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Imperial Transgressions and Spiritual Investitures: A Begam’s “Ascension” in Seventeenth Century Mughal India

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image of Journal of Persianate Studies

Islamic jurisprudence and social customs regarding laws of inheritance privilege Muslim males as legitimate successors to family legacies and wealth. Furthermore, these heads of households were and are expected to sustain and uphold family values while representing the noble “face” of their legacies. Though women in pre-modern Islamic societies were awarded property and income to support them, they were neither required nor encouraged like their male counterparts to use their agencies or largesse to make banner representations of their lineage or heritage. This essay challenges androcentric ideas and practices surrounding Islamic laws of inheritance through the example of the Mughal princess Jahānārā Begam (1614-81) and her articulations of ascension. This analysis demonstrates how the princess’s extraordinary relationship with her emperor father, Shah Jahān (r. 1628-59), facilitated her spiritual and imperial achievements and elevated her rank in imperial and Sufi hierarchies.

Affiliations: 1: Suffolk University


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