My visit to Bibi Zainab’s (AS) shrine: Memories cannot be destroyed

Published: July 22, 2013
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The shrine consisted of a beautiful dome, a mosque, surrounded by a big courtyard and a main hall where the mausoleum was located. PHOTO: AFP

I was 23, in my last year of an undergraduate degree and perhaps like every young soul, had many questions about everything under the sky; religion, nationalism, God and just life in general. Although I have always flaunted my beliefs with utmost certainty, there have been many times in which my mind is left wondering, about uncertainties, in an abyss of utter confusion.  

That was back in 2008, when I had first visited Syria and fell in love with the country. I loved everything about it; the people, the cultural diversity and above all the sacred shrines that invoked the deepest spiritual awareness of God inside one’s soul. Of course, my view of Syria was limited to the areas I had lived in and visited; those mainly being Damascus and the small city near the outskirts of Damascus where the shrine of Bibi Zainab (AS) is located.

The dome of Bibi Zainab’s (AS) shrine.

The city where Bibi Zainab’s (AS) shrine is located was named after her and was also my main destination. The shrine consisted of a beautiful dome, a mosque, surrounded by a big courtyard and a main hall where the mausoleum was located.

The surrounding area was peppered with shops within a humble little marketplace, some of which were operated by students from Pakistan as well. Syrian shopkeepers would greet pilgrims warmly and many seemed to know quite a bit about Pakistan as well. Funnily enough, each of them were familiar with the Pakistani political sphere and had their own personal favourite Pakistani politician too!

The ruins of the Yazid palace and the gates of the Umayyad Mosque.

I had become accustomed to listening to tales of Bibi Zainab’s (AS) bravery in the times of Karbala. She was a symbol of empowerment for women and an image of resistance to the oppression as well. When I first entered the main hall of the mausoleum, I was so overwhelmed by the thought of being there that I was unable to catch my breath in time to look at the shrine before having an emotional breakdown beside it. In that moment, in the midst of tears, what I felt was the strongest presence of God – a feeling that I had never experienced as powerfully before, one that remains with me even today.

Mausoleum of Bibi Saikna (AS).

In old Damascus, I visited the historic route leading from old souk, or market, to the Umayyad Mosque, close to which the court of Yazid was originally located. Half a kilometre away was the shrine of Ruqayya Bint al Hussain (AS), commonly known as Bibi Sakina (AS), the four-year-old daughter of Hazrat Imam Hussain, who had died in imprisonment and buried therein.

Umayyad Mosque.

I also happened to go to Aleppo, a city encumbered in war now, to visit a mosque with the sacred stone upon which, it is believed that, the head of Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS) was presented to court. From what I remember, the area was beautiful- it is still unbelievable that the magnificent city I visited a mere three years ago is now war torn.

Grave of Prophet Yahya (AS), also known as John the Baptist inside Umayyad Mosque.

If anyone had told me back then that in three years time a violent struggle against the regime would start and sacred places would be attacked, I would have laughed at their utter naiveté and told them that it was impossible. But it happened nonetheless and not only was Bibi Zainab’s (AS) shrine attacked, the shrine of one of Hujr Bin Adi(RA), a close companion of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was also attacked by rebels. They took complete control of Hujr Bin Adi’s (RA) shrine, destroyed the mausoleum including the grave within and allegedly exhumed the body. Thankfully, this disturbing event has not taken place with Bibi Zainab’s (AS) shrine and hopefully never will.

Mausoleum of Hujr Bin Adi (RA), 2008

On the face of it, it appears that a democratic struggle has been hijacked by splintered groups, many of whom have their own agendas; the most dangerous of them being to rid Islam of all of its diversity and sources of inspiration. Unfortunately, what these people do not understand is that their efforts at dividing and distorting Islam is ever futile. Our source of inspiration lies not only in the places they have so easily destroyed but it is connected on a spiritual level amongst souls.

Hujr Bin Adi’s (RA) desecrated grave after the destruction, 2013. Photo: aimislam.com

Bibi Zainab (AS) will always remain an inspiration to everyone fighting against tyranny and oppression. As for the place at which she was buried, it will always remain in the hearts of those who cherish it and remember it. If only those who attacked it had a heart of their own, they would understand the transcendental value of what they destroyed.

PHOTOS: AFEEN ZAINAB.

Read more by Zain here, or follow him on Twitter @XainGardezi

Zain Gardezi

Zain Gardezi

A software engineer by profession working in Lahore, Zain likes to write about religion and social satire in general. He blogs at rorolia.wordpress.com/ and tweets as @XainGardezi (twitter.com/XainGardezi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahad

    Hopefully, it will be secured and more people will get chance to visit and pay respect to the lady who stood against severe oppression.Recommend

  • Shah Ali

    It is well articulated article with, facts highlighted very well.
    We pray that the shrine of Daughter of Prophet (SAWW) remains safe and it will InshAllah.Recommend

  • Marziyeh

    The thoughts expressed here are oft a reflection of my own. She is so much more than a symbol, and the cowardly attack on her shrine has roots of something much deeper and sinister. Syria is indeed a beautiful place, for in it rests the Strength of Hussain A.S. and his Peace.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    In related news, over 90,000 Syrians have been killed.

    Thought I’d mention that too, as both the social and mainstream media appear to be almost exclusively focused on the tomb’s destruction (a tragedy, though it certainly is).Recommend

  • Ali

    Beautiful article. Zain Gardezi (Y)Recommend

  • Hassan

    Good article… except i object to wording as follows:
    “I had become accustomed to listening to tales of Bibi Zainab’s (AS) bravery in the times of Karbala.”

    Dear Brother, it is not a tale or anything… its the Historical Truth… i think its more of slip of words rather than intention from writer… I hope the writer will edit it soon.Recommend

  • http://London zahra

    @Shah Ali:
    Daughter of Prophet (SAWW)?? Are you an idiot or what?
    She was the daughter of Ali hence, Zaynab bint Ali, with Hazrat Fatimah. She was the Prophets(PBUH) granddaughter!! She was the one who gave the famous speech after the horror of karbalaRecommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    I was reading that Shrine of Another Great Sahabi Syedna Khalid ibn Waleed (R,S) was destroyed by regime forces with many other mosques in Homs shamefully Allah U Akber
    may Allah Give sense to our leaders for once.Recommend

  • Usman Lakhani

    May Allah keep all muslims united and guide these lunatics to the right path.Recommend

  • Reality check

    All these shrines are centres of pagan rituals, they have nothing to do with islam. Recommend

  • Faizan Malik

    it is so sad Recommend

  • Hassan

    Unfortunately, Takfiri groups have vowed to damage the shrine as they have at Hajr bin Adee. These animals also exist in Pakistan, So beware.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Slowly but surely we are erasing our history. Today, there was attack on Khalid Bin Waleed Mosque. Shame on us..Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/rose_fatemah afroze fatemah

    she is the symbol of resistance for every woman. Ashur’a and resistance of zainab s’ are linked with each other. i wish to visit syria Recommend

  • kanwal

    We know where the funding and support for these rebels is coming from. Consequently, we know who the Yazid of the recent times are. Unfortunately, we have been destroyed by them too in last thirty years. And will pay the price of their version of islam for next thirty years may be. Recommend

  • Omer

    Well govt forces did the same with Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed ( RA ) shrine, just thought it was worth mentioning. Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    Isn’t adoration of symbols shirk according to Islam? Because KSA sponsored the destruction of many such shrines directly associated with Prophet Mohammed and plans to do so in future too.Recommend

  • Homie

    curse be on you yazid. you fail. Recommend

  • Raham Dil

    @Hassan:
    “Unfortunately, Takfiri groups have vowed to damage the shrine as they have at Hajr bin Adee. These animals also exist in Pakistan, So beware.”
    Your language is unfortunate. Who are you to call anyone “Takfiri”? Do you know Takfir (apostasy) means renunciation of ones religion. When their religious version is different than yours and when they stick to their version, how can they be apostates?
    Besides, it does not behove a Muslim like you to call anyone a “Takfiri”. Get a life.Recommend

  • http://rorolia.wordpress.com Xain Gardezi

    Takfir does not mean apostasy. It means labelling others as apostateRecommend

  • Raham Dil

    So who is labelling others as apostates, those that are accusing others of “takfir.”Recommend

  • Rizvi

    Zain Gardezi,

    Miraculously the body of Hazrat Hajr bin Adi was fresh as if it was buried just yesterday. Thats a fact ! Recommend

  • M. A. Changezi

    @Shah Ali: the granddaughter of the Prophet (SAWW).
    @Rizvi:
    That isn’t a fact. Give me an authentic link that confirms your claims.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Raham Dil:

    Clean your mind of bigotry. You are the problem that is bringing disrepute to the Sunni school of thoughts.Recommend

  • mind control

    @Raham Dil:

    Besides, it does not behove a Muslim like you to call anyone a “Takfiri”. Get a life.

    OK. Let us talk about Kind Hearted Muslims like you.

    A. Are Ahmadis Muslims?

    B. Are Ismailis Muslims?

    C. Are Baha’is Muslim?

    D. Are Shias Muslim?

    E. Are you a Takfiri?Recommend

  • kanwal

    @Rizvi
    how can you say that his body was fresh? i think they found no body in there actually? i read this news in either /dawn or ET. Can you please give a reference of your information?Recommend

  • Salman

    @Reality check:
    Care to tell us which pagan rituals are carried out, enlightened one?

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:
    Adoration of symbols is shirk according to the Wahaabism and Salafism ideaology.Recommend

  • syahzinan mardhiyyah

    Labbaik Ya Zaynab saRecommend

  • Mehdi
  • http://Islamabad Mariah

    And we also condemn the attack on the shrine of Hazrat Khaled Bin Waleed (RA) by the Syrian Arm, as well. Recommend

  • Jeff

    Bibi Zaynab died and is buried in Cairo Egypt. It is well documented she Left Damascus and returned to Yathrub/Madina, where she left for her last year of life in Cairo. It is another relative that is buried at the above place. Happy Ramadan.Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    @Salman:

    Adoration of symbols is shirk
    according to the Wahaabism and
    Salafism ideaology.

    So, if an idol of Saraswathi symbolizes my respect for education, it isn’t shirk?Recommend

  • http://rorolia.wordpress.com Xain Gardezi

    Jeff:

    Yes she left Syria and came back to Medina. However it is disputed whether she went to Egypt or Syria later. According to some narrations she spent last year of her life in Syria in the area where his husband had some land which is now the city named after herRecommend

  • Ali.

    @xain gar,
    Zainab grave is in cairo like Ali (R.A) in Mazar e shrif …Recommend

  • Ijaaz

    And here we see the Americans indirectly support the very people whom they are purportedly fighting in Af-Pak…altho the king has had dictatorial tendencies, he is still secular and xtians and other minorities felt very safe.

    Infact syria had a rich cultural heritage ranging from the old testament times and even before that..and it used it to its advantage to attract tourists. One of the oldest churches in the worls is in syria where many xtians used to visit. Aleppo is one of the oldest inhabited places on earth. Although the secularism he enforced was a bit too militant like enforcing the ban on wearing the veil in all educational institutions despite being overwhelmingly Muslim.Recommend

  • Kashif

    Any person who attacks on Hazrat Muhammad’s family or his belongings, like attack on BIBI ZANIB’S Shrine and claims that I am a Muslim? What you think about his or her claim? I don’t have any doubt that the person is not a Muslim. These are “So Called Muslims” and they are the generation of those who became Muslim due to fear at the time of Fateh Makkah. Whereas our Prophet Muhammad said at that occasion no one need to fear.Recommend