When traveling in Iran, Turkey and Syria I have witnessed the convivial atmosphere of people of different faiths living together. In Damascas, my friend Janet and I came upon this shrine in the old Jewish Quarter for Say'yeda Roqayya, The Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter. It would be one of many Muslim, Christian or Jewish shrines we would visit during our travels in Syria, including those of St. Paul, Saint Thecla (a convert of Paul), John the Baptist, Ibn Arabi, among others. I was told that the neighborhood of Roqayya's shrine is home to many Shiite Muslims from Iran.
After borrowing proper robes and head covering, my friend and I were welcomed into the mosque and the women's sanctuary beside Roqayya's tomb. Here pilgrims chatted and wept together as they paid homage to this revered saint. The women were delighted that we took the time to visit with them. Many hugged us, kissed us on both of our cheeks and asked to take photos with us. The video below will give you a feel for the mood of this moment.
Walking in the footsteps of these holy people was a treat for me as I have written characters based on some of them in a collection of stories Daughters of the Desert: Tales Of Remarkable Women From the Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, which I coauthored with Storyforce authors Claire Rudolf Murpy and Mary Cronk Farrell. For more information and images about the interfaith aspects of my trip, please visit the pages on my website for this book as well as the Middle East section.