Views of Begum Sultan Jahan of Bhopal on Women Heading the Government

The following text is a reproduction of an excerpt from Hayat-i-Qudsia, written by Begum Sultan Jahan

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(The following text is a reproduction of an excerpt from Hayat-i-Qudsia, written by Begum Sultan Jahan)


No doubt history has mostly been silent about Eastern women rulers, and no clear account of them has so far been written, probably for the same reasons as in England, namely, that their rule was not generally approved. It was thought that women have very little political and administrative capacity and that if they did possess it they were incapable of using it. That their physical weakness and merciful natures prevented them from fulfilling the duties of a Ruler satisfactorily. There are, however, many examples both in the world and in history of splendid Queens, e.g. :

Queen Mary,

Queen Elizabeth,

Queen Mary II,

Queen Anne, and others.

To English readers it is unnecessary to describe the histories of these English Queens, but there have also been celebrated Mahommedan Queens though less well known to the world in general.

For instance Shujarat-ud-dar the last ruling Queen of the Ayyubiyah dynasty in Egypt which was founded by Sultan Salah-ud-deen a hero of the 6th century A.H. The chief result of her reign was the peace which existed after the series of wars during the preceding reigns of that dynasty. When she ascended the throne the Aiyubiya dynasty was decaying and she was obliged to call in the help of other nations, but it was due to her that Egypt remained with an independent government till it was shattered by the Sultan Salim.

Begum Sultan Jahan, her son Obaidullah on Hajj Pilgrimage: an interesting story.

Then there was Razia Sultanah, daughter of Sultan Altamish, the only woman who ever occupied the throne of Delhi. Generally when there is no male heir to a ruling family a daughter succeeds, but Razia Sultanah had a brother, and she is the only instance in the history of Islam in which a woman succeeded in preference to a male heir. She was brave and courageous and had commanded the army with great courage in many battles. Ibn-i-Batata, the famous traveller and writer, who visited India in Mahommed Taghlaq’s reign, writes : “ Razia comes out on horseback dressed as a soldier, she constantly takes the field herself to suppress the insurrections of rebellion officers. She carries out the administration of the country so well that even a statesmanlike ruler like Sultan Altamsh preferred the daughter to his sons.”

Next comes Ummul Majd of the Vilam dynasty. She was a contemporary of the Sultan Mahmud, who endeavoured to conquer her country, but was frustrated by the clever plans of the lady, and it was not till after her death that Sultan Mahmud succeeded in over running the country.

Then we have Chand Sultanah of the Nizam- shahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar. The extensive Bahmani Kingdom of the Deccan was split up into five parts after the decay of that dynasty.

Barkatullah Bhopali, who formed the ‘Government of India in Exile’ 

The most important of these were the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmednagar and the Adilshahi of Bijapur. Chand Sultanah ruled the former and was the daughter-in-law of Adil Shah of Bijapur. During her reign, Akbar sent a large army of Rajpoots under Jahangir to conquer the Deccan, and although it made repeated attempts to take Ahmednagar, they were always defeated by Chand Sultanah, till eventually she became exhausted and peace was made in which the province of Berar was annexed to the Moghal Kingdom.

Lastly, there is Eskhaton of the Atabag dynasty of Shiraz in Persia. After the fall of the Seljuks, Persia was divided up into principalities and Shiraz came under the rule of Saad Zangi, who was the Patron of the poet Saadi who was named after him. Eshkhatoon belonged to this family and was the wife of Munko Tamir son of Halaku Khan. She ruled Shiraz in troubled times and her memory is still preserved in the literary institution of Shiraz known as Tanaab Bafaun. She died near Tabriz in the year 686 A.H.

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