Sitt al-Mulk

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Sitt al-Mulk
Caliph regent of the Fatimid Caliphate
Reign1021 – 1023
PredecessorAl-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
SuccessorAli az-Zahir
Cairo, Fatimid Caliphate, Egypt
Died5 February 1023
FatherAbu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz Billah
MotherA Christian Byzantine slave

Sitt al-Mulk (970–1023) (Arabic: ست الملك‎), was the Ruler (de facto Caliph) of the Fatimids in 1021–1023 during the minority of her nephew, Ali az-Zahir, the seventh Fatimid caliph and 17th Ismaili imam (1021–1036).


She was the daughter of Nizar al-Aziz Billah, the fifth Fatimid caliph and 14th Ismaili imam (975–996). Her mother was a Christian from Byzantine Empire who refused to convert to Islam, and her father's love for her reportedly caused suspicion that she was behind his tolerance towards Christians and Jews.[1]

Reign of Nizar al-Aziz[edit]

Sitt al-Mulk was described as intelligent and beautiful and was loved by her father, who early on encouraged her to express her opinion and asked for her advice in political affairs.[1] She shared her father's religious tolerance, express herself happy to be half Muslim and half Christian, and supported her father in his criticized appointments of the Christian vizier Issa Ibn Nasturas, and her mother's Christian brothers Arsenius and Aristes.[1]

Reign of Al-Hakim[edit]

After the death of their father in 996, she tried with the help of a cousin to force her brother Al-Hakim from the throne, but was arrested by the eunuch Barjuwan. Her relationship with her brother was reportedly very bad: she opposed to his intolerant politics, and he accused her of having lovers among his generals.[1]

In 1021, her brother the Caliph disappeared during one of his nightly walks in the city, and after a couple of days of search, he was declared dead.[1]

It is likely that Sitt al-Mulk arranged for the assassination of the Caliph in collaboration with General Ibn Daws, whom she called upon after the Caliph had accused them of being lovers: 'In the course of this meeting she concluded a bargain with this military man and promised to share power with him in exchange for his doing away with the caliph.'[1] Despite the suspicions that she was behind the assassination of her brother, there was no objections to her assuming de facto power during this critical situation: due to the unprecedented situation, there was not rules as how to handle the situation, and Sitt al-Muluk was immensely popular as an opposition force to her hated brother.[1]

With the help of Ibn Daws, she manage to have her nephew installed as Caliph despite the fact that he was a child and therefore not entitled to be a Caliph.[1] After her nephew had been installed as Caliph, she called upon Ibn Daws in the presence of her viziers and had him killed accused of having murdered her brother.[1] She then established herself as regent by appointing ministers loyal to her.[1]


From 1021 until 1023, she served as regent for her brother's son and successor, Ali az-Zahir. She never had the khutba proclaimed in her name, but in her nephews, and was thus never formally a Caliph, but she did exercise the right of a regent, a position which was somewhat unprecedented and had no real support in law, as the Caliph was by law assumed to be an adult man.[1] She met her officials from behind a screen.[1]

After the assumption of power and the elimination of her rivals, she abolished many of the strange rules that Al-Hakim had promulgated in his reign. She also severely persecuted the Druze religion, which believed in Al-Hakim's divinity, eliminating it entirely from Egypt, and restricting it to the mountains of Lebanon. She worked to reduce tensions with the Byzantine Empire over the possession of Aleppo, but before negotiations could be completed, she died on 5 February 1023 at the age of fifty-two.

She was reportedly popular among the public and, according to description: 'showed exceptional ability, especially in legal matters, and she who made herself loved by the people'.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mernissi, Fatima; Mary Jo Lakeland (2003). The forgotten queens of Islam. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-579868-5.


  • Johanna Awad-Geissler: Die Schattenkalifin. Droemer, München 2007