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Haj begins Thursday, all set for peaceful and smooth ritual
Wednesday October 1, 2014 11:27 PM, IINA

Around 1.4 million Muslims have been converging on Makkah from all over the world to perform the annual pilgrimage of Haj, which begins Thursday.

Haj 2014

The Directorate General of Passports said it has finished entry procedures for 1,386,905 pilgrims as on Tuesday.

The number of pilgrims who came by air reached 1,313,926 while those came by land and sea stood at 58,984 and 13,995 respectively. Batches of pilgrims from about 160 countries arrive to Saudi Arabia to complete the holy journey every year.

Haj is the fifth pillar of Islam and occurs in the month of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.

During Haj, pilgrims wear simple white clothes and commemorate the acts of Prophet Abraham and his family.

They circle around the Kaaba, a cubic building at the center of the Grand Mosque that Muslims face for prayer, and perform other acts of worship at further locations. Standing (wuqoof) at Arafat on Dhul Hijjah 9 is the most important ritual of Haj.

The Saudi government has stepped up elaborate security and safety measures around Haj to ensure a peaceful and hassle-free Haj.

Several pilgrims have denounced atrocities by the self-proclaimed Islamic State group as "a virus" threatening the world, Saudi Gazette reported.

"Islam is innocent from actions of the Islamic State," Kurdish Iraqi pilgrim Alan Abdullah said, describing IS as "a virus threatening the whole world."

"IS militants are carrying out terrorist acts, slaughtering people and causing trouble," said another Kurdish pilgrim, Shawkat Ahmed Qader. "Islam is far from their acts and beliefs."

The Kurdish pilgrims are among nearly 1.4 million foreigners who have arrived in Saudi Arabia for Haj.

French pilgrim Petra, who converted to Islam and renamed herself Nour, insisted that "the Islam as I live it is not an Islam of fanaticism."

"I think there is a desire right now to scare people away from Islam," said Nour.

"Islam as it was lived at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) has nothing to do with what they are making us believe today. This is really the Islam of love and companionship. It is the real Islam," she said, inviting nods and smiles from fellow French pilgrims.

Next to her, Saffiyah, a Mexican who said she converted after the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, affirmed that "Islam makes us better people... (and) jihad for me means struggling with myself" to improve.

On Monday, Islamic scholars and thinkers said that doing any harm to other pilgrims or disturbing serenity of the holy mosques and holy sites tantamount to dishonoring the Haj rites.

Renowned Islamic scholars, jurisprudence experts, researchers, academics, writers and intellectuals from all over the world are taking part in the three-day grand annual Haj symposium entitled "Glorifying the Symbols and Rites of Haj".

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