Muslim Women: Past and Present

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Throughout the ages, from the earliest days of Islam to contemporary times today, Muslim women have been and continue to be active leaders in their communities and countries across the world. This directory is a growing archive of leading Muslim women scholars, activists, writers, politicians, artists, religious and spiritual leaders, civil society leaders and more. Please contribute to this archive by suggesting Muslim women to be featured through our recommendation form.

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Hamida Banu Begum

Known For: Emperor Mother of the Mughal Empire
Dates: 933-1013 Hijri
1527-1604 CE
Country: India

About

Born to a Persian Shia family, Hamida Banu Begum became a junior wife of Emperor Humayun at the age of 14, and was the mother of the most famous emperor of the Mughal dynasty, Emperor Akbar.

When Humayun himself was 33, he fell in love with her beauty. Although she had initially contested the match, she was convinced of his sincerity. During the 14 year course of their marriage she became his close companion and support.

While Humayun was warring for the throne, his was a mobile court, and Hamida followed him on his tough travels across rough terrain, even leaving her son, Akbar, behind to continue to support her husband.

Humayun died in 1555 after finally returning to Delhi and Hamida’s son Akbar became emperor, and here, Hamida showed her political acumen becoming an active emperor mother. When Akbar’s prime minister, Bairam Khan, began trying to increase his control, Hamida kept Akbar abreast of every turn in the situation to prevent the isolation the Bairam was trying to place Akbar in. Against the wishes of Bairam, Hamida orchestrated a political alliance to the granddaughter of a trusted emir of Humayun and with a group of like-minded emirs, she forged a political alliance.

Once Akbar established his dominance, Hamida retained her preeminent position. She also left an architectural legacy with the Tomb of Humayun, which she commissioned in 1562.

Sources

Bose, M. (2000). Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern India. Oxford UP

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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women leaders by entering the keyword(s) of your choice. If you cannot find a particular woman that you are looking for, please let us know by completing our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.