Ziyarat Reflection: Haram of Lady Masuma

Not So Out of the Ordinary

By Fatimah Amirali

As a nation that revolves around the Ahl al-Bayt, visiting their graves has been highly recommended, and there is a special place in the hearts of the lovers of the family of the Prophet (s) for their ziyarat. There is one Ziyarat however, that has been denied to us. A grave too sacred to be uncovered, a holy woman buried in secret. A Ziyarat that we will only ever be able to do at a distance, guessing the place of her grave in the holy city of Medina. There is a story told repeatedly in the holy city of Qom, that never fails to send shivers down spines, and on the death anniversary of the Lady Fatimah (s), sharing this story seems poignant and somehow necessary.

Ayatullah Marashi Najafi was known for his love of the Ahl al-Bayt. He was a man of knowledge who dedicated his life to going after knowledge and collected thousands of our oldest manuscripts, creating one of the largest Shia libraries in existence today. In his love, he wanted to discover the exact location of the grave of the Lady Fatimah (s), and so he began a special a’amal for forty days. On the fortieth day, after completing the a’maal, he went to rest, and had a vision of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir or Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (either one of them). The Imam (a) said to him: عَلَیْکَ بِکَرِیمَةِ اَهْل الْبَیت : I urge you towards the karimah of the Ahl al-Bayt.  Thinking that Imam was referring to the Lady Fatimah (s), Ayatullah Marashi responded: “May I be sacrificed for you. I recited this a’maal in order to know the exact location of the noble grave so that I could do a better Ziyarat for her.”  The Imam responded “I meant the grave of the Lady Ma’sumah (s) that is in Qum. The hidden grave of my mother al-Zahra is a secret. If you want to visit her grave, then go to the grave of Lady Ma’sumah (s) in Qum.  Because of a certain wisdom, God has determined that the location of the grave of the Lady Fatimah (s) will remain hidden. God has given the grave of the Lady Ma’sumah the status of the grave of the Lady Fatimah (s). If it had been determined that the grave of our lofty mother were to become known, then God would have also given the same status and greatness to the grave of the Lady Ma’sumah.” After this, the Ayatullah went to Qum to visit her grave.

The grave of the Lady Ma’sumah (s) is holier than we can comprehend. On the death anniversary of the Lady Fatimah (s), it is where we can go to do her Ziyarat, and this is not something to be taken lightly. In lieu of this, here is a short experience on the Ziyarat of the Lady Ma’sumah that does absolutely no justice to her.

For the past couple of years, I have been sitting in the haram of the Lady Ma’sumah on a weekly basis, for hours at a time. Considering this, it wasn’t really surprising when I was approached to write a piece about my Ziyarat experiences. What was surprising however, was the fact that two years later, I had no idea what to write, and absolutely no idea how to articulate my feelings about it—because I never have.  As I sit in the haram today, I’ll do my best to articulate these experiences as honestly as I am able.

I have always heard stories from people who have had ground-breaking, life-altering experiences during Ziyarat (think: Lauren Booth’s spiritual awakening). Whenever I hear these stories, I’m never quite sure how to feel. Despite having more Ziyarat trips than I can count, I have never had an experience that I can count as out of the ordinary. This is something that I have always struggled to come to terms with– what is wrong with me? It bothers me and when hearing the stories, I am both envious of them, and ashamed of myself. I crave a miraculous personal experience, something special to call my own. This type of experience is something that I constantly find myself praying for. I don’t deserve one, and I know this, but I crave to be deserving of it.

While my experiences haven’t been something remarkable, they have been exceedingly positive. They haven’t been miraculous, but they have been unique and special in their own right. Living here, perhaps I have become desensitized to the glamour of Ziyarat. For me, it’s not magical, extraordinary, or revolutionary, no matter how much I wish I could say it was so.

I don’t really know how to describe the shrine. It has been central to my life since I have moved here; it has been the locus that has kept me together. Since I first arrived to Qum, the shrine has been overwhelming in its serenity. Despite the noise, the world feels as though it has come to a standstill as I sit in its halls. There is something undeniably special here. There is beauty in its sounds, a sense of calm in its air, and a strength that is felt as it brings people together from various walks of life. She is our refuge and our home.

Some may find it surprising to know that I rarely sit long next to the dharih (the shrine itself). I cannot resist going to the other parts of the haram, and my experience extends beyond the dharih. Praying under the open sky in the cold of the night, or in the heat of the summer, is somehow satisfying and refreshing. The sound of the water gushing from fountains surrounding the premise brings my racing pulse back to its normal speed. The sound of qaris reciting the Qur’an never fails to bring me to tears: their voices mesmerizing, raw, and powerful in emotion. No matter how many times I record them, they never sound the same. The haram experience is its own. This place calms me, it helps me to put things into perspective- it gives me fresh oxygen to breathe when I feel suffocated. As a person who freaks out (literally) in crowds, it is rare for my mind to feel at peace amidst thousands of people—but this calm is what defines my Ziyarat. It’s why I bother going.

While I cannot claim an experience as wonderful as Lauren Booth’s, perhaps we have one thing in common. Perhaps we never got what we asked for or came for, but we got what we needed. For her, that was guidance. For me, it was calmness.

Maybe, just maybe—our experiences don’t need to be defined by anything ground-breaking or remarkable. Although I am always going to wish I had a miracle to call my own, this haram is something exceptional. It is beautiful in its simplicity- and it has taught me that there is beauty in simplicity.