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Lady Evelyn Murray : The first British-Muslim woman to perform Hajj

According to the Hijri calendar, exactly ninety years ago, Lady Evelyn Murray became the first British born Muslim woman to perform Hajj on 9th Dhu al-Hijja 1351 (1933).

After declaring herself as a muslim, Lady Evelyn changed her name as Zainab Cobbold. According to her, she cannot recollect the exact jiff of when she became a Muslim. In the book named “Pilgrimage to Mecca”, she says, “I do not know the precise moment when the truth of Islam dawned on me, It seems that I have always been a Moslem.”

Despite belonging to a Christian family, she believed and convinced beyond any doubt that Jesus was the messenger of God. She further adds “the more I read and the more I studied, the more convinced I became that Islam was a right and the most practical religion, and the one most calculated to solve he world’s many perplexing problems…..”

She truly understood the essence of Islam and affirmed one the oneness of God, and later she decided a trip to the holy city, Makkah for performing Hajj.

Lady Evelyn had a long expedition. At first she travelled by a train to Suez (a city in Egypt) and was vaccinated in both arms for smallpox and cholera. Later she was told to advance to the port Tewfik where a ferry would depart to Jeddah. The ferry trip took around four days to reach Jeddah.

Prior planning for her trip to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, she wrote a letter to King of Saudi Arabia seeking permission to perform Hajj. Initially she was doubtful to receive the kings approval as many Europeans before her had entered the holy city of Makkah and dared to perform Hajj as a non-muslim.

But, to her surprise, the King Abd Al Aziz was quite fascinated by her story and reversion back to Islam (the religion of peace). Hence, Zainab was sanctioned the authority to perform Hajj.

She travelled in car from Mina to Arafat.

Later, upon reaching Masjid Al Haram she was in a state of religious frenzy & describes her feelings as follows : “I am in the Mosque of Mecca, and for a few seconds I am lost to my surroundings because of the wonder of it. We are walking on white marble through a great vault whose ceiling is a full fifty feet above us, and enter pillared cloisters holding the arched roof and surrounding an immense quadrangle…. I had never imagined anything so stupendous…. We walk on to the Holy of Holies, the house of Allah [the Ka’bah] rising in simple majesty. It would require a master pen to describe the scene, poignant in its intensity of the great concourse of humanity of which I was one small unit, completely lost to their surroundings in a fervour of religious enthusiasm…. I felt caught up in a strong wave of spiritual exaltation….”

Zainab spoke Arabic fluently and leant the language during her chldhood when her parents spent the winter months in Algeria in search of sunshine.

She spent her later days travelling and preaching Islam. Her book “Pilgrimage to Mecca” is the oldest record of the trip to Hajj.

“Pilgrimage to Mecca”

After the death of Lady Everyl, she was buried on a hill near her estate in Scotland, facing Mecca with the following words on her gravestone: “Allahu nur-us-samawati wal ard” (“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth”)

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Dr. Zareen Fatima

Dr Zareen is an ambitious general dentist working and residing in UAE. She is able to handle multiple tasks on a daily basis. Alongside her busy work schedule, she is a vivid reader, researcher, writer editor and is currently pursuing Masters in Public Health. In her leisure she brings out the forgotten history in the field of medicine and associated disciplines.

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