In the north-west of Scotland, on a cloudy day, 20 people are preparing for a 10-kilometer walk to Gleann Fhiodhaig. There are Muslims going on an unusual pilgrimage to the grave of a Scottish aristocrat, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, reports the BBC.
What is the explanation? Lady Evelyn is believed to have been the first Muslim woman born in Britain to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The pilgrimage to her grave was organized by The Convert Muslim Foundation, a charity in the United Kingdom that provides support for people converted to the Islamic religion.
“Ever since I heard about Lady Evelyn, I’ve been interested in her story. She was a formidable lady, who was never left out just because she was a woman, “said Batool Al-Toma, the group’s founder, an Irish convert to Islam.
Lady Evelyn died in a very cold winter of January 1963 and was buried on an isolated hill on her Glencarron estate.
Born in Edinburgh in the late 1800s, Lady Evelyn spent her childhood in Scotland and North Africa. During her time there, she was exposed to Islam for the first time, visiting mosques with her Algerian friends.
“Without knowing it, I was a little Muslim at heart,” she later wrote.
It is not known exactly when she converted to Islam, but the story that a chance meeting with the Pope during a visit to Rome made her understand her faith.
“When His Holiness suddenly addressed me, asking if I was a Catholic, I was surprised for a moment, and then I replied that I was a Muslim. I don’t know why I said that, because I hadn’t thought about Islam for many years, “she said.
Lady Evelyn took the Arabic name of Zainab and made the pilgrimage to Mecca at the age of 65.
Among the pilgrims who went to her grave is Yvonne Ridley, who converted to Islam after being a correspondent in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban in 2001.
“That experience sent me on a journey that began as an academic exercise, but took me on a spiritual journey,” she says.
Ridley learned about Lady Evelyn from Al-Toma while they were in Turkey.
“I started reading more about this remarkable Scotswoman, so Batool and I decided to make a pilgrimage to her grave,” she says.
Al-Toma believes that Lady Evelyn was a role model for how people who have converted to Islam can maintain their own identity and culture.
“It simply came to our notice then. I am glad that I read his book and that I took this walk, because I admire his courage and the spirit of adventure. He was a real pioneer, “she said.
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