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In Reality a Man: Sultan Iltutmish, His Daughter, Raziya, and Gender Ambiguity in Thirteenth Century Northern India

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Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in northern India from 1236 to 1240, Raziya is a striking example of a woman who rose to power in a pre-modern Islamic society. It was Raziya’s father’s recognition and cultivation of her wisdom and ruling capacities, as well as his apparent naming of her as his successor, that paved the way for her accession to the throne. This article offers an explanation of how Raziya was able to rule in an environment in which the birth of daughters normally gave rise to disappointment and women had few avenues for authority. It will argue that despite medieval Muslim India’s assigning to women a status separate from and inferior to that of men, a metaphorical space existed in which women could identify or be identified as men. As in many non-Muslim societies, such identification could become a means for a daughter to enter into male sociopolitical spheres.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Washington

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