Lady Evelyn Murray Zainab Cobbold, daughter of the 7th Earl of Dunmore, embraced Islam and in April 1933 performed the Pilgrimage to Mecca at the age of 66, being probably the first British woman convert to Islam to perform this rite. In 1934 she published an account of this in her bookPilgrimage to Mecca (Murray, London)
Lineage and family
According to information on the website www.william1.co.uk which traces the descendants of William the Conqueror, she was descended from this famous French Norman conqueror of England. A genealogical table of her family starting with her father Charles Adolphus Murray, 7th Earl of Dunmore (1841–1907), may be read here on this website. From there we learn that in 1891 she married John Dupius Cobbold who died in 1929.
Note: One of Lady Evelyn’s daughters, Pamela (d. 1932), married in 1919 Sir Charles Jocelyn Hambro (d. 1963) of the famous Hambro banking dynasty. He was a director of the Bank of England for many years and also served as Chief Executive of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) during the Second World War.
A brief biography is provided in a section of a family tree website, written by Anthony Cobbold in 2006. It describes her occupation as: Fearless Traveller, Author and convert to Islam. See this link.
Following the death of Lady Cobbold on 25 January 1963, The Islamic Review in its issue of April–June 1963 (p. 34) published extracts from the obituary which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 28 January 1963. We quote from it below:
“Lady Evelyn Cobbold, who has dies aged 95, was the first Englishwoman to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. She made the journey in April 1933, at the age of 66, when she had already been a Moslem for many years.… After travelling across the desert by car from Jeddah she performed the Moslem religious ceremonies, walking with other Moslem women seven times round the Holy Kaaba.… Lady Evelyn was the eldest daughter of the Seventh Earl of Dunmore. In 1891 she married John Dupois Cobbold, of Ipswich, who became Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Suffolk, and who died in 1929. They had one son, killed in the 1939–45 war, and two daughters, one of whom died… A fluent Arabic speaker, Lady Evelyn also had the reputation of being a first-class shot and deer-stalker. She wrote two travel books, Pilgrimage to Mecca, in 1934, and in the following year Kenya: The land of Illusion.”
Here the editor of The Islamic Review adds the following note: Another book which was issued for private circulation was the Wayfarers in the Libyan Desert (published by Arthur L. Humphreys, 187 Piccadilly, London, 1912.
We are making available here the following material about Lady Evelyn Zainab Cobbold.
- Review by The Islamic Review of her book Pilgrimage to Mecca. (From The Islamic Review, October 1934.)
- Introduction to her book Pilgrimage to Mecca, in which she briefly relates how and why she embraced Islam. (From The Islamic Review, January 1935.)
- Reviews from the British press of Pilgrimage to Mecca. (From The Islamic Review, January 1935.)
- This link provides a brief description of her pilgrimage, signed photograph from 1915, and image of letter to her grandson from Jeddah. When the link opens, you need to scroll down to the heading Lady Evelyn Cobbold (Performed Hajj in 1933). 21 October 2014.
- Her speech at the function in honour of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, held by the Muslim Society of Great Britain on 14th December 1933 in London. (From The Islamic Review, March 1934.)
- An account of the funeral service and burial of Lady Evelyn Cobbold at her estate Glencarron near Inverness in Scotland in January 1963, organised by Woking Muslim Mission staff, Maulana Yaqub Khan and Maulana S.M. Tufail.