Tag Archives: Syria

Shrine of Lady Zainab a.s! As I remember it

22 Jul

Piece originally written for Express Tribune Blogs: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/18275/my-visit-to-bibi-zainabs-as-shrine-memories-cannot-be-destroyed/

Following is the complete unedited version:

I was twenty three. My last year of Bachelor Honours’ degree was in progress and perhaps like every young soul, I just had too many questions, just about everything; Religion, nationalism, God, everything. My mind used to wonder in abyss of confusion at times even though I always flaunted by beliefs with utmost certainty. But I had not been certain for some time.

That was the time in 2008, when I visited Syria and fell in love with it. I loved its people, the cultural diversity and above all, the sacred shrines that invoked spiritual awareness of God inside one’s soul.

Of course, my view of Syria was limited to the areas I lived in and visited i.e mainly Damascus and the small city near outskirts of Damascus where shrine of Lady Zainab a.s is located. I visited the currently much troubled area of Aleppo, only to visit a mosque with the sacred legendary stone upon which it was believed that head of Imam Hussain a.s was presented in court. Most part of my journey of that day passed in sleep but whatever small part I remember, it was a beautiful area which has currently been torn apart by war.

The city where the shrine of Lady Zainab a.s was located was even named after her. My main stay was in that same city. The shrine consisted of a beautiful dome, a mosque, surrounded by a big courtyard and a main hall where the mausoleum was located.

The dome of Shrine of Lady Zainab a.s

The dome of Shrine of Lady Zainab a.s

The surrounding area consisted of humble markets with shops of different variety, some of which were operated by students from Pakistan as well. Syrian shopkeepers used to greet the pilgrims warmly. Many seemed to know much about Pakistan and each seemed to have his own favorite politician of Pakistan including Shaheed Mohtarma, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

I had grown listening to the tales of bravery of Lady Zainab a.s in times of Karbala and after it. She was a symbol of resistance to the oppression as well as women empowerment. When I first entered the main hall of the mausoleum, I was overwhelmed, so much so that I could not even lift my head up to look at it and had a total breakdown near it. All I remember is the agonized cry coming out of me, the tears and a distant uncle holding me. I do not know how long I went on crying loudly. All I know is that for that moment and for the coming days I felt such a strong presence of God that has not left me ever since, even in times of most confusion and distress.

In old Damascus, I visited the historic route of passage from the old souk or market, to the Omayyad Mosque, close to which originally court of Yazid was located. Half a kilometer away was the shrine of Ruqayya Bint al Hussain a.s, commonly known as Lady Sakina a.s, the four year old daughter who had died in imprisonment and buried within.

Ruins of Yazid palace and gates of Omayyad Mosque

Ruins of Yazid palace and gates of Omayyad Mosque

Omayyad Mosque

Omayyad Mosque

Grave of Prophet Yahya a.s, also known as John the Baptist inside Omayyad Mosque

Grave of Prophet Yahya a.s, also known as John the Baptist inside Omayyad Mosque

Mausoleum of Lady Saikna a.s

Mausoleum of Lady Saikna a.s

If anyone had told me then that in three years, the violent struggle against the regime would start and the sacred places attacked, I would have told him that he must be hallucinating.

But it happened nonetheless. Before the recent attack on shrine of Lady Zainab a.s, the shrine of companion of Prophet SAW, Hujr Bin Adi was also attacked by rebels. Not only was it attacked, but the rebels took complete control of it, totally destroying the mausoleum including the grave within and allegedly taking the body as well.

Mausoleum of Hujr Bin Adi (RA), 2008

Mausoleum of Hujr Bin Adi (RA), 2008

Hujr's desecrated grave after the destruction,2013. Courtesy aimislam.com

Hujr’s desecrated grave after the destruction,2013. Courtesy aimislam.com

Before these, tomb of one of the most revered companions of Prophet SAW, Ammar Bin Yasir r.a was also destroyed and the mosque associated to one of graves of one the greatest Prophets of Islam i.e Abraham a.s was also bulldozed by the rebels. In an instance of rebel-government crossfire, tomb of Khalid Bin Waleed has also been destroyed.

While thankfully the shrine of Lady Zainab a.s has not come to such a state and may it never will, the attack left the respected caretaker of the shrine, Mr. Anas Roumani killed. It appears that a democratic struggle has been hijacked by the splintered groups, many of whom have their own agenda. The most dangerous of it is to rid Islam of all of its diversity and sources of inspiration. In this ‘Spring’, flowers of treasured heritage are being plucked to leave a hollow desert.

However it’s a futile goal that will always remain unsuccessful because inspiration is connected to the souls and not just places. Lady Zainab a.s will always remain an inspiration to everyone fighting against tyranny and oppression. As for the place itself, 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.

Flowers of treasured heritage, plucked in ‘Spring’

5 May

Spring usually is a long awaited and pleasant affair. After the brisk autumn and a long winter which dampens the moods, spring promises to bring blossoms, not only to the gardens but for the faces as well.

That is why, when a wave of ‘change’ seemed to sweep over deserts of Arabian lands, it was almost like poetry when it was termed ‘Arab Spring’. Lead by Tunisia and Egypt, the ‘Spring’ fever caught up with many youth of Middle East and soon calls to topple tyrants and dictators were started to be heard from Libya to Yemen. Egypt was the first to produce a result in successful ouster of Husni Mubarak and Tunisia soon followed.

Than of course things did not happen as people envisioned. Egyptians even after electing their own president are still not satisfied by the amount of power/influence given up by the establishment to the elected president. Tunisia seems to be still engaged in unrest with the elected government not meeting demands of hardliners who themselves have lot of street power. Libyan ‘revolution’ was brought up with the help of NATO aircrafts carrying the heavier weight. Of course it did not stop the hard-line elements to kill the US Ambassador in Benghazi who had aided in weapons supply to the very rebels in the first place.

And than there are cases of Syria and Bahrain. Condition of ‘revolution’ and the world response regarding them is only a reflection of inherent hypocrisy that plagues International Relations of different countries. Arab And Turkish leaders who fervently are backing the rebels inside Syria are silent in case of Bahrain, some of them even helping regime to crush them. Iranian Ayatullahs had come out to prophecies end to kingdoms of Middle East and yet in case of Syria, Iran and Lebanon continue to put their weight behind Assad making the problem much more difficult to handle. Any ‘direct’ western show of power may result in total unbalance of the demographic of Middle East.

And than in the midst of all the chaos are the opportunist groups which are taking advantage of the whole situation to fulfill their petty short term goals. Syrian rebel forces which now consist of lot of non Syrian millitants of other countries as well do not just desire to ‘liberate’ Syrians of the tyranny but to see their hard work result in their personal desires. That is why in Tunisia even after the elections, tensions and clashes run high.

While the rival forces of such countries with ‘Spring’ murder each other, another collateral damage cum murder of its own kind is being taken place with their national heritage as well. Besides the destruction of the country’s infrastructure due to natural outcome of internal conflicts, targeted attacks are being carried out splintered groups against historic landmarks and places of reverence. In Tunisia, till January this year, [40 different *Sufi* shrines had been destroyed][1]. Similar attacks are being carried out in Syria as well.

The most recent example is of the destruction of shrine of companion of Prophet Muhammad SAW i.e Hujr Bin Adi a.s who ironically was martyred during the Omayyad Rule by than Syrian regime under Muawiyyah. Apparently the Syrians have yet not forgiven his sacred corpse of his boldness of truth. I had the fortune of visiting the mausoleum in 2007 when Syria was somewhat peaceful. Its current picture after the destruction feels like a stab to my wonderful memory.

The desecrated grave after the destruction. Courtesy aimislam.com

The desecrated grave after the destruction. Courtesy aimislam.com

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[The desecrated grave after the destruction. Courtesy aimislam.com][2]

The tomb was not destroyed but the grave dug up as an insult the remains as well. Also, the sacred and legendary stone on which head of Imam Hussain a.s was placed and kept was preserved in pre-spring Syria. However since the fighting started in Aleppo which is the main source of unrest in Syria, the whereabouts of it have been unknown.

Sacred Stone preserved in a mosque in Alleppo - 2007

Sacred Stone preserved in a mosque in Alleppo – 2007

And now the Hujr’s a.s body’s whereabouts are also ‘unknown’. Even the Arab channels reporting the news are mentioning conflicting reports. Many however reported that despite the blasts there was a flowery scent in the air. A fitting situation for the flower that was present in the desert which now has regrettably has been plucked. Is this the last heritage of this sort the receive this fate before the war is over? Unfortunately that is not the safe bet. Syria is filled with historic landmarks and revered graves and the splintered groups with their own agenda may think of such roses as unsuitable with the stink of their hatred in their very own desert.