Time Magazine: WOMAN of the Millennium

Jack Andrews amiga at primenet.com
Thu Oct 1 05:31:16 EST 1998


> Shagrat (or Shajarat) al-Durr. (died, 1259)
>
> Women who were "powers behind the throne" are always fascinating. But those who
> move out of the shadows to sit on the throne itself
> can be even more so. This month features Shagrat al-Durr, who took upon herself
> the title of Sultan, and regrouped the Egyptian army
> to take Damietta back from the Frankish Crusaders.
>
>                                               Why She Is An Historical Hero?
>
>   Her life links the last victories of the Crusaders to the transition to a new
> period and dynasty, the Mamluks (the powerful army made
> up of Turkish slaves and who eventually supplanted their masters). Want to find
> out why slaves could become so powerful?
>
>  During this new period, that of the Mamluks, Cairo was to become the center of
> power. The Mamluks kept their power for more than
> two centuries in Egypt and Syria.
>
>  It was the Egyptian Mamluk army who were the only institution that eventually
> stopped the Mongol drive, in their ambitions to conquer
> the entire Middle East.
>
>  Shagrat al-Durr is one of the very few women in Islamic history to ascend to the
> throne. Her melodramatic life illustrates the fact that
> an ambitious woman had to depend on the good will of men to be able to lead.
>
>  Shagrat's dismissal as Sultan by the Caliph of Baghdad reaffirmed the Islamic
> concept that the spiritual head and political head of a
> country must be one, and that such a position cannot properly belong to a woman.
>
>                                                          Her Story
>
> The time is 1250 A.D. The sultan of Egypt, Salih Ayyub has just died at the
> moment when the crusading armies of France are
> threatening Egypt. Salih Ayyub's wife is Shagrat al-Durr, who had been a slave of
> Turkoman origin.
>
> In 1249, the French army under Louis IX, King of France landed at Damietta, at
> the mouth of the Nile River. Shagrat, acting as Salih's
> regent while he was away in Damascus, organized the defense of the realm.
>
> Soon after Salih Ayyub returns, he dies. Shagrat, conceals the fact of his death
> by saying he is "sick" and having a servant be seen taking
> food to his tent. She thus is able to continue to lead the army in his name.
>
> Turan, his son and her stepson, appears and Shagrat hands the reins of power over
> to him, finally announcing her husband's death. Still,
> Shagrat retains control, and renders a crushing defeat on the Crusaders at
> Damietta. The leaders of the army don't respect Turan; they
> want Shagrat, seeing her as a Turk, like themselves. They plot against Turan and
> have him murdered. On May 2, 1250, they put
> Shagrat al-Durr on the throne.
>
> As sultan, Shagrat al-Durr has coins struck in name, and she is mentioned in
> weekly prayers in mosques. These two acts only can be
> done for the person who carries the title of sultan.
>
> Peace is made with the Franks. Louis IX is ransomed and allowed to return home.
>
> Egypt at this time is under the authority of the Caliphate at Baghdad. Baghdad
> does not approve of Shagrat. She is a woman, and
> women must not hold the title of ruler. The Caliph of Baghdad sends a message to
> the Egyptian amirs: "Since no man among you is
> worthy of being Sultan, I will bring you one." Shagrat is deeply humiliated, but
> she steps down after being Egypt's sultan for only two
> months.
>
> A successful Mamluk soldier, Aibak, is appointed in her place. Sharat al-Durr's
> moment of power, however, is not over. Either for love
> or political ambition, she manages to seduce Aibak. He marries her. Reports tell
> of their great love for one another.
>
> With her experience at administration and leadership, for seven years Shagrat
> rather than Aibak really rules. An historian who lived at
> the time comments: "She dominated him, and he had nothing to say." Shagrat
> continues to sign the sultan's decrees, has coins struck in
> both their names, and dares to be addressed as Sultana.
>
> Shagrat al-Durr is a jealous woman, and one who does not want to share power.
> When she married Aibak, she had him divorce his wife,
> with whom he had a son. In 1257, Aibak proposes to take another wife. In
> Shagrat's eyes this act is unthinkable. In a fit of jealousy, she
> plots his murder and carries it out when he is having a bath after a game of
> polo.
>
> In desperation, Shagrat al-Durr tries to conceal the crime. But her past deeds
> come back to haunt her in the person of Aibak's former
> wife and his son, who now seek revenge. The army divides over those continuing to
> support Shagrat and those opposing her. Rioting
> breaks out, and Shagrat is cornered. Spurred on by Aibak's former wife, Shagrat
> is beaten to death by the slaves of the harem with their
> wooden clogs. Her half-naked body is thrown into the moat of the citadel.
>
> Eventually, Shagrat al-Durr's bones are taken and placed in the mosque known
> today as the mosque of Shagrat al-Durr.
> --
> Jack Andrews
> http://www.primenet.com/~amiga Original Art
>
> http://members.tripod.com/~artist_3/ Original VRML Art
>
> http://www.primenet.com/~amiga/chronicpain1.html
> Our Lives With Chronic Pain
> (please contribute your "thoughts" to this site)
>
> Let not the fierce sun dry one tear of pain before thyself
> hast wiped it from the sufferer's eye.
> H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891)

--
Jack Andrews
http://www.primenet.com/~amiga Original Art

http://members.tripod.com/~artist_3/ Original VRML Art

http://www.primenet.com/~amiga/chronicpain1.html
Our Lives With Chronic Pain
(please contribute your "thoughts" to this site)

Let not the fierce sun dry one tear of pain before thyself
hast wiped it from the sufferer's eye.
H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891)





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