Around 1.5 mln attend Friday prayer in Makkah

Sheikh Faisal Ghazzawi, Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque, warned against causing any harm or hurting the feelings of any pilgrim

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Some 1.5 million pilgrims performed Friday prayer in the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The white-clad throng made the area around the Kaaba resemble a snow-dusted field from above.

Sheikh Faisal Ghazzawi, Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque, delivered the Friday sermon. He said that exploiting the Haj season to settle political scores, spreading sectarian hatred and slogan-shouting in the Holy Sites were among the worst forms of apostasy.

Sheikh Ghazzawi warned against causing any harm or hurting the feelings of any pilgrim. He also warned against disturbing the security of the country, arousing fear and anxiety among citizens and residents, creating chaos and affecting spiritual serenity.

“A Muslim should not violate the sanctity of fellow Muslim. The Prophet (pbuh) has warned against terrorizing believers,” he said. “It is our duty to follow the Prophet (pbuh) in all our deeds, and this include Haj,” Sheikh Ghazzawi said.

“In all our acts of worship, including Haj, we should practice Tawhid (monotheism). We should avoid Riya (show-off) and Sum’ah (conceit),” the imam said.

He explained the Haj rituals from Dhul Hijjah 8 (Saturday) until the end of the Tashreeq days. Helicopters flew overhead and main roads in the city were shut to allow hundreds of thousands of pedestrians access.

With temperatures of 43 Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) many pilgrims carried water and tried to help each other. Pilgrims who could not walk were pushed around in wheelchairs by workers. Regularly-spaced taps provide thirsty pilgrims with spring water.

Outside at all the Grand Mosque’s entrances, policemen controlled the movement of pilgrims. Pilgrims expressed joy and happiness for being in the proximity of the Grand Mosque.

Coulibaly, 49, from Ivory Coast, said, “Since arriving at the airport we have been taken charge of and well supervised. So I feel at ease and totally dedicated to my prayers.” “I feel no fear at all,” said Adil Abdulrahman, a British pilgrim confident that authorities have tried to make the faithful feel safe.

The Kingdom has begun issuing pilgrims with identification bracelets. Each bracelet carries a bar code readable by smartphone. It indicates the pilgrim’s identity, nationality, place of lodging, as well as other information, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Haj and Umrah Issa Rawas told AFP.

“The aim is to equip all pilgrims” from abroad, who are expected to number more than 1.4 million, he said. More than 300,000 faithful from inside Saudi Arabia are also expected. Zakou Bakar, 50, a pilgrim from Niger, said the bracelet was reassuring.

“If I die or if there are problems — of course we hope not — but if it does happen I know I will be identified,” he told AFP.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 10, 2016.