Previously in this series: Introduction: A Forgotten Study Of Female Political Power In Muslim History, Sultan Raziyye of Medieval India, Shejer üd-Dür of Egypt, The Women of Khariji Islam, and Türkan Hatun of Iran.
Safvetuddin Padishah Hatun: Ruler in the Kirman State of Kutluk
Padishah Hatun is actually the fifth, in chronological order, of the Muslim women rulers presented in Bahriye Üçok’s lost history book, but the author decides to present her directly after Türkan Hatun because they ruled the same state of Kutluk.
Again, as with many other female rulers of Muslim countries, Safvetuddin Padishah Hatun is described by historians as beautiful and intelligent at the same time. In fact, she possessed such beauty that it reached the ears of Ilhan Abaka, the son of the famous Mongol Hulagu Khan, who asked for her hand. In spite of the opposition of Padishah Hatun’s stepbrother, Sultan Hajjâj, Türkân Hatun accepted Ilhan Abaka’s — a very beneficial decision because her marriage guaranteed a long time of justice and mercy of the Mongols towards the state of Kirman.
On the sudden death of Abaka Khan in 1282, Hulagu’s seventh son Teküdar was chosen to succeed him. His first objective was to strengthen Mongol authority in the Islamic world so he became a Muslim by taking the name of Ahmet. It was during the reign of Ahmet Teküdar that Türkân Hatun lost her throne. This caused her daughters Bibi Hatun and Padishah Hatun much grief. But as a result of the power struggle between Ahmet Teküdar and his nephew Argun, the latter was finally recognized as Ilhan (chieftain).
A short while later, when her brother Soyurgatmısh was summoned to Ordu, he saw that the situation was dangerous. Argun treated him with great harshness for having supported Ahmet. At the same time, he had a number of powerful enemies there, such as Bibi Türkân and Padishah Hatun. In the end the judges decided that Sultan Jelâüddîn Soyurgatmısh and Padishah Hatun should rule Kirman together to guarantee political stability.
This decision did not please Padishah and Bibi and they complained to Argun Khan. Padishah Hatun’s action angered Bukach-enksank, who started to search for a way of sending her away from Ordu and Kirman. Finally, he urgently recommended that Padishah Hatun should be married to Abaka’s son, the prince Keyhatu and be sent to Anatolia.
Although this marriage, that is to say the marriage of a woman to her step-son, was completely against the religious tenets of Islam, it was in accordance with Mongol tradition and custom. In addition the husband was not a Muslim and not allowed to marry Muslim women. However, the benefit of the country was deemed of greater importance than the religious laws of Islam, which had only been accepted very recently.
The familial struggle between Soyurgatmısh and Padishah Hatun was not yet over. Soyurgatmısh, while preserving his throne by Argun Khan’s decree, made Fahrülmülk Mahmud his Vizier. This man, far from trying to improve matters between Padishah Hatun and her brother, did so much harm in the way of widening the rift between them.
In the same year (689/1290), Padishah Hatun spoke with Argun Khan, first in Anatolia and later in Tabriz about the possibility of saving Sirjan from her brother. Argun entertained Padishah Hatun with great honour and agreed to help her.
Padishah Hatun, who came to the throne in the middle of Zilkade in the year 691/1292, with the full title of Safvet üd-Dünya ve’d-Din, appointed her brother as her heir and showed respect for his rights as a brother. As we saw with her mother, in her actions the cooperative female way of ruling can be recognized. But after a short cooperative while, on seeing that Soyurgatmish was consumed by the ambition of once more possessing the throne, Padishah imprisoned him in the castle of the city. Then, she was merciful and let him escape from the imprisonment.
Despite her cleverness in retaining power and her talents as a ruler and administrator, in the end the rules of Realpolitik won. Obsessed by the suspicion that Soyurgatmısh would plan to kill her, Padishah Hatun ordered the murder of her step-brother, the former sultan, one evening in Ramadan 1294).
The people at the court started having a divided opinion of Padishah Hatun who before had been considered to be a wise and moral ruler. The fact that she, who spent her spare time writing Qurans of matchless value and then gilding them, could have committed a second murder simply to fulfil a desire for revenge appeared exaggerated also to historians of her time.
As we have seen many times, real Muslim history is in opposition to the Muslim ideal of the just and morally faultless ruler. This history is repeated: Padishah Hatun reigns together with her new husband Keyhatu, a man who completely lacked the qualities required of a sovereign. He was a drunkard and dissolute and indeed an utter spendthrift. In order to mask his insufficiencies, he distributed gifts with such prodigality as to exhaust his treasury; in this way, he thought he could avert any possible danger to himself.
The economic troubles, which had shown themselves in no small degree in the time of his predecessors, were the cause of a measure taken in Keyhatu’s time, which was to have disastrous consequences. Taking the Chinese as his example, the Vizier and Finance Minister Zenjânî had paper money printed in Tabriz and other cities throughout the country (693/1294); at the same time, he forbade the use of metal currency. As a result, trade and industry came to a halt; the population drifted to the villages and the countryside and the cities emptied. On becoming apparent, after two months, that the country faced total ruin, the currency restriction was lifted.
As a result of its failure to introduce a successful economic system based on paper money, confidence in the state economy vanished. Keyhatu’s failure in financial affairs was accompanied by his political ineptitude; thus, opposition to him increased. Baydu, one of his rivals to the throne, who was also spurred by personal enmity, left Baghdad and successfully advanced on Tabriz. On Baydu’s orders Keyhatu was put to death in March 1295.
Padishah Katun also had to surrender. Baydu ordered her murder. Realpolitik won again on the corrupt chess board of history. However, Baydu would eventually meet the same fate.
The end of Padishah’s wise reign was also the beginning of the end of the independent state of Kirman. During the time of Oljaytu, Soyurgatmish’s son Kutbüddîn Shah was forced to abandon the throne as a result of his bad administration, and Kirman was joined directly to the Ilhan state.
What historians stress about Padishah Hatun’s rule is her justice. She also promoted scholars and men of virtue. According to Bahriye Üçok, Padishah Hatun’s physical beauty, charm, and considerable talents ensured her a place in history. As a consequence, she can easily be compared to important historic female personalities like Shejer üd-Dür, who ruled in the Egypt of the first Mamluks during the crusades.
In addition, Padishah Hatun was an excellent calligrapher of the Holy Quran and an extraordinary poet who wrote her verses under the name of Lâle. The chapter in “Female Sovereigns in Islamic States” about Padishah Hatun concludes with the quotation of a couple of exemplary verses of poetry she wrote during her lifetime. It was a life characterised by both wisdom and blind power at the same time, as always on the Muslim stage in Medieval history.
Her soul, as we can clearly recognise, is divided by the heart-breaking conflict between purity, goodness, humanity on one side and world power and power struggle on the other. We find this same opposition between Islamic political utopia and Muslim political power throughout history.
Let us conclude this article with a selection of verses by Padishah Hatun and let us wish that she will not fall into oblivion again.
Although I appear to laugh with the happiness and good fortune of being the child of a great sultan and fruit of the garden of Türkân’s heart, yet nevertheless I weep within me at this endless exile.
From the apple I receive secretly from your hand, I savour the aroma of eternal life, because it comes to me from your hand and from your palm to remind me of your friendship. My heart opens like a pomegranate, from the joy I feel.
I am that woman all of whose works are works of goodness. Beneath my kerchief is a powerful crown. From beneath the veil of purity where I have taken refuge, it is not possible even for the morning breeze to pass.
I am a monarch who comes from a line of rulers like the great sultan. If there is a kingdom in the world, it is only our kingdom.
May a woman’s head always be covered by a veil woven of the thread of purity and humanity.
To protect the beauty of my shadow from the wanton sun I live beneath the veil of purity, Although I may be a monarch who rules over the whole world, Yet to God I am a maid-servant.
This entry is based on “Female Sovereigns in Islamic States.” You can find it on Amazon here.
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