Unser Projekt 24 – Shajarat ad-Durr by Mahmud Badawy- The First Female Ruler in Islam

Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: Shajarat ad-Durr by Mahmud Badawy. The First Female Ruler in Islam – A Tragedy in Fix Acts


this text the association ProMosaik e.V. presents the adapted and
commented translation of an extraordinary tragedy about the political
career, the intrigues and the destiny of “the First Female Ruler in
Islam” as the author Mahmud Badawy calls Shajarat ad-Durr (which
translated into English means “Tree of Pearls”) who is a real symbol of
Islamic feminism today. 
queen Shajarat ad-Durr is the example of a brave and brilliant woman in
the misogynic and androcentric world of the Middle Ages in which she
tried to assert herself.

translator thinks that the Mahmud Badawy’s work is an essential
contribution at the intersection of literature, philosophy and history
which in her opinion satisfies the ideal of Aristotelian tragedy and at
the same time makes an important contribution to both intercultural
dialogue and philosophical foundation of Islamic feminism. Hereby a
quotation from the Poetics of Aristotle:

is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a
certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic
ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play;
in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity (eleos) and fear
(phobos) effecting the proper purgation of these emotions”.

Relating to this matter, Dr. Rampoldi writes:  
think that the tragedy represents an adequate literary form for
political and biographic matters. In it, it is clearly expressed that
Muslim women can proudly look back on the past of intelligent and brave
women who governed Muslim countries”.
Badawy chose to bring on stage the literary form a tragedy, which is
really good regarding a life like that of Shajarat ad-Durr,
characterised by power struggles, love, betrayal, envy, and at the same
time by justice and awareness of her own limits, as expressed in her
abdication speech with the Caliph’s Messenger.
anticipating the content of the five acts of the tragedy here in the
following we would like to quote a short passage of the scene in which
the Caliph’s letter is read:
Caliph’s messenger:  (Opens
the letter and reads) In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most
Merciful, and we ask help from Him. This is from Abu Ahmed Abdullah
Al-Mustasim-Billah bin Al-Mustansir-Billah, the Abbasid prince of
believers in Baghdad, to the princes and ministries of Egypt, and
especially its people. Peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.
Many voices: Peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.
Caliph’s messenger: We
heard the news of your gaining victory over the enemy of Islamic
religion; therefore, we praised Allah Who honoured His religion by you
and relieved Egypt from the hands of our enemies. However, messengers
came to us with news includes that you entrusted your affairs to
Shajarat Ad-Dur, the widow of King Al-Salih, may Allah mercy him.
Whereupon, as long as giving women kingship’s affairs is unprecedented
act in Islam, we felt sad for this. Moreover, as long as it is the right
of Muslims to appoint for them someone qualified for the burdens of
authority, we would like to ask you. If you no longer have men valid for
taking the authority, we may send for you someone valid for it. The
Messenger of Allah (prayers and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “There
will be no success for the people who entrust their affairs to a
woman.” And peace be upon who follows the right path.
this context, the Caliph made reference to the tradition of the Prophet
(sas) according to which a people governed by a woman will never
succeed. This tradition is considered the principal source of exclusion
of Muslim women from the world of politics and the governance of a
Muslim State. However, today not only feminists but also male scholars
of Islam doubt about the general validity of this hadith. As example I
would like to mention the Turkish Islamic scholar Prof. Mehmet Azimli
(compare the following article:
Kadınların idareciliği konusundaki rivayete tarihsel bağlamda eleştirel bir yaklaşım, online version:  
limited interpretation of the tradition of the Prophet (sas) who in
reality made reference to a historical event happened to the Persian
king Chosrau II who had nominated his daughter as his successor. In this
context, the Prophet (sas) had expressed his concrete opinion which
cannot be extended to the whole world of Islamic politics by an
androcentric interpretation totally excluding women from political
ad-Durr’s clever political move after her abdication consisted in the
alliance with the powerful slave Aybek who became Sultan of Egypt on her
initiative and next to whom she could continue to rule. But he betrayed
her, and was killed.  
The world is colourful.
The world is a big, colourful mosaic made of so many different stones connected with intercultural and interreligious bridges.