Makkah - Imam Shaikh Mohammad bin Hassan Al Shaikh has urged all Muslims to rid their hearts of hatred and be more kind in their treatment of others.

Delivering the Hajj sermon at Masjid-i-Nimra on the plain of Arafat, he impressed upon the need for showing compassion towards parents, children, relatives and all living beings.

In the keynote address, which was delivered before leading the pilgrims in combined-shortened Zuhar and Asr prayers, and televised around the world, he called upon Muslims to remain united in the bonds of brotherhood.

Sheikh Muhammad, who is Member of the Council of Senior Scholars, reminded the people that God’s blessings are infinite and one must find solace in this fact and continue to seek them.

More than two million Muslims are gathered at the sacred hill of Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia for an intense day of worship and reflection on what’s considered the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Pilgrims clad in white robes signifying a state of purity spent the night in a sprawling encampment around the hill where God tested Hazrat Ibrahim’s (AS) faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son

Hazrat Ismail. It is also where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his last sermon.

Some had tears streaming down their faces as the men and women raised their hands in worship on the slopes of the rocky hill.

Other worshippers who had been praying in the nearby Mina area ascended in buses or travelled on foot before dawn. Some carried food, carpets for camping and fans to keep cool as temperatures rose towards 40 degrees Celsius.

Zaid Abdullah, a 30-year-old Yemeni who works in a supermarket in Saudi Arabia, said he was praying for his own country, where war has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and for Muslims around the globe.

“We can tolerate the heat because our sins are greater than that,” he said as he approached the granite hill also known as the Mount of Mercy. “We ask God to alleviate the heat of the hereafter. As for the heat of this life, we can bear it.”

Taxi driver Khaled Maatouq said he was seeking an end to fighting in his native Libya: “I pray that God unites us.”

For others, the pilgrimage is a form of relief. Egyptian merchant Ramadan al-Jeedi said he was grateful to accompany his mother after his father died last year.

“It’s the greatest feeling, to feel that God the almighty chose us to be in this place,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has said more than two million pilgrims, mostly from abroad, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.

Among them are 200 survivors and relatives of victims of the attacks on two New Zealand mosques in March.

The pilgrims will spend the day on Mount Arafat. By sunset they will move to the rocky plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolising the devil at Jamarat on Sunday, which marks the first day of Eidul Azha.

More from Hajj address

Focusing on the concept of mercy and compassion (Rahma) in Hajj sermon, Shaikh Mohammad bin Hassan Al Shaikh drew his points from verses of the Holy Qur’an and the sayings (Hadith) of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

He called on all Muslims to be conscious of Allah Almighty (i.e., fear Allah Almighty) as in this is their success in this life and in the hereafter, stressing the importance of abiding by monotheism (Tauheed). He asserted that Tauheed is worshiping none but Allah Almighty, as He (SWT) created mankind and the jinn to worship Him alone.

He said that it is with the mercy of Allah Almighty that the bounties descend. Among the aspects of Allah’s mercy in the universe is that He sends rain to revive the land after a dry spell, and He created the day and night, so that human beings work hard to earn a living during the day and rest during the night.

Allah Almighty says that His mercy precedes His anger. Among the aspects of His mercy is that He made Islam the perfect religion. Islam is based on five pillars and these pillars are among the causes for the descent of Allah’s Rahmah.

Belief (Iman), Allah Almighty sending His prophets (peace be upon them) and revealing His books are among the causes for the descent of Allah Almighty’s mercy. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is described as the Prophet of Mercy.

Shaikh highlighted in his sermon the Saudi Kingdom’s efforts in expansion projects in the Two Holy Mosques, the gigantic projects in the holy sites for performing rituals easily and comfortably and arranging the infrastructure there.

He said the kings of this country have been very keen on the welfare of the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrims and Umrah performers, starting from the reign of late King Abdulaziz, then the late Kings Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd and Abdullah, and what we are witnessing in the present era of great works in these holy sites. He prayed to Allah Almighty to make the efforts of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman a success.

Al-Asheikh also lauded the great efforts of all the security agencies, security men and all other agencies and volunteers in treating the pilgrims kindly, which he described as one of the aspects of mercy during the Hajj.

Shaikh Muhammad prayed to Allah Almighty to accept the pilgrims’ Hajj, facilitate their journeys and make their return journeys to their respective countries safe.

Saudi plans

Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites, Makkah and Madina, and organising the pilgrimage.

A perennial concern is the potential for disease spreading among pilgrims, who spend five days in close quarters, often eating outside and sleeping on the ground near holy sites.

The world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims has in the past also seen stampedes, fires and riots, with authorities sometimes struggling to respond. Hundreds were killed in a crush in 2015, the worst disaster to strike Hajj for at least 25 years.

Pilgrimage is also the backbone of a Saudi plan to expand tourism under a drive to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil. The Hajj and year-round Umrah generate billions of dollars in revenue from worshippers’ lodging, transport, fees and gifts.

Officials aim to increase the number of Umrah and Hajj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020 and the Umrah number to 30 million by 2030.

GHILAF-E-KAABA CHANGED

The annual ceremony to change the Ghilaf-e-Kaaba (Kiswa) was held Friday night at the Grand Mosque of Makkah (Masjid-Al-Haram) in Saudi Arabia.

The covering cloth of the Kaaba, known as Kiswah, is changed on 9th Zilhaj every year on the day of Arafat. The Kiswah, a heavy silk cloth embroidered with verses of the Holy Quran in golden embroidery.

The new Ghilaf has been prepared at a cost of seven million Saudi Riyals. While 670 kgs pure silk, 120 kgs gold and 100 kgs silver have been used in it.