More than 1.7 mil­lion Mus­lims gather

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Nation + World -

MECCA, SAUDI ARA­BIA » In Saudi Ara­bia, more than 1.7 mil­lion pil­grims are mark­ing the start of the hajj pil­grim­age on Wed­nes­day by cir­cling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca — Is­lam’s holi­est site — and per­form­ing a se­ries of rites that trace the foot­steps of the Prophet Muhammad.

Mus­lims be­lieve the rites also trace the foot­steps of the prophets Ibrahim and Is­mail — Abra­ham and Ish­mael in the Bi­ble.

The Kaaba rep­re­sents the me­taphor­i­cal house of God and the one­ness of God in Is­lam. Ob­ser­vant Mus­lims around the world face to­ward the Kaaba dur­ing the five daily prayers.

The hajj is re­quired of all Mus­lims once in a life­time. The phys­i­cally de­mand­ing jour­ney tests pil­grims’ pa­tience as they with­stand long waits and thick crowds on their path to achiev­ing spir­i­tual pu­rifi­ca­tion and re­pen­tance.

Egyp­tian pil­grim Ahmed Ali, on his first hajj, said he was grate­ful to be in Mecca.

“It’s an in­de­scrib­able feel­ing, a spir­i­tual feel­ing. Thanks to God, I feel great,” he said.

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