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October 14th, 2013
01:58 AM ET

Inside the hajj: The world's largest annual pilgrimage

By Sarah Brown, CNN

(CNN) – Millions of Muslims began the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, which represents one of the largest annual human gatherings on the planet.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a journey every Muslim is expected to take in his or her lifetime if the person is physically and financially able.

This year, the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca is hosting more than 2 million Muslims, about 1 million fewer than last year, according to the Associated Press.

Our iReport team has asked pilgrims who have performed the Hajj about how the experience changed them - and for their advice to those undertaking the pilgrimage for the first time.

The result is a mix of spiritual and practical life lessons that transcend Islam.

1. Patience

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Saudi Arabia

Syrian civil war in photos
September 4th, 2013
01:10 PM ET

Syria explained: How it became a religious war

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - How did Syria go from an internal uprising to a wider clash drawing funding and fighters from across the region?

In a word, Middle East experts say, religion.

Shiite Muslims from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran have flooded into Syria to defend sacred sites and President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime. Sunni Muslims, some affiliated with al Qaeda, have rushed in to join rebels, most of whom are Sunni.

Both sides use religious rhetoric as a rallying cry, calling each other "infidels" and "Satan's army."

"That is why it has become so muddy," said professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "The theological question has returned to the center."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Foreign policy • Iran • Iran • Iraq • Iraq • Islam • Lebanon • Middle East • Muslim • Saudi Arabia • Syria

Mecca redevelopment sparks heritage concerns
Mecca has changed dramatically over the past decades. This is how it appears in 2012. The Grand Mosque, in the foreground, is dwarfed by the Abraj Al Bait Towers complex, including the Royal Mecca Clock Tower.
February 8th, 2013
03:48 AM ET

Mecca redevelopment sparks heritage concerns

By Tim Hume and Samya Ayish, CNN

(CNN) - An Ottoman-era portico in Mecca's Grand Mosque has become the latest battleground in a conflict between those who want to preserve the city's architectural heritage and Saudi authorities pushing for redevelopment.

The 17th century portico - one of the oldest parts of the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest - is being removed by Mecca authorities as part of an expansion project to create more space for soaring numbers of pilgrims.

FULL STORY
- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Islam • Mosque • Saudi Arabia

February 5th, 2013
02:00 AM ET

Saudi Islamist preacher on trial in daughter's slaying

By Mohammed Jamjoom and Saad Abedine, CNN

Outrage is mounting in Saudi Arabia about the case of a 5-year-old girl who died after allegedly being beaten and tortured by her father, who activists say is an Islamist preacher.

Lama Al-Ghamdi was admitted to King Saud Hospital in Riyadh last March after suffering extensive injuries, including broken ribs, a crushed skull, bruising and burns. Family, activists and officials say she died of her wounds in late October.

Activists say the girl's father, Fayhan Al-Ghamdi is an Islamist evangelist popular in Saudi Arabia for his televised appearances and for speaking on air about the rewards of repenting to God. But they also say he only fancies himself as a cleric and is not recognized by the clerical establishment.

FULL STORY
- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Islam • Saudi Arabia

Headscarf may bar Saudi woman from Olympics judo competition
Female Saudi Judo athlete Wojdan Shaherkani, left, arrives with her father at Heathrow airport on July 25, 2012.
July 30th, 2012
10:51 AM ET

Headscarf may bar Saudi woman from Olympics judo competition

By the CNN Wire Staff

London (CNN) – One of the two women on Saudi Arabia's Olympic team may be pulled from the competition because of the kingdom's insistence that she wear a headscarf in her judo matches.

Saudi and international Olympic officials met late into the night with International Judo Federation representatives to resolve the case of Wojdan Shaherkani, the Saudi Olympic committee said Monday.

The meeting failed to break the deadlock that threatens to keep the kingdom's only female judo competitor from participating Friday, Saudi National Olympic Committee representative Razen Baker said.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Faith Now • Islam • Saudi Arabia • Uncategorized

December 7th, 2011
06:41 AM ET

Australian man faces 500 lashes in Saudi Arabia for blasphemy

By Brian Walker, CNN

(CNN) - Australia appealed for leniency after its citizen was sentenced Wednesday to 500 lashes and a year in prison by a Saudi Arabian court.

Mansor Almaribe, 45, was found guilty of blasphemy after he was arrested last month in Medina while on a pilgrimage, Australian officials said.

It's unclear what Almaribe, a Shia Muslim from Victoria state, said or did to get arrested.

"The ambassador has urgently contacted Saudi authorities and will make strong representations, including to key figures in the Saudi government, seeking leniency," said Kate Sieper, a foreign affairs spokeswoman.

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Australia • Islam • Saudi Arabia

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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