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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Jahanara

Known For: Early Sufi scholar, princess, and daughter of Shah Jahan
Dates: Hijri 1022-1091(AH)
Common Era 1614-1681(CE)
Country: India

About

Jahanara, was an early Sufi scholar and the eldest daughter of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. She was also known by alternative names, such as Fatima, Jahan Ara Begum Sahib, and Shahzadi.  At the age of 17 years and upon the death of her mother, Jahanara succeeded to her mother’s position as the First Lady in the courts.  Additionally, she became responsible for her siblings and the administration of the household.

Jahanara wrote several books about both the practices of Sufism and Sufi figures such as her Sufi teacher, Mulla Shah, of the Qadiriyya line.  Her book on her initiation as a Sufi “bears witness to the profundity of her faith and mystical understanding.” ( Wiebke Walther, Women In Islam: From Medieval to Modern Times [Princeton: Marcus Weiner, 1993], 111.) She was also known for her interest in the arts, and she financed the building of several mosques and gardens. 

When her brother Aurangzeb triumphed against their father in a war of succession in 1658CE, Jahanara accompanied Shah Jahan into prison until his death. She was then given her own home outside the prison until her own death.

Sources

Barbara N. Ramusack, Sharon L. Sievers, Women in Asia [INSERT PUBLISHING INFO – LOCATION, PUBLISHER, DATE], 36.

Diane & Michael Preston, A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time (London: Doubleday, DATE?), 354

Camille Adams Helminski, Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure: Writings and Stories of Mystic Poets, Scholars & Saints (Boston: Shambhala, 2003), 128-132

More Information

Lyana Guillaume, Uma Narayanan, and Prema Seetharam (trans.),  Jahanara (Madras: East West Books 2003).

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