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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Maham Anga

Known For: Regent of the Mughal Empire
Dates: Hijri d. 982 (AH)
Common Era d. 1562 (CE)


Country: India

About

Maham Anga was the wetnurse and foster mother of Emperor Akbar of the Mughal empire. Loved and respected by her charge, Anga became a political advisor and ultimately acted as regent for the teenage emperor for a brief time before her death.

Bairam Khan was the regent when Akbar first ascended to the throne at thirteen, but his rule was much critiqued. One of his most prominent detractors, Anga, with the help of her son and Akbar’s foster brother, Adham, convinced Akbar to send Khan to Mecca to perform the Hajj. Maham’s son, Adham, was sent to escort the general from the empire. Not satisfied, Maham urged Akbar to execute Khan, but the act was taken on by a vengeful Afghan.

With her main political rival, Khan, removed, Anga saw an opportunity to increase her power and assumed Khan’s role. Known as the “Petticoat Regency,” it is said that in this time “the foster mother cohort” tried to manipulate Akbar as a puppet king.

Her son Adham, was found hoarding booty, and although he apologized and returned the goods, he kept two of his favorite women back. When discovery by Akbar seemed imminent, she had the two women killed lest they reveal the deceit.

Anga died shortly after her son’s violent execution, mete out by the emperor, for murdering Akbar’s favorite general. Some accounts say the Akbar himself threw her from the roof when he discovered her conspiracy to usurp his power.

Maham Anga also patronized the construction of Khair-ul-Manzal, a mosque located opposite the Old Fort in Delhi, and which later served as a madrasa.

She also is a prominent character in the 2008 Bollywood film “Jodhaa Akbar” and was portrayed by Ila Arun.

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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.