Aisan Daulat Begum
Updated: May 8
Umar Sheikh Mirza, the father of Mughal emperor Babur, died in 1494, leaving the empire behind to his twelve-year-old son Babur. With his inheritance under threat from his uncles before outsiders, it was the matriarchs of his family he had relied on, particularly his grandmother, Aisan Daulat Begum.
Babur Mughal wrote about her. “For tactics and strategy, there were few women like my grandmother. She was intelligent and a good planner. Most affairs were settled with her counsel.”
Aisan Dulat Begum was an extra-ordinary woman. It happened once that she and her husband, Yunus Khan, were taken captive by Sheikh Jamal-ud-Din. Aisan was given to one of the Sheikh’s officers, Khwaja Kalan, as a “gift.”
However, when he went to his bedroom, in hopes of enjoying the “present” from the Sheikh, he heard the door quickly locked behind him. Before he knew it, he was pinned to the floor and stabbed to death by maidservants. At dawn, Aisan Begum ordered his body to be thrown outside.
Horrified, Sheikh Jamal demanded an explanation. Aisan replied with pride, “I am the wife of Yunus Khan. Sheikh Jamal gave me away to someone else. This is haram under Shariah, so I have killed the man I was given to. Sheikh Jamal can take my life in return if he wishes to.”
Recognizing that he could not buy off Aisan Begum nor force her hand, he sent her back to Yunus Khan with honor. Back in court, she rightfully claimed her place as his wife.
There was no shame and no taboo attached to women taken by the enemy for the Timurids or for widows. Their honor did not lie in the chastity of their women. Divorce and remarriage were considered a part of life for both genders.
Nomads, by nature, women, traditionally rode alongside men, camped with them, and even fought with them at times. There was no “homeland” - home was wherever they were. The lineage would often be linked to womenfolk in Timurid culture.
After the Mughal empire's establishment, the “Haraman” began to stay in one place, known as the Zenana. It is important to juxtapose British activity in Britain to timelines of Mughal Queens and princesses to understand why they are portrayed the way we see today. Male foreigners, who had no knowledge of Turkic or Persian, put down a seductive and twisted view of history, likely due to lack of access, curiosity, a superiority complex, and a pre-supposed fantasy of the “exotic East.”
This blog has been written by Komal Salman.