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Faithful March To Arafat As Hajj Continues

Pilgrims Gather On Mount Arafat For Hajj
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Vast crowds of Muslim pilgrims have marched to Mount Arafat, marking the second day of the hajj in Saudi Arabia.

The mountain east of Mecca is where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have delivered his Farewell Sermon in the seventh century.

Wearing white robes to symbolize purity and equality under God, the pilgrims chanted in unison: "Here I am, Oh Lord. You are the only God."

Taking part in the ritual, Pakistani pilgrim Muhammad Makbul said: "This is the big day in my life and I feel too much holy and too much happy. We don't have feeling to express this, how much I feel."

Pilgrims will spend the day on Mount Arafat in prayers and reflection.

At sunset, they move to Muzdalifa, between Mina and Arafat, to gather stones for ritual stoning of the devil on October 26.

Amid heightened tensions and armed conflicts in parts of the Middle East, Saudi authorities are emphasizing the hajj is meant to be a strictly religious undertaking and warn against political provocations during the event.

Adnan Terkawi is a pilgrim from Syria, where an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's government has killed scores of people since March 2011.

"I called on God to calm down situations all over Arab countries," he said, "to change the situation of Islam and Muslims for the better and that the situation calms down in Syria and Syria will become safe and secure."

It's estimated that more than 3 million pilgrims are attending the hajj this year.

Under the tenets of Islam, all adult Muslims are required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj religious rites at least once in their lives, so long as they are physically and financially able to do so.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa