The princess was born in Üsküdar, Istanbul when the Ottoman Empire was passing through its last phase. Her father, Caliph Abdülmecid II, went into exile in Paris, France after the abolition of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1924.
Upon the family's exile to France in 1924, she was sought by the Shah of Persia and King Fuad I of Egypt as a bride for their respective heirs, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and Farouk, and by Prince Azam Jah (1907–1970), the eldest son and heir of the last Nizam of Hyderabad State, Osman Ali Khan, Asif Jah VII, whom she married in Nice, France, on 12 November 1932. Her first cousin Nilüfer, was married to Prince Moazzam Jah, the second son of the Nizam.
The marriage of the princess was performed, in the south of France, by the good offices of Maulana Shaukat Ali, brother of Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar, the leader of the Khilafat Movement in India. Dürrüşehvar was 18 at the time, and significantly taller than her husband of 25, Azam Jah. Her father-in-law, the Nizam loved pointing out how much taller she was than his son, at their parties.
It was believed at that time that the matrimonial alliance between the Nizam, the richest ruler in the world of his time, and the de posed Caliph would lead to the emergence of a Muslim ruler who could be acceptable to the world powers in place of the Ottoman sultans. Dürrüşehvar, whose father was raised by a branch of the Ottoman monarchy deeply interested in modernizing reforms and believed in modern education for women including his wives and daughter, became a popular public figure after her arrival in Hyderabad. She believed that women should earn their own living, and helped to remove the practice of purdah.
Following the birth of her sons Prince Mukarram Jah in 1934 and Prince Muffakham Jah in 1939, she took charge of their upbringing, the two princes being educated in Britain and also marrying Turkish ladies. The last Nizam later bypassed his own son and nominated her first son and his grandson, as his successor.
The Princess became the first woman to inaugurate an airport when she inaugurated the airport in Hyderabad in the 1940s. She is also credited with inaugurating the Osmania General Hospital. She set up the Durru Shehvar Children's & General Hospital for women and children in the old city of Hyderabad. She also inaugurated the famous Ajmal Khan Tibbiya College Hospital at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh in 1939. Her last public appearance in the city was when she presided over the opening ceremony of the Nizam’s Silver Jubilee Museum in 2000. She last visited Hyderabad in 2004.
She was upset about Turkish Government's attitude against her family members after declaration of the republic. Despite being a member of Ottoman royal family she refused to be buried in Turkey since she was upset that the Turkish Government refused in 1944 her father's burial in Istanbul.
Highly respected and well-educated lady, the princess was fluent in French, Turkish, English and also Urdu. She also established a junior college for girls in her name, Baghe-jahan-ara, Yakutpura.
She divided her time principally between Hyderabad and London, where she died, attended by her two sons.
Her Imperial and Exalted Highness The Princess Hatice Hayriye Ayşe Dürrüşehvar Sultan, Imperial Princess of the Ottoman Empire, Princess of Berar.