Adjacent to Roza-e-Rasool, the tomb of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), in the holy city of Madina in Saudi Arabia, there is the oldest and the holiest Islamic cemetery called Jannat al-Baqi. This holy cemetery is the last resting abode of many family members, relatives and companions of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW), including his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah al-Zahra (SA)—the princess of the Prophet (PBUH). There are a large number of Ahadith (sayings) and Sunnah (actions) of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) essentially manifesting how much love and respect the exalted father had for her revered daughter. Among all the companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the few individuals who were promised paradise by the Prophet of Islam during his lifetime have been considered the most pious, esteemed and blessed ones. Thus, logically, one can just imagine the dignity, reverence and infallibility of such a pious lady for whom the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) made a divine prediction that she would be the “Queen of Paradise”.

Every year, millions of Muhammadans visit Roza-e-Rasool (SAW) in Madina to pay homage to the Prophet of Islam. Sadly, while the Roza-e-Rasool (SAW) is mostly jam-packed with pilgrims, the tomb of his daughter Bibi Fatimah al-Zahra (SA), just a stone’s throw away, always gives a deserted look. The Saudi government has imposed certain restrictions barring pilgrims from freely visiting her tomb. More disturbingly, her tomb is not identifiable since there is no epitaph at all on it. Also, it is even without any formal tomb-like structure. A few stones and broken bricks just mark her grave.

There had been an impressive structure over the tomb of Bibi Fatimah al-Zahra (SA) in Jannat al-Baqi until 1925 when it was, along with the tombs of other holy personages, demolished altogether by the Kingdom.

In Pakistan, a campaign for the construction of a shrine or mausoleum of Bibi Fatimah al-Zahra (SA) in Jannat al-Baqi cemetery in Saudi Arabia is currently in full swing. These days, social media in the country is inundated with demands and requests made by Pakistanis, belonging to all schools of religious thought, for the construction of this shrine. The legislatives assemblies in Punjab, Sindh and AJK have passed resolutions asking the government of Pakistan to mobilise different diplomatic channels besides making a formal request to the Saudi authorities to allow the construction of the holy shrine of Bibi Fatimah al-Zahra (SA). A number of bar associations in the country have also passed similar resolutions.

Islam is considered a universal religion. There are many who also view Islam as an extraterritorial religion in the sense that it is not confined only to a particular religion or culture in the world. This extraterritorial character of the Islamic community is also one of the most significant ideas of the political philosophy of the great poet and thinker Allama Iqbal.

The Saudi government has also imposed their self-devised strict Shariah codes for religious practices in the two holiest Islamic cities, Makkah and Madina. These holy cities are visited by millions of Muslim pilgrims from various countries all over the world every year. Many pilgrims have been found frequently making complaints about the unnecessary restrictions vis-à-vis the performance of their religious rites in al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Roza-e-Rasool (SAW) in Madina imposed by the Saudi authorities. Restrictions, of course, can be observed at the al-Baqi symmetry.

Building tombs, and erecting epitaphs over them, has been a recognised and approved practice among the Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Judaism, as with most schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Likewise, memorials and monuments are also erected by the civilised nations to commemorate their heroes, martyrs, national leaders and notables etc. These tombs, memorials or monuments are obviously not the objects of worship but only meant for respect, honour or commemoration. This is an era of religious pluralism. In the contemporary world, civilised countries are allowing people of all creeds and cultures to freely profess and practice their religion while disapproving religious fanaticism and bigotry. Today, a large number of Muslims are enjoying freedom of faith and religion in western Christian-majority societies. Pakistan recently also exhibited a similar spirit of religious tolerance and pluralism by opening the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims inside its territory.

It is incumbent upon the elected government of Pakistan, which essentially represents the aspirations of Pakistanis, to spearhead an international diplomatic campaign to make the Saudi government allow and facilitate the construction of a decent structure over the tomb of the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Jannat al-Baqi in Madina besides allowing pilgrims and devotees freely visit it. The government can also exploit the forum of OIC for this noble cause. This is indeed a great opportunity for the proponents of Riyasat-e-Madina in the country to pay reverence and show affection to the exalted founder of Riyasat-e-Madina.

Mohsin Raza Malik

The writer is a lawyer. He can be contacted at mohsinraza.malik@gmail.com