Mar. 15, 2018
Everyone should recognize the No. 1 holy site in all Islam is Mecca, the Qaba, which draws millions of pilgrims annually – perhaps more than any other religious shrine in the world. For instance, while some 5 million visit the Vatican City every year, 18 million Muslims visit Saudi Arabia and, almost all of them, go to Mecca, which doesn’t allow non-Muslims to enter the city. The annual five-day Hajj, alone, attracted more than 2 million in 2017.
Spiritual pilgrimages are a big deal in Islam, and the No. 2 holy site in all Islam is probably Medina, where Muhammad is buried.
But after Mecca and Medina, there is actually much dispute, even among Muslims, as to which would be Islam’s third holiest city. Why? Because while Mecca and Medina are considered holy to all Muslim followers of Muhammad and Allah, not all of them are Sunni. Sunni Islam adherents represent about 80 percent or roughly 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. But another 20 percent are Shia, representing as many as 300 million. And Shia Muslims revere shrines in two other cities in Iraq – Najaf, and Karbala.