Are there any examples of Muslim women as rulers, judges, or leaders?

In recent decades women have been heads of state in several Muslim-majority nations:

  • Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, 1996-2001 and 2009-present.
  • Khaleda Zia, prime minister of Bangladesh, 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.
  • Benazir Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan, 1998-1990 and 1993-1996.
  • Tansu Çiller, prime minister of Turkey, 1993-1996.
  • Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia, 2001-2004.

Muslim women have also exercised leadership in many other areas:

  • Tawakul Karman, a leader of the Arab Spring in Yemen, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
  • Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, famous for her defense of women’s right to education, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
  • Dr. Ingrid Mattson of the U.S. served two terms as the president of the largest Muslim membership organization in the country, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
  • Maha Elgenaidi, founder and CEO of Islamic Networks Group (ING).
  • Azizah al-Hibri, founder and president of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
  • Tayyibah Taylor, late founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Azizah magazine.

While most rulers in Muslim history have been male, as in most societies, there have been a few female Muslim rulers in past centuries and in modern times. They include Al-Audr al-Kareema of Yemen, Shajarat Ad-Durr of Egypt, and several female rulers in India.

Muslims who support women’s authority and leadership often appeal to the Qur’an’s depiction of the Queen of Sheba as a righteous, just, and powerful ruler, citing her example as evidence of women’s right to rule.

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