2 million Muslim pilgrims gathered on Mt. Arafat (no relation) today for the prayer ritual that is the centerpiece of the Hajj:
- Nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims converged on Mt. Arafat on Monday for a solemn prayer ritual that is the highlight of the hajj, a centuries-old pilgrimage to the birthplace of Islam.
After dawn prayers at the nearby valley of Mina, where most pilgrims spent the night in white fireproof tents, they began the short trek to Arafat, a gentle plateau from which a small and rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy rises.
Singing the pilgrim chant “At Thy service, my God, at Thy Service,” they reached Arafat on foot, in buses and even clinging to the roofs of vehicles.
By midmorning, as helicopters hovered overhead and police tried to keep order on the ground, the arid plateau turned into an ocean of pilgrims, with men dressed in identical seamless white garb, and women entirely covered — with only their hands and faces visible.
Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it is required to perform the hajj at least once in a lifetime. [CBS]
Included in the throng is a rapper from LA:
- Gangsta rapper Napoleon has a new name: Pilgrim.
The rapper, who real name is Mutah Wasin Shabazz Beale, is joining other Muslims worldwide in making the annual hajj to Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and home to Islam’s holiest shrine.
For Beale, the trip to Saudi Arabia symbolizes his emergence from a world of drugs and violence.
“Before I didn’t care about living or dying,” said Beale, 25, who lives with his fiance and 3-year-old son. “Now I recognize how beautiful life is. I love to have another day to pray to Allah.”
Saturday was the start of the five-day pilgrimage, required once in a lifetime for all Muslims who are able-bodied and can afford the trip.
Beale, a member of the rap group Outlawz and a protege of the late Tupac Shakur, is best known for an incident at MTV’s 20th anniversary special in 2001. During a rehearsal, he grabbed the microphone from Sean “Puffy” Combs, starting a shoving match.
Beale’s transformation began two years ago in a recording studio. Record producer Mikal Kamil said he saw the rapper with a malt liquor can in one hand and a marijuana cigarette in the other. [AP]
I wish him well, but I will reserve judgment until we see what kind of Muslim he becomes.
The need for better hajj control:
- Fourteen pilgrims were killed and several injured in Saudi Arabia Tuesday when they fell to the ground in heavy crowds marking Eid al-Adha, the most accident-prone part of the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage.
The official Saudi Press Agency said the accident happened Tuesday morning. On Eid al-Adha, pilgrims throw pebbles at a pillar representing the devil, and the ritual is often the most troublesome part of the haj.
In 2001 at least 35 people died in a stampede during the stoning ritual. In 1998, 119 were killed in a similar incident.
The faithful, who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, trekked to Mena from Muzdalifah on the outskirts of the holy city where they had spent the night after a day of prayers on Mount Arafat.
Chanting Islam’s rallying cry of “God is Greatest,” the pilgrims in white seamless attire marched to Jamarat Bridge where each pilgrim threw seven pebbles at a pillar erected where Muslims believe the devil appeared to Abraham. [Reuters]