Pilgrims pray near Jabal Al-Rahma
(the Mount of Mercy) after arriving in the plains of Arafat
Over 2.5mn set for once in a lifetime journey of faith
The holy city of Makkah
reverberated with chants of “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (O God,
here I am answering your call) as nearly three million pilgrims
from around the world readied themselves for what is often
described as once in a lifetime journey of faith.
(Saudi Arabia): More than 2.5 million pilgrims from
around the globe prayed for peace and security on the sprawling
plains of Arafat on Saturday amid a forceful condemnation by Saudi
Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh of those who provoke
hostilities between the Ummah and its leaders.
The “wuqoof” or “the standing” in Arafat was the high point of the
annual pilgrimage. It was also an extraordinary symbol of the
unity and equality in Islam.
Delivering the keynote sermon at the majestic Al-Nimira Mosque,
the grand mufti said: “Solve your problems without seeking
interference from your enemies...and beware of those who provoke
hostility between you and your leaders.”
The mosque was packed with the faithful and hundreds of thousands
of pilgrims prayed out in the open streets.
“Islam is the solution for the problems of Muslims,” he said, and
warned Muslims of a media and cultural invasion that seeks to
weaken their faith.
Al-Asheikh called on rulers in the Muslim countries not to oppress
their people but to help them lead a dignified life.
“It is the duty of Muslim leaders to maintain justice and fight
corruption. Their priority should be the welfare of their people,”
While the ruler strives to help solve the problems of the
citizens, the subjects should obey, love and pray for their
rulers, Al-Ashiekh said.
The mufti also advised government officials to shun bribery and
nepotism, reminding Muslims that the Islamic world was passing
through one of its most dangerous and challenging periods.
“The situation has reached such a point that some Muslims had to
flee their homes. We have to think about the ways to get out of
this crisis,” the mufti said.
He said Islam decried all kinds of terror and destruction,
extremism and bloodshed because it is a religion of justice and
Many pilgrims arrived in Arafat on buses, while others set off on
foot from Mina, a tent-village that comes to life only during the
five-day pilgrimage. Others took the Mashair Railway, also known
as the Makkah Metro, to reach Mount Arafat.
“Things have gone according to plans,” said Interior Ministry
spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.
Many pilgrims were seen crying hysterically while seeking
forgiveness from Allah.
“O Allah grant glory to the nation of Islam, O Allah protect
Muslims of the world...O Allah let peace reign in your land...O
Allah guide us as we grapple with these difficult times,” said
Mamdouh Al-Asiri, a Saudi teacher.
Among the pilgrims were relatives of Farman Ali Khan, the
Pakistani citizen who saved many lives during the 2009 Jeddah
floods. They have been specially invited by Custodian of the Two
Holy Mosques King Abdullah. The king's gesture has been widely
appreciated in the Pakistani media.
Women formed a big part of the mass gathering. They prayed
alongside their husbands and fathers and were a source of strength
for the group they were traveling with.
“Arafat reminds me of our beloved Prophet. He asked us to
undertake this journey and we have taken it...We have been
undertaking this journey for the last 14 centuries and Muslims
will continue to do this till the Day of Judgment,” said Munnawara
Taimoor, from India. “Yes there were hardships but then I was not
alone...There were 2.5 million people doing the same thing and
experiencing the same thing. That gave me and my husband
strength,” she added.
While Haj is a time to seek forgiveness for sins and meditate on
the faith, the unrest across the Middle East region was dominant
in the minds of many pilgrims.
Wakil Ali Mohammed from Syria said he hopes for a swift resolution
to his country's eight-month uprising against President Bashar
Assad. “The situation in Syria is tragic and I pray to God to end
this crisis very soon,” said Mohammed, who has taken part in
anti-government protests. “I hope that Bashar, his forces and
supporters put an end to this situation.”
Nauffal Al-Mubarak from Palmera said he has asked for peace in his
homeland. “We pray to God that security be maintained in our
country and other Islamic countries,” he said.
Pilgrims from South Asian countries prayed for peace and
prosperity. “I prayed that the scourge of corruption is wiped out
from India and we the Muslims get our due share in every walk of
life. The government takes up welfare issues on priority basis,”
said Mumtaz Ahmad, a Qatar-based Indian who was accompanied by
Indian Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai told Arab News that
Indians performed Haj smoothly and thanked Custodian of the Two
Holy Mosques King Abdullah for making elaborate arrangements for
“All Indians performed Haj with ease and there was no problem. I
appreciate the Saudis for making foolproof arrangements for 3
million people. It's phenomenal,” Kidwai said.
“For me, this reminded me of the Day of Judgment. Let us not
forget that it was here that the Prophet delivered his
unforgettable sermon, enunciating far-reaching religious,
economic, social and political reforms,” said Jordanian national
Taufik Shiddi. “Today I felt the presence and closeness of a
Just after sunset, the mass of contented and happy pilgrims
proceeded to Muzdalifah, an open plain about halfway between
Arafat and Mina. The pilgrims will first pray and then collect a
fixed number of chickpea-sized pebbles to stone the devil in Mina