Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

A Shift in the Islamic Center of Gravity?

Filed under: Iran, Saudi Arabia, The Middle East

A Shift in the Islamic Center of Gravity?
636 Battle of al-Qādisiyyah

Muslims worldwide recently celebrated their holiday of Eid al-Adha. However, something is occurring on the margins of the holiday that is decidedly not marginal: at the behest of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei himself, Iran is redirecting Shiite pilgrims from Mecca to Karbala, a Shiite holy site located in Iraq.

Saudi religious figures have issued their own proclamation, stating that Shiism is not a true part of Islam, but rather the continuation of the Persian Zoroastrianism that preceded Islam. Sunni rebels in Syria have dubbed their new offensive in southern Syria “The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah,” an allusion to the 636 CE battle in which a young Islam struck down the army of the Persian Empire.

All this brings us to the astounding conclusion that the Islamic chasm is deepening. Shiism is disconnecting from Mecca and refocusing on Karbala, the city which still commemorates a major Shiite trauma: the massacre of Prophet Muhammed’s family at the hands of the Omayyads.

This phenomenon also influences Jerusalem. When Wahabi Mecca in Saudi Arabia imagines places of worship that are liable to compete with it, Jerusalem is at the top of the list. This is the reason that Saudi Arabia does not allow any pledges of Arab assistance for Jerusalem to come to fruition.