They say this is where the culture of shrine worship took root. Approximately 75km from the city of Bahawalpur, Uch was founded by Alexander the Great and later came under the control of the Delhi Sultanate. Built near a place called Panjnad – where all of the Indus rivers meet – Uch used to be a centre of political and cultural activities and is home to myriad of mosques and shrines.

Some of the most popular shrines in Uch are those of Bibi Jawindi, Baha’al-Halim and Jalaluddin Bukhari – all of which are concentrated in a compound known as Uch Sharif and are listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The compound itself is largely covered with cemented graves and has been preserved as it was in the desert it was once a part of. As a result of some massive a network – artificial canals and man-made tributaries of rivers – the surrounded area is green with cultivation making visiting the shrines an almost surreal experience.

Most of the old shrines in Uch Sharif are in massive need of restoration and that work is currently being carried out there. One advise when visiting Uch Sharif is to remember to wear socks – you will be asked to take off your sandals once inside the compound and the floor is scorching hot. Text and photos by Madeeha Syed

A man frequenting the shrine sits in front of the entrance leading to the darbar of Jalaluddin Bukhari.
A man frequenting the shrine sits in front of the entrance leading to the darbar of Jalaluddin Bukhari.
Caretakers of the shrine sit at the door of the darbar of Jalaluddin Bhukhari.
Caretakers of the shrine sit at the door of the darbar of Jalaluddin Bhukhari.
The entrance of the darbar of Jalaludin Bukhari as seen from the inside. Intricate wood work and pillars constitute the shrine's architecture.
The entrance of the darbar of Jalaludin Bukhari as seen from the inside. Intricate wood work and pillars constitute the shrine's architecture.
The grave of Jalaluddin Bukhari rests at the extreme back while those of his extended family dot the darbar.
The grave of Jalaluddin Bukhari rests at the extreme back while those of his extended family dot the darbar.
Famous saints and mystics have used these small compartments for prayer and meditation. The room on the extreme lower right was reportedly Baba Bulleh Shah's room.
Famous saints and mystics have used these small compartments for prayer and meditation. The room on the extreme lower right was reportedly Baba Bulleh Shah's room.
There is a lot of restoration work taking place at the shrines in Uch Sharif.
There is a lot of restoration work taking place at the shrines in Uch Sharif.
A bricklayer works on constructing a new wall around the main Uch Sharif enclosure.
A bricklayer works on constructing a new wall around the main Uch Sharif enclosure.
There are little prayers tied up in those threads.
There are little prayers tied up in those threads.
Two of the three interconnected tombs of Bibi Jiwandi.
Two of the three interconnected tombs of Bibi Jiwandi.
The tomb of Bibi Jiwandi set against a mass of small, cemented graves. The area in itself is the patch of desert preserved in the area and is surrounded by lush green vegetation.
The tomb of Bibi Jiwandi set against a mass of small, cemented graves. The area in itself is the patch of desert preserved in the area and is surrounded by lush green vegetation.
A man walks towards the tomb of Bibi Jiwandi.
A man walks towards the tomb of Bibi Jiwandi.
The other side of Bibi Jiwandi's tomb. Only half of the original tomb stands today.
The other side of Bibi Jiwandi's tomb. Only half of the original tomb stands today.

Comments (10) Closed




Saqib
Jun 27, 2011 10:32pm
Wow... so Tomb worship in Muslim land.... what is the definition of shirk again? I guess the question is how does the tomb worshipers reconcile between being Muslim and Musriks ? If this was happening in a Hindu land this would make more sense and be a bit more interesting…
Fawad Sayed.
Jun 27, 2011 10:41pm
I quote you " They say this is where the culture of shrine worship took root." This sentence is very dubious? Those who "worship graves" are obviously not muslims. There is a difference between visiting the graves of "Olia- e - Allah" to pay respects and offer prayers for those resting in peace there then actually worshipping a grave. Are you telling me all of us including myself want to visit the grave of our master Muhammad (Pbuh) want to worship his grave? Absolutely not, i would love to go there, pay my respects, offer my salams because of my respect for him. So please be careful paining everyone with the same color. The truth is very colorful.
Syed Ali Agha
Jun 28, 2011 01:02pm
ASA, Shrine Worship? Since when people started worshiping Shrines. Pilgrims visit to Shrines are an act of venerating, while worhship is only confined to Allah (swt). Thanks & Regards Syed Ali Agha
Sumeet
Jun 28, 2011 01:13pm
Fantastic photographs... Great Job relaying the stories through the 12 pictures. I wish there were more.. Cheers Sumeet
Naqi Akbar
Jun 28, 2011 02:07pm
Nice snaps! to certain extent yes; we can say that the Shrine culture began than. Those buried are amongstt he early migrants; especially from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) family; in most of the cases avoiding autocratic regimes crackdowns in Middle east; in a way the earliest Al Qaeda!!!!! Naqi Akbar' Karachi
Mazhar Bari
Jun 28, 2011 04:31pm
Beautiful snaps. I wish I was there. Why dont we learn to respect and tolerate what other people wants to do? After all everyone will take their own deeds with themselves when they die. Who are we to judge when Allah Almighty knows what's in our hearts.
ghulam asghar soofi
Jun 28, 2011 04:35pm
As it is a many times, mentioned in the holy Quran, that "there would come My friends( WALI-U-LLAH) who would propagate the Islam. Thus,visiting these sacred tombs does not lead us astray, instead refreshes the faith in Almighty Allah. In addition, it also comforts one's heart that is strained of the dark shadows of sin and restlessness.
ghulam asghar soofi
Jun 28, 2011 04:43pm
Shirk is what when God is not believed to be One. So giving an idea that by visiting shrines, it becomes shirk does not support the Islamic point of view but, it fulfills one's sectarian thrust that is, infact, shirk.
waleed
Jun 28, 2011 05:20pm
Hi, First of all i'll tell you that i visit zyarats to offer fatiha. and i offer my apologies if anybody gets hurt by reading my experience. Went there in january this year, i do believe in zyarats and pirs. Now listen what happens with me, just as i went inside of this zyarat beside the mosque, a majawar (caretaker) came and guided me as a tour guide to all the graves and told me of their karamaats,which seemed exaggerated to me atleast and at the end of the tour he asked me to give some money as on every zyarat you have to pay something and i gave him some money but he said must give a red note (100 rs) so i gave him and then he said i have to give him 100 rs for each of the grave, i was shocked and i said i came from very far and dont have much money but he insisted, anyway i managed. then in mosque another guy came and told me that their are 40 wooden pillars which came from hijaz (makkah and madinah) and from these 40 one pillar is from 'Arsh' so devotees touch each and every pillar. I dont it was somthing wrong with me or they thought i'm millionaire tourist as i was wearing jeans. Waleed Islamabad
Syed Ali
Jun 29, 2011 08:27pm
If you go to shrines you will see how the caretakers and those who frequent them actually engage in "worshipping" graves of the people buried there. They pray to it (not for it), kiss it, ask for the graves blessings, rub the grave's cloth over their heads so it might give them some kind of mystical blessing and what else not. Women and men pilgrimage to shrines hoping that by seeking the blessing of the 'saint' buried there, they will be able to concieve/have children, will get married, will be cured of a mental ailment they might be suffering from. ALL of that comes under worshipping a grave/the shrine, NOT offering fatiha for the dead.