Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Karbala ahead of the Shiite ritual of Arbaeen, in Najaf, Iraq, on Nov. 30, 2015. Arbaeen marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the killing of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein 13 centuries ago. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani 
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ARBAEEN-PILGRIMAGE, originally transmitted on Dec. 3, 2015.

PHOTOS: The Shiite pilgrimage Arbaeen

(RNS) Drawing an estimated 17 million pilgrims, the Shiite ritual known as Arbaeen dwarfs even the hajj. Arbaeen marks the end of the 40-day mourning period after the anniversary of the seventh-century slaying of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, which engendered the Sunni-Shiite schism.


Faithful flock to Saudia Arabia’s Grand Mosque during Hajj

Every year, millions of people visit the Al-Masjid Al-Haram mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Also known as the Sacred Mosque or the Grand Mosque, it houses several important Muslim artifacts, including the Black Stone, the Kaaba and the Zamzam Well. The pilgrimage to Mecca, called Hajj, is one of the five pillars of Islam and is required for all Muslims that are healthy and financially stable. Though the annual journey to this spot is older than Prophet Muhammad himself, the city remains a cultural symbol for Islam that more than quadruples the mosque’s attendance in the months of pilgrimage. Video courtesy of Hosain Hadi via Vimeo

Religion News Service 
photo courtesy of Saudi Information Office, Washington.

Pork-free vaccine wins cheers from Hajj pilgrims

(RNS) The nearly 3 million Muslims who will make next week’s annual hajj pilgrimage to the sacred Saudi Arabian city of Mecca are required to be vaccinated against meningitis. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis claims to have developed, in 2010, the first anti-meningitis vaccine without pork, which Muslims are forbidden to consume under Islamic law. Many religious authorities have already certified the Menveo vaccine as “halal,” or permitted under Islamic law. Not all Muslims, however, believe the vaccine is truly halal. Anti-meningitis vaccine was developed in the 1930s, and pork derivatives were and remain an important part of the compound today.