MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia — Nearly 3 million Muslims performing the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia climbed the rocky desert Mount Arafat on Monday, chanting that they have come to answer God's call.
The white-robed pilgrims began their ascent at dawn, covering the Mountain of Mercy at Arafat in an endless sea of white as their chants of "Labyek Allah" — or "Here I am, God, answering your calling" — reverberated.
The climb is one of the cornerstones of the pilgrimage, which is required from every able-bodied Muslim at least once in his life. It is the site where Islam's Prophet Muhammad delivered his farewell sermon, and Muslims believe on this day the doors of heaven open to answer prayers and grant forgiveness.
Saudi Arabia's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheik, called on worshippers in a midday sermon to espouse moderation and said Islam would survive what he described as attempts to defame the faith.