Middle East

Top Saudi cleric will not deliver hajj sermon

Muslim pilgrims prepare themselves for Friday prayers in front of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Muslim pilgrims prepare themselves for Friday prayers in front of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)  (The Associated Press)

Saudi Arabia's top cleric will not be delivering this year's prestigious hajj sermon on Sunday for the first time in more than three decades.

Al-Riyadh newspaper reported Saturday that Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, who has delivered the sermon since 1981, will be replaced by Sheikh Saleh bin Hamid.

Hamid previously served as chairman of the top consultative Shura Council and was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Council before serving as a royal adviser. The newspaper did not give a reason for the change.

The mufti sparked controversy this week when he was quoted as saying Iran's Shiite leaders "are not Muslims." He was responding to criticism from Iran's supreme leader over Saudi Arabia's response to a crush and stampede that killed hundreds of pilgrims during last year's hajj.