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Al-Asheikh to deliver Arafat sermon for 34th time

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Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Asheikh will deliver sermon on Friday prior to the standing (wuqoof) at Arafat, the most important ritual of Haj. He is delivering the Arafat sermon for the 34th year in a row. Asheikh, who lost his vision at the age of 17, sees this unique honor as a great blessing from Almighty Allah as a result of his mother’s supplication. When Asheikh lost his vision, his mother consoled him not to disappoint, saying that the infinite mercy of God may shower on him.

“May Allah bless you through giving an opportunity to address the Islamic world,” she prayed. Her words produced an electrifying impact on him and encouraged him to devote fully to acquire more and more knowledge and disseminate it to a large section of the people. The supplication of mother became a reality after two decades when he started delivering Arafat sermon.

In an Arafat sermon, Asheikh said: “I am standing on this site where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stood and addressed his companions during his farewell Haj. Following the Prophetic tradition, I am undertaking a great responsibility of getting the Arafat sermon heard not only by around three million pilgrims but also to nearly 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world.”

It was from this spot, where now Nimrah Mosque is situated, more than 100,000 companions of the Prophet (pbuh) embraced the basic tenets of Islam from his farewell sermon and set out across the four corners of the world preaching and spreading the sublime message of the divine religion.

The Prophet (pbuh) preached about the oneness of Allah and talked about piety being the only barometer of one’s closeness to Allah during the sermon.

Reenacting this tradition, Asheikh, 73, started delivering Arafat sermon from the Hijri year of 1402. He continued delivering the sermon even during the period of the former grand mufti and world renowned scholar Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz.

Asheikh was appointed as the grand mufti and head of the Board of Senior Ulema and the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Ifta in June 1999 after the death of Bin Baz on May 13 the same year.

Born as a member of the Kingdom’s leading religious family of Al Asheikh in Makkah in 1941, Asheikh memorized the Holy Qur’an at the age of 11. Asheikh’s father died while he was 8. He had optical problems while he was a child but this did not stand in the way of his passion to acquire knowledge. Asheikh lost his vision totally while he was a graduate student at the Scientific Propagation Institute, Riyadh.

After graduation at the age of 19, he joined the Shariah college under Riyadh’s Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University and obtained a degree in Arabic language and Shariah sciences. Later, he served as a teacher both at the Riyadh institute and Shariah college. For nearly quarter of a century, he has been serving as the imam and khateeb of Riyadh’s Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque.

It takes more than two months for Asheikh to draft the Arafat sermon. He starts preparations immediately after the holy month of Ramadan. At the outset, he visualizes the content of the speech after going thoroughly through the farewell sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) and pondering over the major contemporary challenges facing the Islamic Ummah and the ideal solutions for them.

He also holds discussions with other eminent scholars. In Dhul Qada, he finalizes the ideas and dictates them to his aide. In the days before Haj, he memorizes the speech and recollects them repeatedly. Asheikh enjoys a spiritual mood until after finishing the speech. He rarely sleeps the previous night of Arafat sermon and does not take much food before delivering the sermon. He engages mostly in prayers and supplications as well as in recollection of the memorized speech.

In recent years, a major thrust in his sermons has been focusing on Islam’s moderation and tolerance as well as Islam’s unequivocal position against extremism and terrorism.

The Islamic world’s core issue of Palestine has been another major highlight. He also came up with Islamic solutions for the global economic crisis, besides warning against the dangers involved in misusing the satellite channels and Internet especially by the younger generation. Asheikh cites several Qur’anic verses and Traditions (Ahadith) of the Prophet (pbuh) to substantiate the ideas he shares with pilgrims in the sermon. SAUDI GAZETTE

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