Self-representation in the Public Space
Keywords:Sufism, Mughal Empire, Islam, biography
Women’s visibility in both the imperial and sacred realms under the Mughal Empire (1526–1856) was often limited to traditional roles. Yet, a cursory glance at the history of imperial Mughal women reveals active engagement in politics and a public persona that complemented the empire’s religious and political rhetoric. One such woman was Jahanara Begum (1614–1681), a Mughal princess whose imperial influence was distinct to that of her female predecessors. Her biographical treatise, Risalai-Sahibiyyah, highlights the intersection between the socio-political and spiritual through a Sufistic centred approach. By publicly presenting herself through traditional modes of representation, Jahanara was able to exercise her agency through the appropriation of those modes. Subsequently, Jahanara’s agency in her religious persona lends to a better understanding of women’s navigation of religious expression.
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