CONTROVERSIES SURROUNDING THE ACEH’S SULTANAHS: Understanding Relation between Islam and Female Leadership

Saiful Umam


The history of Aceh Sultanate in 1641-1699 might be an exception of the Islamic history in general. While the history of Islam is generally male-dominated, Aceh which had strong Islamic credentials was once ruled by four female rulers consecutively during the period of six decades. How did Muslim women become rulers of an Islamic kingdom despite Islamic teaching “prohibiting” them from taking a leadership position? How did people react to this fact? How did the queens rule the kingdom and survive despite opposition? Despite notions of some historians that the queens’ periods were the weakening time of the sultanate, the existence of female rulers is a proof of the continuing position of women in the public sphere even in an Islamic state. The presence of influential aristocrats, the division of Aceh into three powerful sagis, and the support of `ulama>’ are main contributing factors to the rise and establishment of female rulers in Aceh. The administrative structure of the sultanate and its Islamic character suggest the development of moderate Islam that made women leadership in Aceh possible. The opposition to female rulers in Aceh which the succession of rulers was hereditary was more politically and economically-motivated than religious.


The Aceh’s Sultanahs; al-Raniri; women leadership

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DOI: 10.15642/JIIS.2013.7.1.1-23


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