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Saudi King: We have made progress in tackling terrorism

04 September 2017

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the most holy city for Muslims, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. The glittering Clock Tower, the world's second-tallest building, stands overbearingly at the doorstep of the mosque, whilst pilgrims try to devote themselves to their Lord in the most simple of attire, heads bowed with humility. Others filled nearby roads, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The faithful come from almost every country in the world, speaking dozens of languages and sometimes practicing Islam in different ways based on local customs or traditions.

The huge crowds, many holding umbrellas to shield them from the sun, took part in the stoning rite under strict surveillance, with police tape guiding the flow of pilgrims, cameras everywhere and helicopters hovering overhead.

American Wajahat Ali said friends back home had asked him to pray for the United States while on haj, and other pilgrims he met offered sympathies and encouragement that the situation would improve.

His sister, 27-year-old Anisa, said she was anxious by reports of an uptick in violence against Muslims in the United States "just because of wearing hijab (headscarf) in the streets or just because you have a beard".

No politics, please Sheikh Saad Al-Shathri, a senior Saudi cleric, delivered a midday sermon denouncing terrorism and violence against civilians.

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"Sharia came to preserve the security of nations and cultivate benevolence in (people's) hearts", he said, referring to the Islamic legal and moral code derived from the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet.

Ragie - who completed Haj in 2009 - urged greater efforts once the pilgrimage ends.

More than 42,000 from 83 countries have performed Haj during the past 21 years within the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' program for hosting pilgrims, which was established in 1417H (1996) during the time of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd.

Pilgrims then traditionally cut their hair and sacrifice an animal - the meat of which is generally given to the poor - before celebrating the Eid al-Adha, or "Feast of the Sacrifice", which began on Friday.

This year sees pilgrims from Shiite Iran return to Mecca in Saudi Arabia after a hiatus following a diplomatic spat between the regional rivals and a deadly stampede in 2015.

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Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites - Mecca and Medina - and organising the pilgrimage.

"I also conveyed our thanks to King Salman for agreeing to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's request to increase the number of Malaysian Haj pilgrims this year", he added.

Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 security forces to secure the hajj and assist pilgrims.

The post Iranians return to annual hajj in Saudi Arabia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

In most mosques, women and men are assigned separate areas for worship, and when one room is available, women are expected to pray behind the men.

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Saudi King: We have made progress in tackling terrorism