Islam opposes extremist parties, says top Saudi cleric

The top Saudi cleric pleaded with the Muslim community around the world that Islam opposes extremist parties and urges not to persecute each other, rebuffs divisions based on regional politics, forbids shedding blood of non-Muslims too. He asked pilgrims to fulfil the responsibility of uniting the Muslim Ummah through sagacious use of social media, avoid plunging into sectarian chasms, and fear Allah the way it ought to be done.

He reminded them that the belief in the oneness of Allah was in fact the stepping stone of piety; no wonder, then, that only pious ones will enter the Jannah. He further stated that monotheism constituted the basic element of teachings of all the messengers of Allah. “All praise be to Allah, I testify that Allah has no partners. Worship Him and prostrate before Him. I instruct myself, and all of you, to fear Allah”, the scholar proclaimed.

The Haj sermon further elaborated thatAllah sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to guide the Ummah. Sheikh Saad went on to pronounce several divine principles, including: “None is worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is His last messenger. There is only one road to salvation, that is, to tread the path that Allah has shown to us. Good deeds wipe off sins. Prayer is the basic pillar of the religious code. Piety is the practice Muslims need to adopt.”

The sermon then touched the socio-economic dimensions of life by reiterating that Islamic teachings established brotherhood among human beings. The cleric reminded the audience that Zakat obliges Muslims to reserve certain portion of wealth for the needy. Delivering the Haj sermon, Sheikh Saad bin Nasser said that staying firm and offering prayers were guidelines given by Allah.

Expounding Islam’s principles related to morality, the honourable speaker said that usury and embezzlement of any kind were prohibited in Islam. “The offspring are obliged to obey — and take care of – their parents. Islam proscribed wickedness and obscenity. Allah has directed us not to predate on others’ rightful wealth,” the cleric said.

The beauty of Islamic law, the Sheikh said, is that it organised financial and economic systems along with regulations pertaining to one’s life into a formal arrangement on the face of the Earth. The Quran asks us to pledge faith in Allah and His Prophet (PBUH), for, the faithful and the righteous will be conferred upon power in this world.

The top Saudi cleric rejected racism by reminiscing the verses of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) last sermon that: “A white man has no superiority over a black one nor a black has any superiority over any white. Islam has forbidden us from humiliating Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is binding upon us to fully observe Shariah-stated instructions; a Muslim is obliged to protect those boundaries that Allah has demarcated for him”, Sheikh said.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Saad said, ”Sharia came to preserve the security of nations and cultivate benevolence in (people’s) hearts,” referring to the Islamic legal and moral code derived from the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of the holy Prophet (PBUH). He urged pilgrims to set aside politics during the Haj and come together with fellow Muslims. “This is no place for partisan slogans or sectarian movements which have resulted in great massacres and the displacement of millions,” he said.

Two million Muslims gathered at Mount Arafat on Thursday for a vigil to atone for their sins and ask God’s forgiveness as the annual Haj pilgrimage reaches its climax.Pilgrims clad in white robes spent the night in an encampment around the hill where Islam holds that God tested Abraham’s (AS) faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Ismail (AS) and where the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) gave his last sermon.

Other worshippers who had been praying in the nearby Mina area ascended in buses or on foot from before dawn as security forces directed traffic and helicopters hovered overhead.

Some pilgrims carved out seats on the craggy hillside, carrying umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Others filled nearby roads, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius.

Men and women from nearly every country in the world gathered side by side, some crying on their neighbour’s shoulder. An elderly Syrian pilgrim sitting on the hilltop shouted out, “Oh God, take revenge on the oppressors”. Others assembled around him responded, “Amen”.

Awfa Nejm, from a village near Homs, said: “We ask God to protect Syria and its people and return it to the way it was before.”Twenty-seven-year-old Amin Mohammed from Nigeria said he was praying for peace in his country.

Saudi Arabia has said more than two million pilgrims, most of them from outside Saudi Arabia, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.

Still, violence in the Middle East, including wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, and other global hotspots are sure to be on the minds of many pilgrims, who will spend the rest of the day on Mount Arafat.

By sunset they will move to the rocky plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolising the devil at another location called Jamarat on Friday, which marks the first day of Eidul Azha (feast of sacrifice).

Officials say they have taken all necessary precautions this year, with more than 100,000 members of the security forces and 30,000 health workers on hand to maintain safety and provide first aid.

Saudi state television on Thursday showed a new kiswa, the cloth embroidered with verses from the Quran, being placed over the Kaaba in Makkah’s Grand Mosque.Pilgrims will return to pray there at the end of Haj.

“I came up here last night and prayed, took pictures and called my family and friends,” said Maulana Yahia, 32, who made the trip from Indonesia.This year’s haj has seen the return of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran following a diplomatic row and a deadly stampede in 2015. But thousands who would normally make the journey from neighbouring Qatar are absent apart from a few dozen because of the diplomatic crisis shaking the Gulf.

Helicopters flew around the area as the pilgrims converged from dawn on the Mount Arafat plain and the hill known as Jabal al-Rahma, or Mount of Mercy.Tunisian mother-of-three Fatima Arfawi said she was moved beyond words. “This is the first time I see anything like this, ever,” she said. “This day is dedicated to prayer for my three children and my family.”

In a hospital opposite the mountain, an area was set aside for people suffering dehydration or heat exhaustion.Saudi Arabia’s Red Crescent said it had deployed 326 ambulances along the pilgrimage route to handle health emergencies. “Some pilgrims, for example, forget to protect their heads with an umbrella when they pray,” said Bandar Al-Harthi, a nurse at a hospital facing Mount Arafat.

Iranian authorities say more than 86,000 Iranian pilgrims are taking part this year, each equipped with an identity bracelet in case of any accident.Reza, a 63-year-old former oil company official from Iran, said he was torn between the joy of taking part and lingering grief over the stampede. “They’ve taken more security measures otherwise we would not have come,” he said.

At the foot of Mount Arafat, mobile barriers have been installed to control the movement of the crowds. “They will be moved to enlarge the passages when there are more pilgrims,” said Ahmed al-Baraka of the Saudi security forces.

Seated near the barriers at Mount Arafat, eight young women from Ghana who are all related took a brief respite after making their way from Mina, east of Makkah. Aged between 18 and 30, for some of them it was their first time away from home. “This is the first time I leave Ghana,” said 25-year-old Khadija. “My husband let me come alone because it is Makkah.”

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