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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Zebunnisa

To Thee first, From the clouds of Whose mercy is born The rose of my garden, I look! Let the praise of Thy love the beginning adorn Of the verse of my book.

From the Divan of Zebunisa

Known For: Sufi Princess of the Mughals
Dates: 1048-1114 Hijri
1638-1702 CE

Country: India

About

Daughter of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Zebunnisa was esteemed by her father for her advice and later became a poet in the Sufi tradition.

A daughter of the Mughals, she was afforded an excellent education in Persian, Arabic, mathematics and astronomy, and was supervised by the best tutors of the Empire. Her love of education and poetry led to a bevy of scholars and poets who were welcomed at her own courts in Delhi and Lahore. She began writing some of her own poetry, established a library, and personally oversaw the translation of classical Arabic texts into Persian.

For some time, Zebunnisa was also influential over her father’s decisions. He would inquire after her opinion concerning palace appointments and upon occasion would take her counsel even when he disagreed.

Yet beginning in 1681, when Zebunissa’s younger brother Akbar rebelled against Aurangzeb and set himself up as emperor, their relationship soured. The rebellion was put down in a month and Akbar fled the country, but Zebunissa remained in contact with him. Aurangzeb discovered letters from her that implicated her complicity, and while Aurangzeb was able to forgive Akbar, his hurt at Zebunissa’s betrayal ran deeper.

Thus, she was imprisoned in a fortress in Delhi, where she wrote poetry. Her poetry, written under the nom de plume “Makhfi” or the hidden one, was circulated among her contemporaries. Fifty years following her demise, 400 of her poems were collected and published in Persian as the Diwan-i-Makhfi. Her poems discussed the love of God and expounded upon Sufi ideals.

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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women by their Country. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete 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.
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.