, Mount Arafat, Oct 3 – Tears flowed and prayers filled the air as the annual Muslim hajj by about 1.4 million believers from around the world reached its zenith on a vast plain in western Saudi Arabia Friday.
“I am now a newborn baby and I don’t have any sin,” Nigerian pilgrim Taofik Odunewu told AFP, standing at the foot of Mount Mercy on the Arafat plain, tears streaming down his face.
Odunewu raised his hands to the heavens in the seamless two-piece white “ihram” outfit that he wore.
All male pilgrims dress in ihram to symbolise a state of purity, which also emphasises their unity regardless of social status or nationality.
“I pray for prosperity, long life and.. I pray for my country,” Odunewu said with a broad smile.
“I feel great… I’m on top of the world,” he said at the world’s largest Muslim gathering.
“I’m very blessed to be part of this occasion. I don’t think I will go back to the sinful way,” he pledged.
The hajj, which officially ends on Tuesday, is one of the five pillars of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform at least once.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrived at Arafat on Friday carrying suitcases and other luggage among thousands of white tents which stood ready to provide temporary homes for the multitude.
Many set up their own tents along the roads. Others even made rough shelters from large yellow garbage bags.