MOUNT ARAFAT - Imam-e-Kaaba delinked Islam and terrorism and stressed that Islam is a religion of peace, in the haj sermon delivered to more than 1.8 million Muslims gathered around Mount Arafat near Makkah.

The haj reached its climax yesterday when hujaj, chanting “here I am, God, here I am”, converged on that stony hill from sunrise for Waquf-e-Arafat, the main ritual of haj.

They offered Zuhr and Asr prayers together in the Arafat Plain and listened the haj sermon, which was also received by millions of others across the world on electronic media.

Imam-e-Kaaba Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais told the Muslims all over the world to forge unity among their ranks and help bring those to justice who spread anarchy through terrorism, as he delivered Khutba in place of Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, who is reportedly facing health issues.

“A person who saved one life saved the whole humanity and a person who killed one person killed the whole humanity,” Imam-e-Kaaba quoted from the Quran while urging Islamic scholars to create an atmosphere of peace and love.

Ulema were the successors of prophets and he urged them to stop people from violence and terrorism and preach true teachings of Islam, he said while speaking from Masjid Nimra, situated in the Arafat Plain. He said Muslim scholars should get close to people and treat them in an amiable way.

He urged rulers of the Muslim countries to treat the public with justice and fairness.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman advised Muslims not to indulge in sectarianism and keep unity in their ranks and said they should not be fearful and sorrowful. “Hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided,” he quoted another verse of Quran.

He stressed that Muslims were like one body and they should be united like a sold wall. Muslims should be together for spreading goodness and stopping sinful ways. It was responsibility of Muslims to keep justice in the world, he added.

Imam-e-Kaaba said Muslims had an obligation towards their relatives and neighbours. “Respect your parents and be good to them and fellow Muslims. Muslims are brothers and they should feel pain and sorrows of each other. The honour, property and blood of one Muslim is forbidden for other Muslims,” he advised.

He said Muslims should never betray each other. Every Muslim has a right over other Muslim. A Muslim, who betrays other Muslim, does not belong to them, he added.

He said Muslim Ummah was facing problems and troubles, adding Muslims should find solutions of those problems from Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who was sent to the world as a benefactor for the whole humanity. Muslims should hold consultations and dialogue to overcome their problems, he added.

Muslims should respect each other and treat each other fairly, he stressed. He noted that Muslims could succeed in this life and hereafter by following orders of Allah. Allah selected Islam as the religion for Muslims and no religion was more truthful than it.

Earlier, a non-stop flow disembarked from 18,000 buses which authorities had mobilized for the pilgrims. Others came on a Chinese-built yellow and green train which connects the holy sites.

Under multicoloured parasols to protect against the burning sun, the mass of people moved through broad surrounding streets which are closed to traffic.

Against a backdrop of distant, higher peaks, they squatted, stood, or climbed steps built into the hill while reciting ritual incantations.

“It’s the most beautiful moment of my life,” a smiling Ahmed Salman, an Egyptian accountant, said. “I am in the most beautiful place in the world, where more than one billion Muslims around the world dream of being.”

After sunset the pilgrims moved to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, to gather 49 pebbles for a symbolic stoning of the devil which begins Monday, in the last major rite of haj.

Saudi authorities also deployed drones to watch over the pilgrims as they ascended Mount Arafat, part of stepped up efforts to avoid a repeat of last year’s crush in Mina when hundreds of people, who were on their way to throw their stones at the Jamarat Bridge, were killed in a stampede.

Saudi Arabia issued a death toll of 769 but figures compiled from foreign officials in more than 30 countries gave a tally almost three times higher, roughly 2,300.

Authorities announced an investigation into the disaster but no results have ever been released, although a number of safety measures have been taken.

Among these is the distribution of a bracelet which stores pilgrims’ personal data. Roads have also been widened in the Jamarat area, newspapers reported. Pilgrims said they feel safe and noticed organisational improvements.

On Sunday helicopters monitored the crowd flow while, on the ground, police on foot, motorbike, and all-terrain vehicles directed pedestrian movement.

On the sacred hill itself, police sometimes had to use their bodies to block the flow of hajis and avoid bottlenecks.

Their boss, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, minister of interior and chairman of the haj committee, was in Mina to help supervise “the services being provided to the pilgrims,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.