Are there any examples of Muslim women as rulers, judges, or leaders?
  • The Qur’an relates the story of the Queen of Sheba and refers to her as having been a righteous, just, and powerful ruler; her example is often cited as evidence of women’s right to rule. However, the reality of historic and contemporary male-dominance in most societies (including many Western societies) has tended to place males in political leadership positions. Nevertheless, one finds a number of female rulers as well as powerful wives of rulers who had great influence over state affairs in Islamic history. Some of these Muslim female rulers have included: Al Audr al-Kareema, who ruled Yemen, Shajarat Ad-Durr in Egypt, who was known as a brilliant ruler, and a number of female rulers in India. In recent decades women have been heads of state in Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. Tawakul Karman of Yemen is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared with two other women in 2011. Here in the U.S., Dr. Ingrid Mattson served as the president of the largest Muslim membership organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) for two terms recently. Additionally there are dozens of Muslim women who are founders and heads of Muslim organizations. These include Maha Elgenaidi, executive director of ING (authors of this document); Azizah al-Hibri, founder and president of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights; and Tayyibah Taylor, founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Azizah magazine.