Saudi Arabia reports 30 per cent increase in Hajj pilgrims from Qatar

Hajj is required of all Muslims once in a lifetime if they are able

Their palms facing the sky, around two million Muslims gathered Thursday on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat for the highlight of the hajj pilgrimage, one of the world's largest annual gatherings.

Arafat is the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammed gave his last sermon about 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the pilgrimage.

"Shariah 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 Holy Quran and the traditions of the holy Prophet.

"It is, therefore, not only advisable but necessary for our pilgrims to seize this rare opportunity the Arafat Day offers to offer prayers for our nation to overcome these challenges and for all development plans and policies initiated by government to start yielding fruits but that we as citizens should rededicate ourselves to the service of our country".

This year's hajj has seen the return of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran following a diplomatic row and a deadly stampede in 2015.

On Friday, they will move on to Mina before sunrise for the hajj ritual of the symbolic "Stoning of the Devil".

Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon on the granite hill more than 1,400 years ago
Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon on the granite hill more than 1,400 years ago

In a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said "a prayer for your country and her leaders is as important as asking Allah to grant you your personal wishes".

Saudi Arabia's Red Crescent said it had deployed 326 ambulances along the pilgrimage route to handle health emergencies.

She said apart Arafat and Mina where pilgrims are supposed to sleep in tents as part of the Hajj, in other areas such as Madina and Mecca everybody had a hotel room to sleep. Ghana contributed over 6,000 pilgrims for the 2017 Hajj.

Iranian authorities say more than 86,000 Iranian pilgrims are taking part this year, each equipped with an identity bracelet in case of any accident.

In a television interview with the Saudi channel, the minister praised the efforts of the security forces in operation of more than 20,000 buses and similar private cars, pointing out that the Kingdom is making great efforts with Hajj before arrival of pilgrims, in the Kingdom.

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