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    Monday, 20 August 2018

    More than 2 million Muslim performed Hajj today

    The Hajj sermon was delivered at Mount Arafat on Monday, where more than two million Muslims from around the world gathered to perform the pinnacle of the pilgrimage.
    Almost 2 million of worshippers scaled the rocky hill southeast of the holy city of Makkah for a day of prayers and reflection where Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) delivered his final sermon.
    The imam of Prophet's (PBUH) Mosque, Sheikh Hussein bin Abdelaziz Al al-Sheikh, delivered the sermon.
    The pilgrims will perform Zuhr and Asr prayers combined, and spend time in Arafat with prayers for acceptance of their pilgrimage and recitation of Quranic verses until sunset.
    After sunset, the pilgrims will head to Muzdalifah, where they will stay until midnight, engaged in prayers after performing Maghreb and Isha prayers combined.The ritual of changing Ghilaf-e-Kaaba was also held early Monday morning.
    The new Ghilaf was prepared at a cost of 200,000 Riyal. It comprises 670kg pure silk, 120kg gold and 100kg silver.
    Imam Masjid-ul-Haram Dr Abd ur Rahman Assudais and Governor Makkah Khalid Faisal participated in the ritual.
    Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage.
    This year, the Saudis have launched a "smart Hajj" initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care.
    More than two million Muslims from around the globe performed the Hajj pilgrimage on Monday in Saudi Arabia, one of the world's largest annual gatherings in a country undergoing unprecedented change. "It's the dream of every Muslim to come here to Makkah," said Frenchman Soliman Ben Mohri. "It's the ultimate journey. What worries me is the return to my normal life. For the moment, I am in a dream," the 53-year old told AFP. Every Muslim is required to complete the Hajj journey to Islam's holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst ever disaster three years ago when around 2,300 worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede.
    This year, the Saudis have launched a "smart Hajj" initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care. The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Makkah had already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from abroad including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
    Wearing the simple white garb of the pilgrim, most of the faithful began moving on Sunday from Makkah to the nearby Mina valley. They will spend the night there in fire-resistant tents in the desert, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Thousands of buses and vehicles carrying the pilgrims lined the eight kilometre (five-mile) road from Makkah to Mina. Many pilgrims made the journey walking under the scorching sun, some carrying white or blue umbrellas. For the Muslim faithful, Hajj retraces the last steps of the Prophet Mohammed and also honours the prophets Abraham and Ishmael.
    It ends with the Eid al-Adha feast, which is marked by the slaughter of sheep, a tribute to Abraham's sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son. Earlier in Makkah pilgrims performed a ritual walk seven times around the Kaaba, a black masonry cube wrapped in a silk cloth embroidered in gold with holy Quranic verses at the centre of the Grand Mosque.
    The shrine is the point towards which Muslims around the world pray. "I feel so fortunate to be here," said Nazia Nour, 36, who came to Saudi Arabia from Auckland. Pushing her father on a wheelchair, she added: "I can't believe he (God) chose me." On Monday, pilgrims will climb Mount Arafat for the climax of the Hajj, praying and reading the Koran. The holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) delivered his final sermon from the rocky hill to Muslims who had accompanied him on his final hajj, according to Islam.
    After sunset, pilgrims head to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they stay at least until midnight. They gather pebbles to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil on the eve of the Eid al-Adha feast. Although the kingdom's young de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has spearheaded change in the kingdom, religion remains a key force in Saudi Arabia.
    The oil-flush kingdom ended its ban on women driving in June and has boosted female employment in a male-dominated society. But the reforms have been accompanied by a widening crackdown on dissent, with more than a dozen women's rights campaigners detained in recent weeks. Some have been released.
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