Haj sermon calls upon Muslims to sink differences

Published June 16, 2024
PILGRIMS gather on Mount Arafat for the most important Haj rite, on Saturday.—Reuters
PILGRIMS gather on Mount Arafat for the most important Haj rite, on Saturday.—Reuters

• Imam of Grand Mosque asks ummah to pray for Palestinians
• Pilgrims brave searing heat as temperature hits 43 degrees Celsius

MOUNT ARAFAT: The ummah must sink its differences to thwart the designs of anti-Muslim forces and to protect its interests at a time when “the forces of evil are out to rob us of our rights and dignity”, the Imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque said in his Haj sermon from Masjid Nimra on Saturday.

“Muslims should strive for progress in this world as well as for salvation in the hereafter. Every Muslim must try to make himself a personification of piety so that others see Islam as a source of guidance and inspiration,” Sheikh Maher Bin Hamad said.

He called upon Muslims to follow Islam in its true spirit instead of indulging in “hair-splitting” on trivial differences.

Sheikh Maher invoked a verse from the Holy Quran to emphasise that justice is the bedrock of an ideal society. “Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice.”

The Imam asked the ummah to spare a thought for hapless Palestinians who are up against a “brutal state bent upon their extermination”.

He cited verses from the Holy Quran to stress that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) is a role model for every Muslim. “O Allah, forgive Muslim men and women, and protect them from all evil. Preserve for them their religion, their safety, their lives, their wealth, their minds, and their honour,” he said in soul-stirring words.

Earlier, more than 1.5 million Muslims braved extreme heat to reach Mount Arafat for the high point of Haj, praying for hours, especially for Palestinians in Gaza.

Clad in white, worshippers began arriving at dawn for the most gruelling day of the rites, ascending the rocky, 70-metre hill where the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave his last sermon.

‘Most important day’

“This is the most important day,” said 46-year-old Egyptian Mohammed Asser, who came prepared with a list of prayers. “I pray also for the Palestinians. May God help them.”

This year’s Haj unfolded in the shadow of the conflict in Gaza, where Israel’s military offensive has killed 37,266 Palestinians since Oct 7.

Saudi Arabia’s minister in charge of religious affairs, Tawfiq Al Rabiah, warned last week that “no political activity” would be tolerated during the Haj.

But that did not stop at least one pilgrim from chanting in support of the Palestinians who have endured more than eight months of incessant bombardment.

“Pray for our brothers in Palestine, in Gaza… may God give victory to Muslims,” he shouted.

In a message to Haj pilgrims, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “the ironclad resistance of Palestine and the patient, oppressed people of Gaza… must be fully supported in every way”.

Some 2,000 Palestinians are performing the Haj at the special invitation of Saudi King Salman, official media said.

‘Scary’ heat

The Haj, one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings, is increasingly affected by climate change, according to a Saudi study published last month that said regional temperatures were rising 0.4 degrees Celsius every decade.

The rites, which take five days to complete and are mostly outdoors, are “not easy because it is very hot”, said Abraman Hawa, 26, from Ghana.

“We have sun… but it is not as hot. But I will pray to Allah at Arafat, because I need His support,” she added.

The temperature hit 43°C on Saturday, creating challenges for pilgrims who arrived at Mount Arafat after spending the night in a giant tented city in Mina, a valley outside Makkah.

Saudi authorities urged pilgrims to drink plenty of water and protect themselves from the sun. Since men are prohibited from wearing hats, many carry umbrellas.

Mustafa, an Algerian pilgrim, clung to his umbrella which was handed out by Haj organisers, saying: “It’s what saves you here.”

Another man, an Egyptian who preferred to remain anonymous, said he was drinking “a lot of juice and water” and had twice stopped to rest on the roadside.

More than 10,000 heat-related illnesses were recorded last year, 10 per cent of them heat stroke.

After sunset, the pilgrims left Arafat for Muzdalifah, where they will collect pebbles to carry out the “stoning of the devil” ritual in Mina on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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