Mecca (QNN)- More than 2 million pilgrims have gathered at Mount Arafat in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to perform rites of the second day of hajj, an Islamic pilgrimage that takes the faithful along a path traversed by the Prophet Muhammad over 1,400 years ago.
The Haj, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, is one of Islam’s five pillars and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.
It consists of a series of religious rites which are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.
This year’s event takes place amidst regional tensions, including the conflict in Yemen, Iran’s’ continued threats to maritime traffic, and the ongoing dispute with Qatar.
Saudi officials have reiterated their warning that the annual Islamic event should not under any circumstances be exploited for political purposes.
“Haj…is not a venue for political conflicts or for raising sectarian slogans that divide Muslims,” Abdulrahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, said in a press conference a day before the start of the Haj, while Mecca Governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal also asked worshippers earlier in the week to “leave all other matters in your countries to discuss when you are back.”
Despite of the escalating tensions with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which as a consequence has seen the deployment of US troops in the kingdom for the first time since 2003, around 88,550 Iranian pilgrims take part in the hajj this year according to the Tasnim news agency.
However decreasing numbers of pilgrims from Qatar have been participating in Hajj since the start of the Saudi-Qatari diplomatic crisis in 2017.