More than a decade before her ascendancy, the woman who became Shajar al-Durr, or Spray of Pearls, joined the retinue of slaves in the service of her future husband, as-Salih Ayyub. One of Saladin's great-nephews, as-Salih Ayyub chose Shajar as his favorite concubine. The death of as-Salih's father in 1238 threw Egypt into turmoil, as his sons and relatives battled for control of the region, a vital part of the Abbasid Empire that stretched from North Africa to Iraq. The conflict abated in 1240, when Shajar shared her husband's imprisonment. During their confinement, she gave birth to a son Khalil, who unfortunately lived for only three months. After her husband's release and his rise to power in Egypt, he gave Shajar authority to act in his stead whenever he was away from Egypt on various campaigns that consolidated his power. He delegated his power to her as Umm Khalil, the mother of his deceased son, and she held an official seal with that title.
|The Mameluke Empire|
|Coinage minted in Shajar al-Durr's name|
|Shajar al-Durr's tomb|
For just 80 days, Shajar had ruled the Islamic state of Egypt without relying on the power her husband held. Ultimately, the traditional expectations of women and her own miscalculations about the exercise of power brought about her ruin.
|From History and Women|