Female Islamic Saints


The gilded enclosure around Ruqayyah’s tomb.
I. The ḍarīḥ of Ruqayyah in her mashhad in Cairo, Egypt.

Ruqayyah bint ‘Alī (late 7th century) was the daughter of ‘Alī, the cousin of Muḥammad and the first Shi‘ah Imam, and one of his wives (either his wife Fatimah or his concubine-wife Sahbā‘ bint Rabī‘ah. She married her cousin Muslim ibn ‘Āqil, with whom she had three children. Her husband and her eldest son ‘Abd Allāh fought in her brother Ḥusayn’s rebellion, and when she attended brother Ḥusayn on his military campaign to Karbala, she learned of their deaths. After Ḥusayn was defeated, Ruqayyah was one of the survivors taken captive, although not much is known about her life after her release. Her place of burial is said by some to be in Damascus, while others say Cairo, where her mazār, or shrine, stands. The Hafizi Isma‘ili Imam and Fatimid Caliph al-Ḥāfiẓ built the shrine in 1133 after seeing an apparition of a cloaked Ruqayyah in a dream. He went where she appeared in the dream, and, finding an empty tomb, called for the building of a mashhad, or mausoleum, over it, which is still used as mosque and a mazār. She is also commonly believed according to folklore to be buried in the mazār of Bībī Pāk Dāman in Lahore, Pakistan.

Photo Reference

I: Baldiri. “Mashad of Sayyida Ruqayya. Cairo, Egypt.” Wikimedia Commons, 13 Aug. 2008, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cairo_Ruqayya_2.jpg.

Other Reading

El Kadi, Galila; Bonnamy, Alain. Architecture for the Dead: Cairo's Medieval Necropolis. The American University in Cairo Press, 2007, p. 42.

“Ruqayya bt. al-Imam 'Ali (a).” WikiShia. Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, 27 Jun. 2018, en.wikishia.net/view/Ruqayya_bt._al-Imam_%27Ali_(a).

Williams, Caroline. Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide. The American University in Cairo Press. 2008, p. 120–121.

West AsiaImami Shi‘i.