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A (sort of) Matriarchal Dynasty: Asma and Arwa al-Sulayhi

It's rare to come across a dynasty that was ruled entirely by women, but we were lucky enough to find one for this episode! Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhi and Arwa al-Sulayhi ruled Yemen alongside and often in place of their husbands, the king. Asma was Arwa's cousin, mentor, teacher, mother-in-law and guardian. In other words, she was the best big sister a queen-to-be could ask for. We also did a deep dive into Fatimid caliphate of the medieval Middle East and North Africa and discussed the role of women in medieval Arab culture. If you are curious to learn more about this place and period, make sure you listen to this episode and take a look at the sources below. These women are often (if not always) discussed together, with Arwa being a bit more popular in today's scholarship.


The Unforgettable Queens of Islam: Succession, Authority, Gender by Shahla Haeri The Forgotten Queens of Islam by Fatima Mernessi

Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam by Delia Cortese and Simonetta Calderini,

Tarikh al-Yaman (The History of Yemen) by Umara al-Yamani7 (d. 1174) translated into English by Henry Cassels Kay (1892) -

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