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Pilgrims converge at Mecca for hajj

Pilgrims gathered today for the central ritual of hajj, prayers and soul-searching at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad preached his last sermon.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2004 11:23 IST

Pilgrims converged here on Saturday for the central ritual of the hajj, prayers and soul-searching at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad preached his last sermon.

A pilgrimage to this gentle hill 20 kilometres southwest of Mecca is believed to represent the Day of Judgment, when Islam says every person will stand before Allah and answer for his deeds.

"I could not wait to reach here; this is primarily what we came for," said Abdel Aziz al-Jezairi, an Egyptian. "This is the worst day for the devil. When he sees thousands of Muslims gathered in such a show of force and piety."

The hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims once in a lifetime, climaxes today noon with the arrival of the nearly 2 million pilgrims at Mount Arafat, where Muhammad delivered his last sermon in A.D. 632, three months before his death.

After Friday prayers at Mecca's Grand Mosque, thousands of pilgrims walked and took buses to the tent city of Mina for a night of rest before going to Mount Arafat.

In Mina, chants of "At Thy service, my God, at Thy service" mixed with sirens and motors from passing vehicles. Some pilgrims cooked and slept on the streets; others prayed. Police used microphones to warn pedestrians to keep out of the path of buses, and rescue teams roamed the area.

Police forces were on high alert after six Saudi security agents and a civilian were killed Thursday in a shootout with suspected terrorists in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, some 800 kilometres to the east.

First Published: Feb 01, 2004 00:00 IST