Some 4mn Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia yesterday climbed Mount Arafat, a holy site near Makkah, and performed one of the most important rituals in the annual Haj pilgrimage.
Clad in seamless white robes symbolising equality, the pilgrims, chanting in unison: “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (Here I am Oh Lord). You are the only God.”
The mount, a granite hill to the east of the holy city of Makkah, is a place where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is said to have delivered his Farewell Sermon to those who accompanied him on the Haj, some 14 centuries ago.
The ascent of the mount went smoothly, according to Saudi officials.
Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabae said this year’s pilgrims were unaffected by contagious diseases, including the newly detected coronavirus.
The new type of coronavirus was recently detected in a Saudi man and a Qatari who had travelled to Saudi Arabia.
At sunset, the pilgrims descended from Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, another holy site, where they were to spend the night.
Massive throngs of pilgrims headed for Muzdalifah to collect stones for the symbolic “stoning of the devil”. The pilgrims are to leave today for the area of Mina, where they are to throw pebbles at pillars symbolising the devil.
The stoning ritual coincides with the commencement of Eid al-Adha.
To ease congestion during the ritual, Saudi Arabia has opened a bridge that can accommodate as many as 500,000 pilgrims per hour.
Saudi authorities have also deployed 25,000 security personnel across the holy sites and warned against holding political rallies during the rituals.
Men, women and children from 189 countries flooded roads linking Mount Arafat, where they had spent the peak Haj day in prayer and reflection, to Muzdalifah.
While many came by bus or used the Mashair Railway track linking the three holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina, hundreds of thousands were on foot.
At noon prayers in Namira mosque at Arafat yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh warned pilgrims against using any “national or extreme slogans” during their stay in the kingdom.
He also criticised those who “nowadays call for a civil democratic state not linked to Islamic law and which acknowledges many forbidden acts... This contradicts the teachings of Islam as well as the Qur’an, Sunnah and Islamic Shari’ah law.”
“Our Muslim world is facing sedition, tragedies, and bloodshed,” he said, calling on people and leaders to “work on dialogue... end bloodshed, not resort to the use of arms,” and not to implement “foreign” agendas.
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