Rule behind the silk curtain: the Sultanahs of Aceh 1641-1699.
This thesis is about the kingdom of Aceh Dar al-Salam in the latter half of the seventeenth century when four women ruled in succession: Sultanah Tajul Alam Safiatuddin Syah (1641-1675), Sultanah Nur Alam Naqiatuddin Syah (1675-1678), Sultanah Inayat Zakiatuddin Syah (1678-1688) and Sultanah Iamalat Zainatuddin Syah (1688-1699). How and why these queens came to power, and how they exercised it, are problems that have fascinated enquirers, prompting a range of comments and observations, especially the assertion that the queens were mere figureheads, during whose reigns the male elite (orangkaya) captured power. The Sultanahs were held responsible for the erosion of royal power and the kingdom's decline in the seventeenth century. Yet no in-depth study has ever investigated these claims. The main objective of this thesis is to evaluate the received views on these female sovereigns. The thesis also seeks to examine the origin, nature and impact of these Sultanahs. Female rule seems a curious phenomenon in a Muslim state. Furthermore, in a largely patriarchal kingdom such as Aceh, queens seemed to be strangely out of place. This unique episode in Aceh's history happened when European Companies - the Dutch VOC (Veerinigde Ooost-Indische Compagnie) and the English East India Company - were gradually increasing their commercial hold and flexing their military muscles in the region. Indigenous polities suffered increasing interference and pressure from Westerners. Most Malay and Muslim coastal polities in maritime Southeast Asia fell into European intruders' hands. By exploring the circumstances and arguments surrounding female accession, and examining some key episodes that show how power worked in Aceh at the time, I hope to approach a new understanding of how and why the male elite of Aceh placed the fate of the kingdom in the hands of women, and with what effects.
AuthorsSher Banu, A. L. Khan
- Theses