Tears, Prayers as 2 Million Muslims Mark Peak of Hajj

Mount Arafat, Saudi Arabia – Tears flowed and prayers filled the air as the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage by almost two million believers from around the world reached its peak on a vast Saudi plain.

“I am now a newborn baby and I don’t have any sin,” Nigerian pilgrim Taofik Odunewu told AFP, tears streaming down his face.

He stood at the foot of Mount Arafat and raised his hands to the heavens in the seamless two-piece white “ihram” outfit of male pilgrims.

“I pray for prosperity, long life and… I pray for my country,” Odunewu said with a broad smile on the second day of the hajj.

An insurgency by Boko Haram Islamist militants has claimed thousands of lives in Nigeria.

The hajj, which officially ends tomorrow, is the world’s largest Muslim gathering.

It is one of the five pillars of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform at least once, the high-point of his or her spiritual life.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrived at Arafat on Friday carrying suitcases and other luggage among thousands of white tents which stood ready to accommodate the multitude.

From early morning, pilgrims crowded onto the slippery, rocky hill where Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon 14 centuries ago.

The pilgrims pushed forward to touch the rocks during prayer, their attire turning the hill, which is also known as Mount Mercy, white in color.

All male pilgrims dress in white ihram to symbolize a state of purity, which also emphasizes their unity regardless of social status or nationality.

Some pilgrims sat alone on the rocks, praying silently, but others gathered in groups, their voices in a loud appeal to God.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said the hajj had attracted almost 1.4 million foreign pilgrims from 163 nations.

(Source: Manila Bulletin, October 6, 2014)

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