Riyadh, September 11: The annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has entered its climax with 1.5 million Muslims today gathered at Mount Arafat to offer a day-long prayers and recitations from the Quran. The pilgrims gather at Mount Arafat, around 15 km from Mecca for one long day and live in tents from dawn to dusk. This year around 1.5 million Muslims from more than 200 countries had gathered to perform Hajj which is one of the five pillars of Islam and every Muslims are called upon to perform it at least once in a lifetime.Also Read - Eid-al-Adha 2021: Wishes, Images, Quotes, Whatsapp Messages, Facebook Status, to Share With Your Loved Ones This Bakrid

According to books, Mount Arafat has a great significance in Islam as Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon at the location. On Saturday night it emerged that Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh would not deliver the traditional Hajj sermon for the first time in 35 years due to health reasons. Also Read - Bakrid 2021: Date, Time, History And Significance of This Festival

The absence of Grand Mufti follows controversy sparked by his remarks that Iranians were “not Muslims”. The comment came after Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced Saudi Arabia’s management of the Hajj. This year Iranians have boycotted Hajj pilgrimage and endorsed an alternative event on Saturday at the holy city of Karbala in Iraq. (Also Read: Hajj 2016: How selfies and smartphones have transformed the biggest spiritual journey of Muslims) Also Read - Eid-Al-Adha 2020: Netizens Praise Allah, Fill Twitter With Messages of Hope to Celebrate the Blessed Occasion

The tension between Saudi Arab and Iran have mounted after last year’s Hajj tragedy in which at least 2,426 people, including 464 Iranians were killed. Saudi Arabia and Iran do not have diplomatic relations and are at the loggerheads over a series of issues including the deadly Syrian war and conflicts in Yemen.

But an absence of Ayatollah has not faded away the enthusiasm of the pilgrims. Mahfooz Qureshi, an Indian resident said, “The experience is priceless. I feel like I am closer to Allah and I can’t explain how do I feel now”. As usual, a large chunk of the population in Hajj comes from Indonesia then it is followed by India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

On Saturday evening the authorities in Saudi Arabia revealed official figures, which goes up to 1.3 million pilgrims attending the Hajj from outside Saudi Arabia. Mina is full of vast white fireproof tents which have the capacity to accommodate around 2.5 million pilgrims.

Last years stampede in Mina is considered to be the worst disaster in Hajj history. The tragedy took place as pilgrims were going to the Jamarat Bridge for a stoning ritual which this year will start on Monday. After the incident, Saudi Arabia has consistently downplayed the number of casualties. After the tragedy, the government has announced an investigation but no conclusions have been released.

Saudi government who is been working on intensified crowd control measures had installed nearly a thousand new surveillance cameras at Mecca’s Grand Mosque. The Jamarat stoning will also be more tightly controlled than in previous years. The authorities in the Kingdom had appealed to pilgrims to perform the ritual at any part of the day, rather than only in the afternoon.

From this year pilgrims are given electronic bracelets storing personal and medical information that will help authorities provide care and identify non-Arabic speaking people.