Thousands of face-masked pilgrims performing Islam’s annual hajj pilgrimage gathered on Mount Arafat on Monday to pray for a COVID-free world. They atone for their sins, expressing hopes for peace and an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s holiest sites in Makkah and Medina. It has barred worshippers from abroad for a second year running. The kingdom has also restricted entry from within under special conditions to guard against the coronavirus and its new variants. The pilgrims performing hajj pray for a COVID-free world.
Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. So who was selected for the rite this year? Only 60,000 Saudi citizens and residents, aged 18 to 65, who have been fully vaccinated or recovered from the virus; those who do not suffer from chronic diseases.
“It is an indescribable feeling that I got selected among millions of people to attend the haj. I pray for God to put an end to these hard times the whole world has gone through under the coronavirus,” said Um Ahmed. He is a Palestinian pilgrim who lives in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Ahmed said she lost four family members to the virus.
Hajj in Islam
In previous years, more than two million pilgrims used to cover Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat. They sat close to each other in the scorching heat of the desert city. They carried umbrellas and fans to keep cool as temperatures rose towards 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
This year pilgrims, dressed in white robes signifying a state of purity, had to observe social distancing. They wore face masks on Mount Arafat. On this hill, Allah tested Prophet Abrahim’s (A.S) faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Prophet Ismail (A.S).
Mount Arafat is also where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) gave his last sermon.
“The first prayer is to ask God to lift this pandemic; this curse and this grief for all humanity and for Muslims’ so in the next years they are able to attend haj and for millions to refill these holy sites,” said a Syrian pilgrim.
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