. Although people were initially scandalized by this development, the female judge brought the famed judge Abul Hussein with her, indicating scholarly approval to the public. Through Umm al-Muqtadir-Billah’s innovation, access to justice was increased for all. However, with the state still falling into disrepair and resentment against female influence increasing, a number of military officers organized a coup. Although this failed, in a second military coup in 932 CE, her son was killed. Falling ill from the shock, Umm al-Muqtadir-Billah was imprisoned by the new Caliph, Al-Qahir, who stripped her of her wealth and tortured her. The Caliph attempted to coerce her to dissolve charitable trusts or awqaf she had created and permit his agents to sell them. Although she staunchly refused, Al-Qahir confiscated and sold them regardless. Under torture, her situation worsened, and despite the care of a prominent townsperson who had supported her son, she died and was buried in a cemetery she herself had founded.