Pilgrims swathe Mount Arafat in white as Hajj peaks

November 27, 2009, Friday/ 16:34:00
Millions of Muslims performing the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca reached the event's peak yesterday, gathering around Mount Arafat and begging for God's forgiveness.

Swathed in white, the pilgrims gathered under the scorching Saudi Arabian sun -- a reminder of the flames of hellfire -- beginning in the afternoon, where they were to remain until the sun set. They performed the hajj's most important rite -- “wuquf,” the standing -- upon Mount Arafat on the second day of the hajj.

At Arafat, Muslims pray for forgiveness and for their own and fellow Muslims’ welfare. The desert plateau about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside Mecca is where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his farewell sermon. After nightfall, the pilgrims were to disperse to Muzdalifa to collect pebbles to stone a set of walls symbolizing the devil.

»» Click here to see more photos from Hajj

The imam of the mosque of Arafat gave a speech to the pilgrims gathered on Arafat, and following this the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoğlu, gave a speech to the Turkish pilgrims gathered there. “At Arafat we are together with our Lord; our worldly worries have been left behind, and we are settling accounts with our souls,” he said, commenting that Arafat was a place where Muslims were once more reminded of the reason and aim behind creation, removing them from sin and worldly desires. “We are here for cruelty, injustice and mercilessness to be replaced with truth, justice and compassion; we are here to plead for the calamities, troubles, wars and disasters and all the other pains that humans inflict upon themselves to be dissolved in a flood of mercy.”

The hajj retraces the path of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago after he removed pagan idols from Mecca, his birthplace, years after he started calling people to the new faith, now embraced by almost 1.7 billion people worldwide

“We have clothed ourselves in the ihram [traditional all-white hajj outfit] with an aim to purify ourselves of all forms of hatred, enmity and evil thoughts and relieve our hearts of the weight caused by Satan and our egos. We want for our books of deeds to be as white as our ihrams at Arafat, and for the light of God to do away with the black curtains over our hearts,” Bardakoğlu said.

The hajj retraces the path of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago after he removed pagan idols from Mecca, his birthplace, years after he started calling people to the new faith, now embraced by almost 1.7 billion people worldwide. The first group of hajj pilgrims from Turkey departed for Saudi Arabia in late October. The Directorate of Religious Affairs organized a total of 275 hajj groups traveling from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, a total of 74,000 people out of the 755,000 who applied for spots.

Today, on the first day of Eid al-Adha and the third day of hajj, the pilgrims will pray the dawn prayer and then stone the walls and travel to the valley of Mina to perform ritual animal sacrifices. The four-day hajj event is one of the most crowded in the world, with the masses of Muslims from every corner of the globe packed shoulder to shoulder in prayers and rites. While yesterday’s weather was scorching hot for the wuquf rites, the day before had seen the heaviest hajj rains in years, with Jeddah swamped with 2.76 inches of rain. Nearly 3 million Muslims are participating in the rites this year, and Saudi authorities have urged Muslims over 65 and under 12 as well as people with chronic diseases and pregnant women to not perform the ritual this year over swine flu fears.

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