Muslims pray on climax of haj

SOME two million Muslims from around the world gathered at a desert hill near Mecca in Saudi Arabia in an act of faith and repentance during the climactic emotional and spiritual moment of the annual haj pilgrimage.

Men and women wept openly on Mount Arafat as they stretched their hands out in prayer and supplication, saying “Labayk, Allahuma, labayk,” — “Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am.”

The faithful believe on this day the gates of heaven are open, prayers are answered and past sins can be forgiven.

The pilgrimage is physically demanding and involves performing several rites, such as circling the cube-shaped Kaaba seven times at the start and finish of the haj.

It is a main pillar of Islam and one that all able-bodied Muslims must perform once in their lives.