More than two million pilgrims performed the most important rite of Haj on Friday as they stood in prayer from dawn to dusk on the plains of Arafat, 15 km east of Makkah.
A white sea of the faithful surged to Mount Arafat as dawn broke on the second leg of the five-day pilgrimage. Waves of men in seamless white robes and veiled women in long dresses raised their voices to a crescendo, chanting Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik (Here I am O God, answering your call).
On behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, arrived in Mina to supervise services for the pilgrims at the holy sites on Friday.
King Abdullah received a telephone call from Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani congratulating him on Eid Al-Adha. King Abdullah also received similar calls from King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain and Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber.
Makkah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, was in the front row of Masjid Al-Namira when Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh delivered the Haj sermon. The massive mosque was overflowing with pilgrims.
The grand mufti said Islam was the religion of humanity, with a perfect constitution aimed at bringing people together.
Al-Asheikh lashed out at people using Islam to further their violent and extremist agendas. He said these people cannot be considered Muslims.
“We have been tried with people who shed the blood of innocent people and tarnish the image of Islam. They are in fact the Khawarij whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) referred to,” the sheikh said.
The sheikh said that Muslims must stand together and work to help each other, particularly in protecting moral values. He said Islam’s enemies are preparing to attack Muslims on all fronts, including their security, faith, strength and intellect.
He urged the GCC to bury their differences. “The Gulf Cooperation Council has gone forward in a remarkable way but need to cooperate to ensure the dignity and stability of the ummah.”
He said that Muslims have the responsibility to do everything they can to avoid division and ensure the security of the community at large. “The media has a crucial role to play in disseminating Islamic teachings that could provide solutions facing Muslims today.”
Meanwhile, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar said that the Haj has gone smoothly so far. “To manage such a large number of people coming from more than 140 countries and speaking 100 different languages is quite an achievement,” he said.
Thousands of police were stationed along the routes to Arafat with helicopters hovering overhead. Many faithful carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. The government has installed thousands of water sprinklers to cool pilgrims, although the weather was moderate.
Many pilgrims interviewed praised the government for their organization. Others said they were simply happy to be in the Kingdom to perform the pilgrimage.
Saleh Al-Owaili, a young Saudi from Najran, said he was performing the pilgrimage for the second time. “I feel blessed to be part of this grand gathering of Muslims,” he said. “I am taking comfort in the fact that Allah answers our prayers on these days from this place.”
He said one should never forget the main principles of Islam. “Islam is based on tolerance and forgiveness,” he told Arab News. He was part of a large contingent of Saudi pilgrims from all over the Kingdom.
Adam Ali from Chad said he was performing Haj for the second time and his wife, Naeemat, the first time. “We are extremely happy to have fulfilled the most important pillar of Islam,” said Ali.
Ahmad Abdul Hadi, from Khartoum, Sudan, said he was surprised by the huge numbers of people and the hot weather. “I am happy, yes. There are too many people here,” he said.
Pakistani pilgrim Mohammad Abbasi said performing Haj was a great experience. “It is an opportunity that people dream of all the time,” he said.
Abbasi, a father of seven, said he prayed for his parents, his country, his relatives and the Muslim Ummah. “May Allah awaken the Muslim masses and shower his choicest blessings on our community,” he said.
Standing at Mount Arafat in prayer before sunset on Dhul Hijjah 9 is the high point of the Haj. The pilgrims who fail to make it on time must repeat the journey.
The pilgrims left Arafat after sunset, moving to Muzdalifah where they will spend the night following in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They will collect pebbles to stone the Jamarat in Mina at dawn on Saturday, the symbolic stoning of the devil. Arab News