The Middle East boasts a tapestry of sacred sites that draw pilgrims from diverse countries, faiths, cultures, and walks of life year-round and during key festivals. These sites serve as arenas for a myriad of activities, rituals, and influences. Whether nestled within urban sprawls or planted in rural landscapes, sacred spaces intertwine dominant and traditional practices with grassroots activities. The activities they host and the meanings ascribed to them may align with prevailing narratives, yield to them, or challenge them outright. Thus, sacred sites could embody both the dominant order or the one which undermines it, serving agendas of the hegemonic authority or its rival.

Central in this context are the three Abrahamic religions. At the same time, sacred sites have taken on various attributions in response to shifting demographics and political changes. With the emergence of colonial and national political orders in the Middle East, certain sacred sites and their surrounding communities have adopted sectarian identities, becoming arenas for political strife and ethnic segregation. Others have evolved into bastions of social harmony, proposing alternative models of coexistence.

This special issue of Nexus: A Review of Middle Eastern Religions and Politics seeks to unpack the role of sacred sites in the Middle East, as both focal points of national discord and sectarianism, and as spaces for shared spiritual practices and social harmony. We posit that an interdisciplinary dialogue spanning disciplines such as History, Sociology, Anthropology, Religious Studies, Literature, and Geography can enrich our understanding of this phenomenon, fuel discussions, foster remedies, and invigorate interfaith dialogue.

Our invitation is extended to scholars and practitioners alike, calling upon them to explore the multifaceted role of sacred sites in the Middle East and engage, highlight concerns, pose questions, and propose remedies. Submissions of articles up to 3000 words in length are welcome for consideration till June 15 and will be published shortly after received, pending on editorial acceptance.

Questions can be addressed to Dr. Pnina Shuker – Editor in Chief and Dr. David Borabeck – Guest Editor.