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MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, called on worshippers in a midday sermon to espouse moderation and said Islam would survive what he described as attempts to defame the faith.
Delivering the Haj sermon at Namira Mosque at Mount Arafat, he said Allah Almighty endowed us with hosts of blessings and boons; guidance of Islam is one of them, adding Islam is not a theoretical religion; instead, it is a practicable code of conduct.
Al Sheikh said Islam is based on justice and equity, which admits of no terrorism, extremis and injustice.
“Islam will remain strong in the face of the vicious campaign that is attacking it,” he said. “Muslims, the dearest thing you have is your religion and your belief. ... Be proud of your religion; don’t ever be ashamed of identifying our religion.”
He said Islam impresses upon its followers to take better care of their families and societies.
Islam forbids markup altogether and prohibits extravagance, as it is a religion of moderation, he said. Grand Mufti stressed Islam intensely condemns terrorism and extremism, and that it warns strict punishment for those who unjustifiably spill blood and spread mischief on earth.
Sending divine revelations and raising the Prophets was meant for spending the message of Allah’s oneness; and this succession of guidance for human being is in progress, he said.
He said Allah sent the Last and final Prophet with complete code of conduct and this (Shariah) is in harmony with human nature, as it caters to all man’s natural and material needs. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh said Allah Almighty conferred men with reason and consciousness so that he can differentiate between good and bad. We should respect each other.
As they began their climb from the tent-city in the valley, many of the pilgrims ascending Mount Arafat looked tired from a lack of sleep, having spent the entire night praying. Charities and vendors along the way handed out food and umbrellas to shield the climbers from the harsh sun.
One of the pilgrims, Wassim Ahmad, from Mumbai, India, said this was his first hajj and that he felt like a child reborn.
“Today is like judgment day,” said the 29-year-old. “We have come to pray to God. ... A new child has been born.”Alone and obviously on her first hajj, 46-year-old Egyptian Umm Sayed kept asking people for directions. “There is nothing greater than feeling that you are going to meet God,” she said. “The whole body shivers.”
Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa are the three stops on the pilgrims’ journey during the Haj, as worshippers trace the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The Haj draws millions of worshippers each year, the sheer numbers a challenge in preventing stampedes at holy sites, fires in pilgrim encampments and the spread of disease.
This year Saudi authorities have taken new measures to improve crowd management, including opening a new light-rail system to transport pilgrims between the sites.
Yesterday evening, the crowds head to the next stage of the pilgrimage in Muzdalifa, where they collect pebbles to use in the symbolic stoning of the devil the next day. The first day of stoning also marks the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid Al Adha, meaning “Feast of Sacrifice,” when Muslims around the world slaughter sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son. The stoning lasts three days.