400

Malika I: Khayzuran & Zubayda

One born destitute, the other to opulence, two malikas, or queens in Arabic, open our six-part series on some of the most notable historic women leaders in Muslim lands.

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400

Malika II: Radiyya bint Iltutmish

Deftly symbolizing an aggrieved citizen’s quest for justice, the rightful heir to the Sultanate of Delhi donned a red robe on the eve of battle. She won the people’s support for four years of prosperous rule, but her rivals proved insatiable.

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400

Malika III: Shajarat Al-Durr

First woman to claim an Egyptian throne since Cleopatra, Shajarat Al-Durr won an Ayyubid sultan and then a crusader war; founded a Mamluk dynasty and ruled as sultana de facto far longer than de jure— until her storied, violent end.

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400

Malika IV: Hürrem Sultan (Roxolana)

Though her Turkish name Hürrem meant “laughing one,” she proved better at breaking barriers —first by marrying the sultan, and later by directing more of the Ottoman Empire’s affairs than any woman before her.
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400

Malika V: Nur Jahan

Wife and mother, businesswoman, fashion designer, real estate developer, garden plan-ner, philanthropist devoted to women, battle commander, tiger hunter: For the woman with a royal name meaning “Light of the World,” those were all part of Nur Jahan’s main job—running the Mughal empire.
 
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400

Malika VI: Sayyida Al-Hurra

When she governed the Moroccan coastal city of Tétouan, the Spanish accused her of organizing piracy, while at home she won respect from both Moroccans and post-1492 Andalusian émigrés. On land and sea, hers was a life charted by crisis.
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