There is a lady, buried in a simple grave on a Scottish hillside, with her head turned towards the side and facing towards Makkah. Her wish was that she be buried as a Muslim.
This is the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold – the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Dunmore.
Her story is very beautiful and is a wonderful example for those of us who wish to come to Islam.
Lady Evelyn was born in the year 1867 and became a convert to Islam. She turned to Islam at a time when it was not such a common thing for people in Britain to do. Her conversion to Islam was all the more unusual because this woman was a member of the aristocratic classes.
Imagine the eyebrows that would have been raised when this lady became a Muslim. How could someone with no family connection to Islam, who lived thousands of miles from the centre of the world of Islam and many hundreds of miles from the nearest mosque, find the desire in her heart to turn to this unique way of life. As a child, she had spent time in places in North Africa and had Muslim nannies. She must have seem something in the lives of the people that she encountered that deeply affected her so that, later in life, she would study Islam and join them.
Lady Evelyn adopted the name of Zainab when she entered Islam.
One of the extraordinary things in the story of Lady Zainab was that she went on to perform Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah, at the age of 65 in the year 1933.
It was so unusual for an unaccompanied woman from the “west” to perform the Muslim pilgrimage, Lady Zainab had to get special permission from King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia in order to travel to Makkah. She is believed to have been the first British woman to perform Hajj.
Lady Zainab is buried in The highlands of Scotland, north of the town of Inverness. She died at the age of 95 in the year 1963.
Sometimes, people appear at the door of the mosque in Inverness, asking if they can be taken to the hillside to visit the grave of Lady Zainab so that they can pay their respects to this remarkable woman. It is not an easy journey to make as the grave is on a privately-owned estate and permission is required to enter the estate and a knowledgeable guide is needed to find her grave.
Inverness has a small Muslim community of a few hundred people today but, when Lady Zainab passed away, there were no Muslims living in the area apart from her. There was no local imam to perform her burial. A call went out for help and an imam came all the way up from Woking, near London, to officiate at the burial.
Burial in Islam is one of absolute simplicity. We leave this life in a similar way to which we entered this world – with nothing to take with us in terms of possessions and wrapped in only a few simple sheets.
A final request of Lady Zainab was that she should be buried “where the stags will run over my grave”.
She was laid to rest at Glenuaig on the Glencarron Estate. A lone piper played MacCrimmon’s Lament on the bagpipes and verses of the Holy Qur’an were recited by the imam. Thirty to forty of the local villagers attended her burial and a number of the landed gentry were scattered amongst the mourners .
Inscribed on the stone placed over her grave is the following line from the Holy Qur’an …
“Allahu nur-us-samawati wal ard”
this means …
Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth
An account of the burial of Lady Zainab can be found at the Woking Muslim Mission webpage. It was translated by Dr Zahid Aziz from a report in an Urdu magazine published in Lahore. Click here to go to the link …
The Story of Her Trip on Hajj
Lady Zainab wrote a book with an account of her journey to Makkah on Hajj. It is entitled ‘Pilgrimage to Mecca’.
Her Conversion to Islam
She converted to Islam after meeting the Pope in Rome. She describes the meeting with the Pope in her book “when His Holiness suddenly addressed me, asking if I was a Catholic, I was taken aback for a moment and then replied that I was a Muslim …A match was lit and I then and there determined to read up and study the faith. The more I read and the more I studied, the more convinced I became that Islam was the most practical religion… Since then I have never wavered in my belief that there is but one God.”
A Trip to Her Grave
In August 2017, some Muslim brothers from Glasgow came north to Inverness to visit the grave of Lady Zainab. The photographs of her grave on this page were taken by them. Their trip was documented in a video …