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Shajar al-Durr, the woman who crushed the Crusaders

Shajar al-Durr, the woman who crushed the Crusaders

Sarim Ashrafi
Shajar al-Durr, the woman who crushed the Crusaders

During the seventh Crusade, King Louis of France did not march on the Holy Land, instead, he attacked Ayyubid Egpyt. As a result, Louis and his Crusader army landed in Egypt in June 1249 CE and captured the port of Damietta. In December 1249, the Crusader army camped opposite the Muslim camp near Mansourah (Egpyt).

Ayyubid Sultan al-Salih Ayyub was dying because of illness. After her husband’s death, Shajar al-Durr took command of the army. She also concealed the death of her husband until the war was over. Shajar organized the Egyptian army against the Crusaders and crushed their forces in the battle.

Capable and beautiful, [she] must have been one of the very few women in history who commanded an army in a major battle, as she did against Louis IX, King of France.

Sir John Glub

Who was Shajar al-Durr?

Shajar al-Durr (aka “Tree of Pearls,” or “Spray of Pearls”) was of Turkic origin and was sold as a slave in Egypt, where she eventually rose to power as the wife of the last Ayyubid sultan, al-Salih Ayyub. She was known for her intelligence, political savvy, and military leadership.

She actively participated in the state’s affairs, had coins bearing her name minted, and (her name) was included in Friday sermons at the mosques. Despite her successes, Shajar al-Durr’s rule was short-lived. She faced opposition from the Mamluk military elite and the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad, who resented her influence and authority. She was killed in 1257.

Shajar al-Durr, the woman who crushed the Crusaders

Before her death, Shajar and her second husband Izz al-Din Aybak had firmly established the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt that would ultimately repulse the Mongol invasion at the Battle of Ain Jalut, expel the European Crusaders from the Holy Land, and would remain the most powerful political force in the Middle East until they were defeated by the Ottomans in 1517.

Sir John Glubb, Soldiers of Fortune: The Story of the Mamlukes
Guida M. Jackson, Women Who Ruled
Fatima Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam

Last updated on February 29th, 2024 at 01:40 am

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