Tears, Prayers Flow Freely As Muslim Pilgrims Reach Mount Mercy

All male pilgrims dress in ihram to symbolise a state of purity, which also emphasises their unity regardless of social status or nationality

Tears and prayers flowed freely as the annual Muslim hajj which was embarked on by about 1.4 million believers from around the world reached its peak on a vast plain in western Saudi Arabia Friday.

Nigerian pilgrim Taofik Odunewu told AFP, standing at the foot of Mount Mercy on the Arafat plain, tears streaming down his face, Vanguard reports.

Odunewu was reported to have raised his hands to the heavens in the seamless two-piece white “ihram” outfit that he wore.

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

he said at the world’s largest Muslim gathering.

he pledged.

The hajj which is one of the five pillars of Islam to be performed at least once by every capable Muslim, officially ends on Tuesday October 7.

Vanguard reports that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrived at Arafat on Friday carrying suitcases and other luggage among thousands of white tents which stood ready to provide temporary homes for the multitude.

Many set up their own tents along the roads. Others even made rough shelters from large yellow garbage bags.

Elderly pilgrims sat in wheelchairs, little ones in prams, and others leaned on sticks as they pushed their way towards Mount Mercy, the hill where Muslim Prophet Mohammed made his final sermon 14 centuries ago.

From early morning, pilgrims crowded onto the slippery, rocky hill, which their uniform attire turned white in colour.

Some prayed and wept, some slept, while others spread their mats and sat reciting the Koran.

Security forces were deployed en masse across Arafat plain and Mount Mercy to organise the flow of pilgrims, who have come from 163 countries as well as Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites.

security men shouted through loudspeakers, trying to control the crowds.

The number of faithful seemed fewer than past years following a crackdown by authorities on illegal pilgrims.

This year’s hajj comes with Saudi Arabia and four other Arab nations joining Washington in air strikes against Islamic State group militants who have committed a spate of atrocities in Syrian and Iraqi territory they seized.

Saudi authorities are also striving to protect pilgrims from two deadly viruses, Ebola and the MERS coronavirus. On such cases have been recorded among the hajj visitors, officials say.

Odunewu and other pilgrims from Nigeria were permitted to enter Saudi Arabia for hajj, despite eight Ebola deaths in their country.

Three West African states hardest hit by Ebola have not been allowed hajj visas.

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