Sunday, September 25, 2005

Assassination of Women in Middle East History: The assassination attempt on May Shidyaq made me think about the history of assassination of women in Islamic or Middle East (it is not about religion) history. Certainly it was known, in early and late Islam. From even before the Khawarij wars. One happened during Muhammad's time (as was reported in Kitab Al-Hudud by Abu Dawud) when a blind man got mad at his wife (named `Asma' bint Marwan in some accounts) who would constantly curse and attack the prophet, so he inserted a small sword in her until he killed her one day. There were more accounts of women ordering or committing assassinations. Zumurrud Khatun, the wife of a Seljuki sultan fed poisoned grapes to her son, Tutush. In recent times in Lebanon during the civil war, Linda Jumblat (Kamal's sister) was assassinated by Lebanese Forces militia but to hurt her brother. She never played a political role, and assumed that she would be left alone if she lived in East Beirut. The assassination attempt on Shidyaq's life indicates that women are now more influential than before, and are opinion makers, claims to the contrary in Western writings notwithstanding. May Shiyaq, for the right-wing fanatical Lebanese Forces sectarian Christian militia, was a very important figure and that explains why young people of the Lebanese Forces turned out at the hospital immediately. And May Shidyaq (and I as I indicated yesterday disagreed with her on everything except her appreciation of Estee Lauder's Knowing--and no, I am not endorsing Estee Lauder you silly ones) was more courageous and more outspoken than the men. One thing I will say about her: she was always consistent. And even during the previous Syrian domination era, when all the outspoken men today were sitting outside the offices of Rustum Ghazalah hoping for an audience, May Shiyaq was herself. She refused to utter the imposed party line. (I don't want to be misunderstood again: her views were fanatical ultra-nationalist, right-wing and anti-Arab, and very Hummus Lebanonese). But she never wavered and never compromised. But in the history of Islam, the most famous assassination of a woman is (to my mind) the assassination of Shajarat Ad-Durr. Shajarat Ad-Durr was not the first ruler in Islam of course; Radiyyat Ad-Din ruled the Sultanate of Delhi before her. Shajarat Ad-Durr ruled for 80 days, and then killed Aybak, whose widow later sent her concubines to attack Shajarat Ad-Durr in the bath, and according to some accounts was hit with "qabaqib" (wooden shoes) until she died in 1257 AD. But Ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wa-l-Nihayah says that she "was killed and thrown with her pudendum uncovered on top of a garbage dump." He then cites this relevant passage from the Qur'an: (Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt, and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things.)
قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتَنْزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ إِنَّكَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِير