and burial of Lady Evelyn Zainab Cobbold, Scotland,
Translated and compiled by Dr Zahid Aziz
1. Report in Lahore Ahmadiyya Urdu magazine
Translated below is an article from the Lahore Ahmadiyya
Urdu organ Paigham Sulh of Lahore, Pakistan, dated
13 February 1963 (p. 7–8), written by Maulana Yaqub Khan entitled:
Lady Cobbold the Islamic funeral
of a Scottish convert to Islam.
An Islamic grave on top of a Scottish hill,
Headstone inscribed with Allah is the light of
the heavens and the earth
Maulana Yaqub Khan was Head of the Woking Muslim Mission
at the time and the Imam was Maulana Shaikh Muhammad Tufail.
He sent this report to Lahore from the Woking Mosque and Mission.
See at this link the image of the original article from Paigham Sulh.
It was on the 26th January 1963 that at 8 p.m. there
was a telephone call, asking to speak to the Imam. I answered
it and found that the caller was a British woman who informed
me that Lady Evelyn Cobbold had died at her ancestral home
in Inverness. The caller said that as Lady Cobbold was a Muslim
she had phoned the Islamic Cultural Centre in London to ask
for help in organising the funeral, and they had given the
contact of an undertaker. I said that the undertaker would
not be able to conduct the janaza prayer and that prayer
is the crux of the funeral. She said: This is why I have phoned
you, because I know that for the funeral prayer an imam is
required, not an undertaker. Undertakers can be obtained in
Inverness, she said, but as I received no help from the Islamic
Cultural Centre, this is why I am calling you.
I asked her if the deceased Lady had left any instructions.
She replied that the Lady had expressed the wish that when
her body is laid in the grave her face should face Makka.
Hearing this, I was deeply moved by the Ladys strong
attachment to the religion of Islam. I said that, however
difficult it might be, someone from here must go to her funeral.
Inverness is very far from here, like the distance between
Lahore and Karachi, and even on the fast trains they have
here it takes 16 hours. On top of that, the
winter and snow here is making the whole country like Siberia.
After some thought, I said that in order for the face to be
towards Makka the grave would have to be aligned in a certain
direction. If the grave were to be dug as they are usually
dug here, this instruction cannot be fulfilled. She understood
this point. I asked her to phone again the following day,
when we would have worked out what to do. Shaikh Muhammad
Tufail had gone to London, and when I mentioned this to him
the next day, he agreed to go. So when the woman phoned again,
Shaikh Tufail obtained all the details from her about where
to go and when to reach there etc.
Shaikh Tufail travelled in the sleeping carriage of the train
from London on Wednesday night and arrived in Inverness at
8 a.m. the following morning. A man had come to meet him at
the railway station. From there they had to travel 60 miles
by car through the mountains. Lady Cobbold was the eldest
daughter of the Earl of Dunmore of Scotland, and her estate
was located 60 miles from Inverness, called Glencarron.
The estate is so large that within
its grounds it took nearly an hour even by car to reach the
The estate is in a mountainous area. The deceased Lady had
chosen a high hill in the middle of the estate and instructed
that she be buried at its peak. When Shaikh Tufail reached
the lodge he found that there were 30 to 40 people gathered
there, including landed gentry from that area. Earlier I had
sent him a telegram from Woking with instructions about the
direction of alignment of the grave. The grave was dug accordingly
and was ready when the coffin was brought there from the lodge.
She had further instructed, as Shaikh Tufail discovered upon
reaching there, that:
- No Christian minister should be brought to her funeral.
- The funeral prayer must be in Arabic, with certain specified
verses of the Quran being recited.
- The face must be towards Makka.
- The following should be inscribed
on the gravestone in Arabic: Allahu nur-us-samawati wal
Accordingly Shaikh Tufail said the funeral prayer, and uttered
it loudly so that the gathering may be aware that it was in
Arabic. He also recited verses from the Quran and other prayers
She was an indomitable woman, and was
a typical example of that class of the aristocracy of Scotland
who are fiercely proud of their blood, descent and Scottish
nationality, and consider the English to be inferior. Accordingly,
just as Lady Cobbold fully demonstrated in her will that she
was a Muslim, she also maintained in it the Scottish aristocratic
tradition that the coffin was to be followed by a bag piper
playing lamentful tunes.
This was the ceremony with which
this 95 year old Scottish Muslim Lady was laid to rest, on
the afternoon of 31st January 1963, on top of a hill within
the grounds of her huge and beautiful estate.
Every Muslim will envy her good fortune and raise hands in
prayer for her that Allah may grant her high places in heaven
also, just as she chose a high hilltop for her last resting
place on earth. Glory be to Allah, what love for Islam! On
the one hand there is the far off Scotland and an independent-minded,
woman of authority yet Islam possesses such great power
as to capture her, and it is a capture by which Islam has
planted on top of a high mountain in Scotland, in the midst
of a gathering of the aristocracy and the nobility, the declaration:
Allahu nur-us-samawati wal ard
(Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth.)
Lady Cobbold was the first British woman to have the privilege
of performing the Hajj. She has left a book of her
experiences entitled Pilgrimage to Mecca. She also
wrote another book entitled Kenya, A Land of Illusion.
The newspapers of London, such as The Times and the
Daily Telegraph, published her obituary. In the book
Islam Our Choice, her photograph and story of acceptance
of Islam are printed on page 171. We
have also learnt that she once visited the Woking Mosque during
the time of Maulana Sadr-ud-Din.
She had great interest in, and was skilled in, stag hunting.
All the newspapers have mentioned this in particular. Shaikh
Tufail also said that on a nearby mountain there is a forest
of some two hundred deer that he saw.
In 1934 she performed the Hajj.
She could speak Arabic quite well. In the lodge Shaikh Tufail
saw her library and found that it contained many books on
Arab Sufi-ism as well as a copy of the 1917 edition of Maulana
Muhammad Alis English translation of the Quran. She
was widowed in 1929 and never re-married.
On 1st February 1963 the Scottish public read with amazement
and wonder the following headlines in the Aberdeen daily Press
Moslem Burial on Lonely Highland Hillside,
Lady Cobbold was Mecca Pilgrim
Notes on above article by website Editor
(Clicking on a note number below returns
you to the referring point in the article above.)
[Note 1] The
winter of 196263 in Britain was exceptionally cold and
2] Information about the Glencarron estate and the
This estate is in the Highlands of Scotlands, in the county
and Cromarty, located on the A890 road to the South-West
of Achnasheen. It lies on the railway line between Achnasheen
and the Kyle of Lochalsh, one of the most beautiful stretches
of railway in Britain. Historical photos can be viewed at an Highland history & culture website see this link.
Lodges on the Glencarron estate are now used as holiday homes available
for renting. See www.glencarron.org and www.glencarronestate.co.uk
3] These words are from the Holy Quran, ch. 24, v. 35,
and mean: Allah is the light of the heavens and the
4] This grave is mentioned in a book
review of a book about the Inverness-Kyle railway which
appeared on the website of The West Highland Free Press.
The reviewer writes:
You know that remarkable towering Victorian edifice
which is perched on the steep, bare hillside about halfway
between Achnasheen and Achnashellach? It is called Glencarron
Lodge. Until 1964 the train stopped there. In that year
its owner, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, died. Lady Evelyn is buried
upright and facing eastward in the hills on the other side
of the glen. That is because she was a convert to Islam;
reputedly the first western woman to enter Mecca.
(Roger Hutchinson reviewing Iron Roads to the Far North
and Kyle by Michael Pearson)
5] This would place her visit during 191416 or 19191920.
6] The correct date when Lady Cobbold performed the Hajj
is April 1933. See The Islamic Review, March 1934,
the note under her photograph on page facing the first page.
This is the issue which reports on her speech in London at
the function to mark the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
held on 14 December 1933. See
2. From The Islamic Review
In The Islamic Review, the death of Lady Cobbold was reported in the April–June 1963 issue (p. 34). After reproducing extracts from the obituary from the Daily Telegraph (which we have given earlier), this report went on to say:
“According to her will her funeral service was to be performed by a Muslim, and the Quranic verse ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth’ was to be inscribed on her grave.
Mr. S. Muhammad Tufail went to Scotland to offer the funeral service for Lady Cobbold.…
On his way back from Glencarron, Sir John and Lady Stirling were kind enough to invite Mr. Tufail to stay the night at their place, Fairburn, Muir of Ord, Ross-shire.”
The Islamic Review also quoted a report of the burial from The Press and Journal, Inverness as follows:
“Thirty people stood on a lonely West Highland hillside yesterday afternoon and watched a full burial ceremony of the Muslim faith. They were attending the funeral of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, of Glencarron, Achnashellach, who died in Morven Nursing Home, Inverness, on Saturday, aged ninety-five.
The eldest daughter of the Seventh Earl of Dunmore, Lady Evelyn married Mr. John Dupois Cobbold, of Ipswich, Suffolk, who was later Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Suffolk. Mr. Cobbold died in 1929. Lady Evelyn, who had been resident at the Inverness Nursing Home for four years, was buried on the hillside within her Glencarron Estate, 200 yards above a stalking track. As a Moslem she was interred facing the east — and Mecca.
Officiating at the service in Glencarron Lodge and at the hillside burial was Mr. Muhammad Tufail, who travelled from Woking to the Highlands on Wednesday. Among the family members present were Lady Evelyn’s eldest grandson, Mr. A.I. Sladden, Basingstoke, and grand-daughter Mrs. Leslie Melville, Hopetoun Estate, Linlithgow. Mr. Sladden said after the funeral: I had been to the East with my grandmother on occasions and have seen Moslem ceremonies there, but this has been the first time I have seen a Moslem funeral ceremony, and I am very impressed indeed.”