Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque (Arabic: مَسْجِد ٱلسَّيِّدَة زَيْنَب, Romanized: Masjid as-Sayyidah Zaynab) is a mosque that draws Shia Muslim pilgrims from Iran and around the world who are much less interested in its blue-tiled architecture than in its holy shrine of Sayidda Zeinab, daughter of Ali the Shia martyr and granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad (According to Twelver Shia Muslim tradition). In the city of Sayyidah Zaynab, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, the mosque is located. In the mosque of the same name in Cairo, Egypt, Zaynab’s tomb is found in the Sunni Muslim and Ismaili Shia tradition. The Sayyida Zeinab Shrine is overlooked by many Damascus visitors, but it is well worth a visit as it is a magnificent building and the best insight into Shia Islam’s emotions outside of Iraq’s Karbala and Najaf. It is a simple taxi ride away, and non-Muslim visitors, especially in the outer courtyard, are welcome. Beginning in the 1980s, the tomb became a center of Twelver religious studies in Syria and a destination of mass pilgrimage by Twelver Shia Muslims from all over the Muslim world. In summer, the zenith of visitation usually occurs. In 1990, the present-day mosque which hosts the tomb was built.
Sayyida Zaynab Shrine
In 680 BCE, following the massacre at Karbala, one of the founding tragedies of the Shia religious history, Lady Zaynab was captured and taken prisoner. She saved the life of her nephew, Ali, while in captivity, by throwing herself over his body and declaring that they would also have to kill her. The line of succession was maintained by her courage, ensuring the future of Shiism. As such, one of the most significant and emotional pilgrimage sites for Shia Muslims is her shrine. An instance of Shia-Persian architecture is the temple, and the dome is gold-leafed. More than 1,300 people will handle the shrine-mosque in it and a further 150 in the courtyards attached. Sayyidah Zaynab’s resting place is enclosed within a Zarih, a cage-like structure located directly under the golden dome. The doors of the sanctuary are made of pure gold and the roof and walls are mirrored. The shrine’s two tall minarets are an exceptional example of architecture. With many religious items readily available, the shrine has a wide market in front of it. Finding the mosque is a task that includes the occasional sight of the imposing blue minaret and the accompanying crowds of black-robed Iranian pilgrims. The entrance gate opens into a polished outer courtyard dominated by the middle of the shrine, and the entire structure is decorated with intricate blue-tiled mosaics of symbolic flowers, geometric forms, and script in Arabic. The shrine was supported financially, primarily by the Iranian government after 1979. Despite their financial investment, Ayatollah Khamanei followed the ideological course of the shrine and the prayer hall. Several posters and sets are displayed by the Lebanese Hezbollah at the shrine. The mausoleum itself is split into a section for men and a section for women, leaving the shoes at the entrance. The room is comparatively small and often crowded. Just a thin wooden fence that separates the two pieces, and from one side to another, the wailing and sobs spill over the fence. Pilgrims dominate the sanctuary until it is closed after the Isha prayer at 9 pm. Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, as well as Kuwaiti, Bahraini, Lebanese, and Iraqi (Shia) Arabs, are the bulk of the pilgrims. For Sunni members, the shrine also has a separate prayer hall where they hold separate Friday prayers. Often the shrine is seen by others as a place of miracles, but it is not the exquisite decoration that instantly catches the attention of a tourist. The atmosphere inside is rather than quiet respect, one of transparent feeling. The wailing cries and profuse tears of pilgrims who have come to pay respect to the remains of Lady Zaynab are packed with it.