Rabat – Nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims from around the world converged at Mount Arafat to perform a major Hajj ritual on Monday.
On a plain about 20 kilometers southeast of Saudi Arabia’s Mecca, Mount Arafat is the great stage of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muslims around the world believe that the Prophet Mohammed performed his final farewell sermon on the mount more than 1,400 years ago.
On this day, also called Arafat, the Prophet Mohammed called on Muslims to pray to God for forgiveness and mercy. Islam also encourages Muslims to fast on this day, a ritual that is believed to expiate the sins of the past year and the coming years.
Rituals on Arafat, also known as Arafah, will end at sunset.
The significance of Arafat in Islam
At dawn on Arafat, Muslims performing the Hajj pilgrimage make their way from Mina in Mecca to Mt Arafat, 20 kilometers away from Mecca.
The pilgrimage, according to Islam, is not considered completed unless pilgrims ascend Mt Arafat.
Traditionally, Muslims arrive in Arafat at noon and spend the afternoon to sunset on the mount.
People who are physically unable to walk to Arafat are allowed to fulfill the religious rite by fasting.
During the afternoon, Muslims pray for God’s forgiveness and listen to religious lectures delivered by Islamic scholars.
Muslims also believe that part of the Qur’anic verse announcing that the religion of Islam had been perfected was revealed on this day.
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion” (Surah al Maa’idah 5:3).
Mount Arafat is nearly 70 meters tall and is also known as Jabal Arrahmah (Mountain of Mercy).
Arafat is the ninth day of the 12th month in the Islamic calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah.
Dhu al-Hijjah also marks Eid al-Adha, which is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide. Eid al-Adha will be celebrated on Wednesday, August 22.
After the sunset, Hajj goers head to Muzdalifah, an area near Mecca that is associated with the pilgrimage.
Pilgrims will then perform two combined prayers: sunset and night prayers.
After Day of Arafah, pilgrims return to Mecca to perform Tawaf al-Wadaa (farewell circumambulation), which marks the end of the pilgrimage. It is the last ritual performed by nonresident pilgrims before returning home. The 2018 Hajj will end on August 24, the twelfth day of Dhu al-Hijjah.
Saudi Arabia announced earlier this month that 1,486,958 foreign pilgrims arrived in the country to perform the 2018 Hajj pilgrimage.
The kingdom also undertook major expansion projects to avoid tragic incidents such as the 2015 stampede that killed thousands of Hajj pilgrims.