With my parents coming from opposite ends of the country I spend a fair amount of the summer with the Libyan landscape whizzing by the car windows. The one constant feature, from east to west, and even the desert in between, is the Maqams.
Domed white buildings, built over the tomb of Wali, and all marked as such by a profusion of green banners, are just everywhere. Perched half-way up a hill in the J'bal Alakhdar, surrounded by a rippling sea of wheat, golden in the sun light; in the middle of an almond orchard, where goats prefer it's cool shade to the trees' more patchy shadow; or on the right hand side of a much used desert highway alongside petrol stations, truckers restaurants, and the occasional sheepherders' village.
Which was why I wasn’t surprised when, driving back from a cousin's wedding, we drove by a Saints tomb right next to the main road into Tubruk. It was larger than usual though, with quite a few cars parked nearby and people milling about.
I thought they were just using it as a place to rest, as travelers often do, for which reason Maqams, like roadside mosques, are never locked, and sometimes don't even have a door.
But no, this was the tomb of the Mujahid Yunis Hashim, a Maqam so famous I was told, that even now, with such superstitious practices on the decline, there were visitors from all over the Eastern provinces.
My uncle filled us in on its story: apparently the grave belonged to a Shaheed from the Jihad against the fascist occupation, who volunteered to hold off the Italians soldiers after a skirmish, giving the others time to escape.When his body was recovered and buried, some people, hearing his story, and the fact that he had been a member of one of the more mystically prone Sufi tariqas, began visiting his grave to seek blessings from one they considered closer to God.
(To those who think Sufis are a quiescent bunch, too busy chanting and spinning in circles to know, or care, if the Ka’ba was nuked: a ‘Sufi Jihadi’ is not an oxymoron)
With time the tomb was built, then a Maqam was added over it, and gradually gifts of tomb covers and wall hangings, without which no Maqam is complete, were embroidered by women fulfilling a vow or in gratitude for a granted prayer.