Previously in this series: Introduction: A Forgotten Study Of Female Political Power In Muslim History, Sultan Raziyye of Medieval India, Shejer üd-Dür of Egypt and the Women of Khariji Islam.
This article is about a Turkish ruler presented by author and feminist Bahriye Üçok in her book. I am very happy that the Turkish author reminds us of this female ruler who would otherwise be buried in oblivion.
Türkan Hatun reigned in the Muslim State of Kirman of Kutluk in today’s Iran in the 13th century. First of all, let us take a brief look at the history of the founding of this state in order to better understand how it came about that a woman should rise to the position of ruler in a newly formed Muslim state:
Barak Hâjib, one of the former emirs of the idol-worshipping Karahitay, on taking possession of the Kirman region in 619/1222, set up a state there. A short while later, Jelâlüddîn Harezmshah, on his way through Kirman, married Barak’s daughter. At this time, Barak became subject to the Harezmshahs. Jelâlüddîn Harezmshah, because of the merciless pursuit of the Mongols, was compelled to retreat.
Realising that the supremacy had now passed from the Harezmis to the Mongols, Barak Hâjib lost no time in proclaiming his allegiance to Genghis Khan. In addition he gave one if his daughters, Sevinch Türkân, to Genghis Khan’s son Jagatay. In this way, he received The title of “Kutluk Khan.”
Barak, who took over the rule of the Kirman and Siistan territories, in direct contrast to the political actions of the Harezmshahs, announced to the Caliph that he had accepted Islam and requested that he should be given the title of “Sultan,” whereupon the Caliph en-Nâsır gave him the name of “Kutluk Sultan.”
Barak Hâjib had four daughters (among them Türkan Hatun) and one son. Han Türkân was the wife of Barak’s nephew Kutbüddin Muhammed. Barak Hâjib appointed Kutbüddîn as heir to the throne. Old historical accounts note that the successes of Kutbüddîn, who died in 655/1257, were due to the fact that he always showed the good sense of following the advice of his wife Kutluk Türkân.
On the death of Kutbüddîn, many of the chief men and emirs of Kirman, as well as some of the Mongol emirs, held a conference and unanimously decided on the sovereignty of Türkân Hatun, to whom they swore allegiance. Again we see the importance of allegiance in Islam. The ruler must be accepted by people according to the principle of shura-craty. And again, a female ruler was chosen because of her moral and intellectual qualities.
Having listened to the request of this deputation, Hulagu Khan, impressed by Türkân Hatun’s worth, passed a decree, leaving all the affairs of the country, both major and minor, in the hands of this provident woman. Türkan worked for the development or her country and cared for the welfare of its people.
After 655/1257, Türkân Hatun took advantage of the youth of her stepson Sultan Hajjâj to take over the administration of all the country’s affairs. Although officially Hajjâj was the Sultan, in fact power was in the hands of Türkân Hatun. For some years, they held the throne together in the mutual trustfulness of a true mother and son: the one being sovereign in name, the other in deed.
At about this time, Türkân Hatun sent Hajjâj with a large army to join the army of Abaka Khan, the ruler of Ilhan, who had been attacked by the Chagatay army and the Barakoqul with the intention of conquering Iran and were on the point of crossing the Amu Derya. Abaka Khan, brought to victory through this assistance, heaped Sultan Hajjâj with rewards befitting a Sultan and sent him back to his country.
At this time certain individuals who supported Hajjâj began to incite him to turn against his mother without achieving success. Indeed, Türkân Hatun ruled Kirman for twelve years in complete independence and maintained peace and security in the country.
In 1282 Abaka Khan died and was succeeded by Ahmed Teküdar. Türkân Hatun accordingly ordered a mourning ceremony for her son-in-law which was of a magnificence theretofore unparalleled in Kirman. Sultans Ahmed and Soyurgatmısh enjoyed a long-standing bond of friendship, formed in the time of Abaka Khan. Ahmed’s mother Kutay (or Kuti) Hatun played an important part in persuading her son Ahmed Khan to have Soyurgatmısh made Sultan of Kirman and to ensure Türkân Hatun’s fall from power.
Having achieved success with the army, Jelâlüddîn Soyurgatmısh set out and came to a place called Siyeh Kuh (Karabaq), where he was met by Türkân Hatun, who was accompanied by her daughter Padishah Hatun. There and then and without any preliminaries, Soyurgatmısh read her the decree he had obtained from Ahmed Khan. Kutluk Türkân, accustomed for years to holding sway within the borders of Kirman in peace and without interference, received such a shock on hearing this harsh news that she lost consciousness. Sultan Soyurgatmısh proposed to the Kirman emirs who were with Türkân that they should join him and, leaving her straight away, should return with him to Kirman. Some of the emirs and notables obeyed the new ruler and returned to Kirman.
In the same year, Soyurgatmısh reached Kirman and ascended to the throne. He showed tolerance and generosity to Türkân Hatun’s emirs and chief followers and they had no choice but to take an oath of allegiance. However, Muizüddîn Melik Shah, always known as a troublemaker, prepared to take his revenge on Soyurgatmısh. Kurch Melik tried to foil Muizüddîn’s mischief-making, to maintain peace among the people.
Still, he could not prevent some of the emirs from plotting to kill Soyurgatmısh and to put Türkân Hatun’s grandson Süyük Shah on the throne in his place. As we have already seen in other biographies and destinies of other female Muslim rulers, there were always plots from factions of emirs trying to put on the throne one or another ruler by intrigues and violence. Suyuk Shah, on receiving prior knowledge of this secret, thought it prudent to immediately inform his uncle Sultan Soyurgatmısh of what was afoot. Accordingly he called together the leading emirs, and tried them in the public square, and put to death those who confessed their guilt.
After parting from Soyurgatmısh, Türkân Hatun went straight to Ahmed Khan. As was the custom, she brought with her a number of precious gifts.
Some of the chief men of Kirman, such as Hodja Zahîrüddîn Yemin ül-Mülk and Tâjüddîn Satılmısh, did not attach themselves to Sultan Soyurgatmısh but preferred to remain in the service of Türkân Hatun. On this visit, Türkân Hatun was met with great respect by the army and a royal decree was written to this effect: “Sultan Soyurgatmish and Türkân Hatun should rule the state of Kutluk (Karahıtay) with equal rights.”
Türkân Hatun passed that winter in Zemistan (or Ber-daa). She was received with great honour and regally entertained by Sâhib-i Divan Shemsüddîn. When summer came, she went by way of Tabriz to Cherendab. However, a short while later she fell ill from sorrow and died (681/1282-3).
She was a very important female ruler but, as with the others in this series, she is not mentioned in many history books. Even Marco Polo, who visited Kirman at that time, does not mention her as ruler in this famous book “Il Milione.”