The career of the queen Sayyida Hurra is a unique instance of its kind in the entire history of medieval Islam, for she exercised the political as well as religious leadership of Sulayhid Yemen; and in both these functions she was closely associated with the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty.
Few women rose to positions of political prominence in the medieval dar al-Islam, and, perhaps with the major exception of Sayyida Hurra, none can be cited for having attained leadership in the religious domain. A host of diverse factors have accounted for a lack of active participation of women in the political and religious affairs of the Islamic world during the medieval and later times; and the associated complex issues are still being debated among scholars of different disciplines and among Muslims themselves. Be that as it may, there were occasional exceptions to this rule in the medieval dar al-Islam, indicating that opportunities did in principle exist for capable women to occupy positions of public prominence under special circumstances. This article briefly investigates the career and times of the foremost member of this select group, namely the queen Sayyida Hurra who, in a unique instance in the entire history of medieval Islam, combined in her person the political as well as the de facto religious leadership of Sulayhid Yemen; and in both these functions was closely associated with the Fatimid dynasty and the headquarters of the Ismaili da‘wa or mission centred at Cairo.
Click link to learn more: Sayyida Hurra: The Isma‘ili Sulayhid Queen of Yemen
By Dr. Farhad Daftary (Author, Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications- The Institute of Ismaili Studies)