Saudi Arabia (MNN/ODM) – Today, around two million Muslim pilgrims, representing the world’s estimated figure of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide will be standing on Mount Arafat.
It’s part of the hajj (pilgrimage), which is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims. The pilgrimage started on Sunday and ends on October 18. Monday marks the most important day, when everyone assembles at Mount Arafat, just outside Mecca, for the peak of the hajj.
Also known as the Mount of Mercy, the hill is the most sacred location a Muslim can reach to stand before Allah, asking for mercy. This is the place where the Muslim prophet Mohammad stood and delivered his “farewell sermon” to his followers who had accompanied him for the Hajj towards the end of his life.
Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says, “They want to be as close to Allah as possible. The Hajj is part of that.” The desire of each of the pilgrims is to reach out to Allah and ask desperately for his possible forgiveness for all the transgressions they have committed.
At the same time, turmoil continues to plague most of the Arab world, and that hasn’t escaped notice , either. “It’s a time of spiritual fervor among Muslims including some who are very radical. So, that spiritual fervor can spill over into other Islamic practices, including ones like jihad.” Officials in Riyadh warned Muslim pilgrims against exploiting the hajj for political purposes. The remarks were loosely connected to rumors that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood may have been urging pilgrims to express their support in the wake of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Nettleton suggests that for the body of Christ, Tuesday is the day to watch. “The end of the Hajj is marked by a special feast. It’s called ‘the Feast of the Sacrifice’ and Muslims are remembering Abraham and Abraham’s sacrifice of his son.”
Eid al-Adha involves a ritual sacrifice of a lamb, he adds. “They say the son was Ishmael and not Isaac, but they do know the story of Abraham going to offer his son, and at the last moment, God provides a lamb, and the son is saved.” That’s the connection point for believers, notes Nettleton, because , “That event points to Jesus Christ. The lamb was provided as a sacrifice. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. This is a great opportunity for Muslims to hear the gospel and to understand, ‘ohh, that makes sense now.'”
However, it’s unlikely that Christians would be able to get into Mecca, so who shares this connection? “We know of some Muslims who have come to Christ, but they haven’t widely publicized it, they haven’t changed their identity papers, specifically so they can go to Mecca. Mecca is a city that is closed to non-Muslims. These people can still get in, they can still be there and share the gospel during the season.”
It’s risky because there are some Muslims who would be following a spiritual fervor into jihad. Still, these Muslim Background Believers (MBB) are praying that God would soften hard hearts. “Across the Muslim world, we see the stories of dreams and visions, and other supernatural things where God speaks truth into the hearts of Muslims. We need to pray that that will happen during the Hajj and during the season of the end of the hajj.”
For those MBB in Mecca, they’re acting like a special mission force in advance of the Gospel. We can’t be there, but we can be praying for opportunities, says Nettleton. “This is a key time for them, it is an important work. And in many cases, it’s a dangerous work. Pray for their protection and pray for fruit from their labors.”