Hajj 'an opportunity for unity'

Iraqi Shia and Sunni Muslims share tents on Mount Arafat.

    Muslims stone three pillars representing Satan in the last part of the Hajj [AFP]

    The news that Saddam had been executed on the morning of Eid al-Adha shocked many.


    "Killing Saddam during the Hajj means they're willing to provoke Sunnis to the highest degree," one pilgrim said.


    "Return to your senses and settle your affairs. Rise above accusations"

    Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh



    Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh, the mufti (Islamic scholar) of Saudi Arabia, called for unity among the "Muslims of Iraq, Palestine, Somalia and Afghanistan" – the foremost areas of intra-Muslim violence across the Islamic world.


    "Your blood is as blessed as this blessed day," he said. "Return to your senses and settle your affairs. Rise above accusations."


    The majority of Iraqis on the Hajj have tried to avoid talk of the turmoil back home during the religious journey.


    "We're here for our religion, not for politics," one elderly pilgrim said.


    Sunni Arabs formed the backbone of Saddam's regime and many believe that his trial and conviction were acts of vengeance by Shias who now dominate the government.



    Yassin Subhi, an Iraqi Sunni Muslim, vowed that his prayers during the Hajj pilgrimage on Friday would be a sword to fight his country's occupiers. 


    Iraqis have united during
    the Hajj [AFP]

    At the same time, a procession of his fellow Iraqis marched to a holy site, waving a Shia banner.


    However, the pilgrimage may be one of the few religious events that Iraq's Sunni and Shia celebrate together. Today, separation is an unavoidable in Iraq.


    Sunni and Shia in Iraq are increasingly segregating, afraid to enter each other's districts of Baghdad amid months of sectarian killings.


    During the Hajj, at Mount Arafat, the two sects have come together, living in a single Iraqi section of the sprawling tent city where nearly three million pilgrims from around the world spent most of Friday in prayer and meditation.


    The prayers at Mount Arafat are one of the main rites of the Hajj.


    The desert plain is where the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon in AD 632, soon before his death, and he told his followers that God "frees more souls from hell" on the Day of Arafat than any other day.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies.


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