Saudi Mufti Skips Arafat Sermon for First Time in 35 Years

JEDDAH – For the first time in 35 years, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al-Ashiekh, will not give the annual hajj sermon in Arafat this year for health reasons.

Citing anonymous sources, Okaz newspaper said Sheikh, “will step down from delivering the sermon on the day of Arafat, due to health reasons.”

The Grand Mufti has annually addressed the faithful from the Namira mosque in Mount Arafat for the peak of hajj, which this year falls on Sunday.

He was appointed Grand Mufti in 1999 after the death of his predecessor Sheikh Abdel Aziz bin Baz.

Two decades prior to that date, Al Sheikh used to give the annual sermon to the pilgrims at the site where Prophet Mohammed is said to have delivered his final sermon.

Okaz said the mufti used to spend about two months preparing for each address.

After the Mufti’s decision, the imam of the Grand Mosque, Saleh bin Abdullah bin Hamid, will give this year’s sermon.

The hajj began on Saturday with about 1.5 million pilgrims, most of them from abroad.

Pilgrims flocked to `Arafat, also known as “Mount of Mercy”, from early morning, after spending a night of meditation and introspection in the tent city of Mina which marked the first leg of their five-day spiritual journey.

Chanting “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik (Here I am answering Your call, O God),” the pilgrims took their way to `Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) delivered his last sermon 14 centuries ago.

Following the lead of the Prophet Sunnah, the pilgrims performed noon and afternoon prayer “Dhuhr and Asr” combined and shortened at the Namera Mosque.

Pilgrims spend the day on the plains of `Arafat in the most essential pillar of hajj.

For the rest of the day, the pilgrims supplicate to God to forgive their sins and grant them mercy, and pray for fellow Muslims, and for unity and peace around the world.

Pilgrims then will descend by train back to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they will take part in the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamrat Al-Aqaba and spend the night.

On Monday, all pilgrims head back to Mina, where they sacrifice animals to mark the beginning of the four-day `Eid Al-Adha.

Muslims who perform hajj properly return to their homes having all their sins washed away as promised by Prophet Muhammad.

Every year, Makkah sees millions of Muslims from around the world pouring to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hajj’s ceremonies are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.