In recent decades women have served as heads of state in several Muslim-majority nations, including some with the largest populations:

  • Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, 1996-2001 and 2009-present
  • Khaleda Zia, prime minister of Bangladesh, 1991-1996 and 2001-2006
  • Benazir Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan, 1998-1990 and 1993-1996
  • Tansu Çiller, prime minister of Turkey, 1993-1996
  • Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia, 2001-2004
  • Mame Madior Boye, prime minister of Senegal, 2001-2002
  • Roza Otunbayeva, president of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011
  • Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé, prime minister of Mali, 2011-2012
  • Atifete Jahjaga, president of Kosovo, 2011-2016
  • Aminata Touré, prime minister of Senegal, 2013-2014
  • Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, president of Mauritius, 2015-2018
  • Halimah Yacob, president of Singapore, 2017-present

Muslim women have also exercised leadership in many other areas:

  • Linda Sarsour, activist and co-founder of the Women’s March
  • Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim American congresswomen
  • Tawakul Karman, a leader of the Arab Spring in Yemen, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011
  • Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, famous for her defense of women’s right to education, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014
  • Ingrid Mattson, who served two terms as the president of the largest American Muslim membership organization in the country, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
  • Maha Elgenaidi, founder and CEO of Islamic Networks Group (ING)
  • Azizah al-Hibri, founder and president of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights
  • Tayyibah Taylor, late founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Azizah magazine

While most rulers in Muslim history have been male, as in most societies, there have been a few female Muslim rulers in past centuries and in modern times. They include Al-Audr al-Kareema of Yemen, Shajarat Ad-Durr of Egypt, and several female rulers in India.

Muslims who support women’s authority and leadership often appeal to the Qur’an’s depiction of the Queen of Sheba as a righteous, just, and powerful ruler, citing her example as evidence of women’s right to rule.

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