A Muslim woman ruled the Maldives for three decades

Sathia Kumar

Sultana Khadija bint Omar I was the longest-serving Muslim female ruler of the Maldives.

Sultana Khadija bint Omar I was the longest-serving Muslim female ruler of the Maldives. He ruled the Maldives for more than three decades. According to the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, Sultana Khadijah was of Bengali origin. However, there is a difference of opinion in this case.

In private life, Sultana Khadija was very prudent and strong-willed. During his three-decade-long rule, he faced political crises several times and dealt with them intelligently. She is also known as Khadija Rehendi to historians.

Queen Khadija was the eldest daughter of Sultan Omar I.

When he died in 1341 AD, his son Ahmad Shihabuddin ascended the throne. But due to Ahmad Shihabuddin’s moral slippage and incompetence, public discontent arose. He was deposed in 1347 AD. Then Sultana Khadija ascended the throne.

He ruled Maldives till 1380 AD.

He visited the army camp daily and the soldiers showed him loyalty and respect. Khutba was read in his name in the mosques of Maldives. Sultana Khadija was the first female ruler of the Thimuz dynasty. According to Ibn Battuta, his grandfather and the founder of the Thimuz dynasty, Sultan Salahuddin Salih, was a Bengali.

Ibn Battuta writes, ‘The surprising thing is that its (Maldives) ruler is a woman. Her full name is Khadija bint Sultan Jalaluddin Omar bin Sultan Salahuddin Salih Bengali. His elder brother Shihabuddin was a minor when his father died. As a result, the Maldivian vizier Abdullah bin Muhammad Hadrami married Shihabuddin’s mother and seized power. After Shihabuddin became a minor, however, he was able to escape their influence. Allegedly, he used to enter people’s houses at night without their permission. Because of this he was deposed and exiled.

Khadija’s crown was placed on her head from the two remaining royal sisters. Her husband was Khatib (Chief Imam of the State) Jalaluddin. Khadija appointed her husband as Vizier and her son Muhammad as Khatib. Gradually the husband Jalaluddin became the controller of power and issued letters and ordinances in his wife’s name himself, which led to their conflict.

In 1363 he was deposed by his first husband and vizier Jamaluddin. But he regained the throne in 1364 AD. Swami Jamaluddin was killed during the change of power. He then married former vizier Abdullah Hadrami and appointed him vizier. He ruled uninterruptedly till 1374 AD. But the second husband also replaced Sultana Khadija and usurped the throne. After three years, he was able to recover the throne again. He died after ruling the country from 1376 to 1380. After his death, his sister Maryam ascended the throne.

Sultana Khadija was not very religious in her personal life, but she had respect for religion. He cooperated in religious activities, respected scholars and scholars. He himself was a seeker of knowledge. History researcher Omar Reza Kahhala writes, ‘She (Khadija) was one of the sultanas of India. He grew up in his homeland (Maldives). She acquired so much skill in knowledge, science, language and literature, which was rare among women of that time.’ (Alamun Nisa : 1/338)

Maldivian people still remember Sultana Khadija for her wisdom, intelligence, political wisdom and conviction and consider her a symbol of women’s empowerment.

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