ISLAMABAD: As the world prepares for yet another year of the annual Hajj restricted only to Saudi citizens and residents in response to the coronavirus pandemic, one Pakistani artist is bringing the pilgrimage to the people through a series of paintings.
An exhibition of the collection, entitled “The Spiritual Journey,” was sponsored by Arab News Pakistan and held in the lobby of the Centaurus Mall in the federal capital. All the paintings are the creations of Rabia Zakir, who in Islamabad’s circles has come to be known as the artist who painted a portrait of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he visited Pakistan in February 2019. Zakir is also president of the sports and culture wing of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party.
Zakir has painted portraits of members of royal families across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Her portraits and landscapes hang in 50 embassies in Pakistan, most prominently of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman.
The paintings in Zakir’s latest collection capture the journey of performing Hajj from arrival to praying at the Kaaba and traveling among fellow pilgrims. It also includes intricately detailed pieces that show recognizable features of the Kaaba.
“I would like to thank Arab News for giving me such a great opportunity to present my paintings of Hajj,” Zakir said at the launch of her exhibition in Islamabad on Monday. “My main focus and point of this exhibition is for people to feel the essence of Hajj. After performing Hajj [in 2018], I painted these images from memory to express my own feelings on the amazing experience.”
Zakir called the exhibition her “best received collection” in the past three years, which she believes is because the theme is Hajj: “It is the most heavily appreciated because of the theme … The theme unifies so many of us.”
The event was inaugurated by chief guest Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, the Pakistani prime minister’s adviser on religious harmony and the Middle East.
Ashrafi told Arab News he was moved by the collection.
“Today, in Islamabad, I can say after this exhibition many people’s emotions have been stirred,” Ashrafi said. “In their hearts, it [exhibition] has birthed an excitement, anticipation, to go again. God willing this pandemic will be over soon and we hope next year Muslims will be able to return to perform Hajj.”
“Looking at these photos one wishes they could just fly away right now and land in Madina and Makkah,” Noor-Ul-Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, told Arab News at the exhibition. “We need to encourage such events in Pakistan ... encourage our emerging talents to take part in such events that encourage our culture, our values and our religion.”
Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan Ahmed Rabei also attended the event.