Last week, we read about the Sunni-Shia split and the significance of important shrines in Shiism. This NYT article discusses the shrine of Zeinab in Damascus and its role in the ongoing Syrian conflict:
“Inside the revered shrine here, under ceilings sparkling with mirrored tiles, men and women still pray, pressing their faces to the tomb they believe holds the remains of Zeinab, a granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. But the streets outside, once impassable with pilgrims and shoppers, are now sparsely trafficked. Gone are the chattering picnickers who packed the shrine’s blue-tiled courtyard, now crisscrossed by armed men in unmarked fatigues …
As Syria convulsed in conflict, the thought that the shrine could be destroyed alarmed the faithful. Zeinab, who lost her brothers and sons in battle and came to Damascus as a prisoner, has long been honored, particularly by Shiites, as a symbol of sacrifice and steadfastness.
Religious fervor helped galvanize tens of thousands of Shiite fighters to flock from Iraq, Lebanon and across Syria, in theory to defend the shrine, in practice to fight alongside Syrian forces on many fronts. And it drove some Sunni extremists in the insurgency, who regard Shiites as infidels, to declare the shrine a target.”