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Hajj pilgrims gather at Gabal al-Rahmah, or the Mount of Mercy, near the Saudi town of Arafat (epa) 9 January 2006 -- More than two million Muslim pilgrims gathered at Islam's sacred site of Mount Arafat today to perform the central rite of Hajj.


The pilgrims had spent the night before in the valley of Mina to the north. Tracing a journey made by the Prophet Mohammed more than 1,400 years ago, the pilgrims are following a tradition they believe was laid down by Abraham before him.


Sheik Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik -- the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia -- told worshipers at a mosque on the plain of Mount Arafat that the west is waging a "war" against Islam and Islamic culture under the pretext of fighting terrorism.


After dawn prayers tomorrow, worshipers across the Muslim world will begin celebrating Eid al-Adha -- the Feast of the Sacrifice -- and the symbolic stoning of the devil.


(Reuters/AP/AFP)

The Hajj


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THE HAJJ: Every year, Islamic pilgrims converge on the Saudi holy city of Mecca for what is considered to be the world's largest single gathering of human beings -- the annual hajj pilgrimage, the fifth and final pillar of Islam. Hajj literally means "to set out for a place," and every able-bodied Muslim with the means to do so is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime, traditionally after first settling all their wordly affairs...(more)

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