Islam began around thirteen centuries ago in modern day Saudi Arabia. Led by Prophet Mohammed, the religion quickly spread from its cradle in the western region of Hejaz to other parts of the Arabian Peninsula. From there it was carried by his successors to Asia, Africa, Europe and other parts of the world. The quick spread of Islam through vast areas in three continents means that there are many countries around the world with a long and rich history of Islam. The three countries discussed here are not only distinguished for being home to some of the holiest and most important Islamic sites but also for containing places where some of the greatest events that changed the course of Islam’s history took place.
It is not for no reason that Saudi Arabia calls itself the home of Islam. It is in the Saudi city of Mecca that Prophet Mohammed was born in 571. It is in another Saudi city of Medina that the Prophet’s tomb is located. As a result of these two factors, the two cities are recognized by all Muslims as the holiest in Islam. Such is their importance that each year millions of Muslims go to Mecca to partake in one of the most important of Muslim festivals, the Hajj.
Palestine holds a special place for the three main Abrahamic religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. It is on this site that Muslims believe Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven where he talked with God.
Before the current conflict in the Middle East that many analysts have called a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, few people outside the Muslim world were aware of the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims. If one hopes to understand this schism, it is not Iran or Saudi Arabia that one should visit; Iraq is where it all began. The city of Karbala is where the Battle of Karbala took place leading to the death of Mohammed’s grandson Husayn Ali. In Najaf lies the tomb of Imam Ali who Shias consider the first Imam. The significance of these two figures in Shia Islam makes Karbala and Najif some of the holiest sites for Shias, only rivaled by Mecca and Medina. They are also key to understanding the origin of the schism between Sunnis and Shias.
Given the significance of these sites it is no wonder that these three countries hold a special place in the hearts of Muslims across the world. Each year they receive millions of Muslims who come to tour these sites. Whether one is visiting them for academic purposes or to partake in one of the many Muslim festivals that take place there, it is important to take a Muslim tour package. Apart from Halal food, a Muslim tour package often has an English-speaking guide to help you make the most of your visit and make the experience unforgettable.