Monday, December 17, 2007

mecca


More than two million Muslims began their annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca today amid tight security.The pilgrims, including Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, started the week-long religious event at the Saudi Arabian city with a three mile walk to the holy site of Mina.The faithful, wearing white robes, make the symbolic trip tracing the journey made by the Prophet Mohammed more than 1,400 years ago.Sleeping at night in tents before heading further south to Mount Arafat, where the Prophet is believed to have received the last passage of Islam's holy book, the Koran.
The Haj climaxes on Tuesday, when the faithful will spend the day praying and asking God's forgiveness at the summit.
During the pilgrimage Muslims numbering nearly 2.5 million will walk anti-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure in Mecca toward which all followers of Islam pray.Also among the pilgrims were 1,000 residents of the Gaza strip who were allowed by Israel to leave the territory as a gesture of goodwill.Yesterday 491 Palestians were taken by bus through the Erez checkpoint, which is controlled by Israeli troops and normally closed to civilians.
Another 500 pilgrims are expected to be allowed through today, befor heading to Jordan and flying on to Saudi Arabia.
The move came as 10,700 Chinese Muslims, an isolated minority in the communist state, were given permission to travel - and fulfil their faithful duty of making the pilgrimage if they can.They will join president Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian leader to take part in the event since the 1979 Islamic revolution, who was invited by Saudi King Abdullah.Before leaving, he said: “If I made a mistake or in one of my speeches or said something that was not in line with the interest of the nation and has hurt the nation or I was not able to defend its rights, then I ask people to forgive me."His invitation is a highly symbolic move as the pilgrimage has in the past caused major diplomatic strains between the two regional heavyweights.Relations reached an all-time low in July 1987 when 402 people, mostly Iranians, were killed in clashes between Iranians and Saudi security forces during the Haj.Iran's late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini subsequently accused the kingdom of being a lackey of the United States that was unable to look after holy sites.But the two countries have tried to give an impression of unity in recent years, vowing to work together to end the political crisis in Lebanon and bring stability to Iraq.

1 Comment:

  1. Muslims Against Sharia said...
    Many people talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

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