(MENAFN - Arab News) In an atmosphere filled with spirituality and serenity, nearly 3 million pilgrims yesterday performed the most important rite of the Haj as they stood in prayer from dawn to dusk in the plains of Arafat, 15 kilometers east of Makkah. The ritual is commonly called as Wuqoof-e-Arafat.
A white sea of faithful surged to Mount Arafat as dawn broke on the second day of the five-day event. Waves of men in seamless white robes and veiled women in long dresses joined voices in a crescendo chanting "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik" (Here I am O God, answering your call).
Thousands of police were stationed along the routes to Arafat and helicopters hovered overhead. Many faithful carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun in temperatures reaching 37 degrees Celsius. Sprinklers intermittently sprayed them with water.
The pilgrimage proceeded without incident under the watchful eyes of thousands of police and troops. Police patrols organized traffic and the movement of pilgrims as helicopters hovered above.
Medical teams dealt with emergencies but doctors said the general health of pilgrims was fine with no contagious diseases reported.
The faithful spent the day praying for mercy and forgiveness.
"I really can't describe the feeling of being here at Arafat for the first time. It is overwhelming," said 63-year-old Rayees Nomani, from Lucknow, India. He was one among 170,000 pilgrims from India.
"I am praying for forgiveness and for the victory of Muslims all over the world. I wish to see the Ummah (Islamic nation) united and progressing," said Nomani.
"O Allah, grant me and my loved ones good health, forgiveness and save us from hell," Asif Kamal, a Pakistani pilgrim, prayed as he raised his hands and faced the sky. With tears in his eyes, he added: "Forgive me for my sins and have mercy on my soul."
Tears rolled down the cheeks of pilgrims as they climbed Jabal Al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered his final sermon more than 14 centuries ago. The Jabal was flooded by pilgrims who sat or stood there for hours contemplating and praying.
Standing at Mount Arafat in prayer before sunset on 9th Dul Hijjah is the high point of the Haj.
"I pray God to help Muslims the world over, especially the Palestinians, Syrians and the Afghans, and grant them victory," said 43-year-old Palestinian pilgrim Yacoub Shaltout.
"Words can't describe how I feel," a Ghanian pilgrim said. "Look at this crowd answering God's call, more than 1,400 years after the Prophet, the Ummah is alive and well. This is awesome, just awesome."
The pilgrims left Arafat after sunset, moving to Muzdalifa where they will spend the night following in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They will also collect pebbles from Muzdalifa to stone Jamarat in Mina at dawn today in a ritual symbolizing the stoning of the devil.
More than 1.75 million pilgrims have come this year from some 150 countries. Another million came from within the Kingdom.