Mecca/Aug,10 : More than two million Muslims are gathered at the sacred hill of Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia for an intense day of worship and reflection on what’s considered the climax of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
Pilgrims clad in white robes signifying a state of purity spent the night in a sprawling encampment around the hill where God tested Hazrat Ibrahim’s (AS) faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Hazrat Ismail. It is also where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his last sermon.
Some had tears streaming down their faces as the men and women raised their hands in worship on the slopes of the rocky hill. Other worshippers who had been praying in the nearby Mina area ascended in buses or on foot from before dawn. Some carried food, carpets for camping and fans to keep cool as temperatures rose towards 40 degrees Celsius.
Zaid Abdullah, a 30-year-old Yemeni who works in a supermarket in Saudi Arabia, said he was praying for his own country, where war has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and for Muslims around the globe.
“We can tolerate the heat because our sins are greater than that,” he said as he approached the granite hill also known as the Mount of Mercy. “We ask God to alleviate the heat of the hereafter. As for the heat of this life, we can bear it.” Taxi driver Khaled Maatouq said he was seeking an end to fighting in his native Libya: “I pray that God unites us.”
For others, the pilgrimage is a form of relief. Egyptian merchant Ramadan al-Jeedi said he was grateful to accompany his mother after his father died last year. “It’s the greatest feeling, to feel that God the almighty chose us to be in this place,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has said more than two million pilgrims, mostly from abroad, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.
Among them are 200 survivors and relatives of victims of the attacks on two New Zealand mosques in March.
The pilgrims will spend the day on Mount Arafat. By sunset they will move to the rocky plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolising the devil at Jamarat on Sunday, which marks the first day of Eidul Azha.