Muslims pilgrims get respite from rain at Arafat

Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:37am EST
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By Souhail Karam

ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Bright weather greeted some two million Muslims who rallied around Mount Arafat, where Prophet Mohammad delivered his last sermon, to beg for God's forgiveness Thursday at the peak of the haj.

The death toll from heavy rainfalls that hit the port city of Jeddah, gateway for pilgrims to Mecca, rose to 48 people, most of whom were swept away by strong currents or drowned.

In Mecca, pilgrims flocked mostly by foot to Arafat to pray until sunset. They set up tents on a plain, squatted on the side of the road in shelters, or stayed at the nearby Namira mosque.

The pilgrims will later move to Muzdalifa to collect pebbles to stone a set of walls. The ritual represents defiance of the devil and commitment to resisting temptation.

"God gave us a reprieve from the rainfalls on the most important day of haj. It shows His immense clemency," Indonesian pilgrim Abdulwadood Asegaf said.

"We are going to avoid going up the mount Arafat this time because it is too muddy," he added.

About 1.6 million pilgrims have come from abroad for the haj, the world's largest regular religious gathering and a duty for all Muslims to perform at least once if possible.

Wednesday's rainfalls, the heaviest the desert country has seen in years, prevented thousands of people from getting to Mecca from Jeddah but caused no deaths among pilgrims, Saudi haj organizers say.   Continued...

<p>A Muslim pilgrim prays on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat outside the holy city of Mecca, November 26, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz</p>