Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, December 2008
3 Million Muslim Pilgrims on Arafat, for Haj Climax
3 million at Arafat for Haj climax
Siraj Wahab & Hamid Al-Sulami |
Arab News, 10 Dhul Hijja, 1429, December 8, 2008
MOUNT OF MERCY:
Pilgrims go the extra mile during Arafat Day on Sunday by climbing the Jabal Al-Rahmah, voluntarily retracing the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). (AN photo by Ahmad Hashad)
ARAFAT: After spending the day at the spiritual highpoint of meditation and prayers in Arafat, millions of pilgrims moved after sunset to Muzdalifah to spend the night there before they proceed at daybreak to Mina and Jamrat.
There they will perform the stoning and other rituals, including the animal sacrifice marking the Eid Al-Adha.
Yesterday, a sea of humanity made their trek from Mina to Arafat from dawn. Intonations of “at thy service, my God, at thy service,” reverberated through the valley as the pilgrims stood to pray for God’s forgiveness in the most spiritual moment of the entire pilgrimage.
The standing at Arafat is considered the most pious act in Haj because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his companions 14 centuries ago while teaching the rites of the fifth pillar of Islam, “Al-Haj Arafat” (“Haj is Arafat”) signifying that it is the importance of standing at Arafat. So far no major problems were reported in the event in which mediapersons said about three million pilgrims participated.
“The journey from Mina to Arafat was made in record time without major problems and the pilgrims could devote their worship in comfort and ease,” Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also chairman of the Central Haj Committee and the Higher Committee for Supervision of Pilgrim Transportation, said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency.
A record number of pilgrims have traveled to the holy sites this year from abroad.
For the second day of the Haj, which lasts three more days, the male pilgrims wore two pieces of unstitched cloth (ihram) while the women were entirely covered apart from face and hands. Men will change to their normal clothes today after the rituals of sacrifice and head shaving.
In a sermon in the middle of the day when the pilgrims joined in a collective prayer at the Namirah Mosque in Arafat, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh said the global financial crisis springs from ignoring the Shariah rules and practicing usury (riba) that is prohibited in Islam.
“Today we watch as this financial crisis unfolds and some companies and banks go bankrupt. This is the result of ignoring God’s rules. Muslims must abide by God’s rules, and build their economies accordingly,” Al-Asheikh told the worshippers.
Islam has laid down the basis of economic security through economic principles far away from injustice and usury, Al-Asheikh stressed.
The 11,000 square meters Namirah Mosque is built on the site where the Prophet (pbuh) prayed while making the pilgrimage combining midday and afternoon prayers.
After stressing the importance of following the true faith, Al-Asheikh also emphasized the need for believing other messengers of God. “Whoever does not believe in the messages of the Prophets Jesus and Moses, peace be upon them, is considered an infidel,” Al-Asheikh said.
The grand mufti also called on the Muslim world to unite in the face of terrorism to preserve their stability. “The Ummah is targeted by enemies who are keen on weakening it through creation of conflicts and disputes,” the grand mufti said.
He also demanded the security of maritime trade and the need for keeping seas safe from pirates. “We must be cautious of terrorism and fight hostile criminal gangs that destroy countries and people,” he added.
The grand mufti also stressed the need for obeying and supporting a ruler and government and opposing those who have scant regard for the lives, property and honor of people.
He also emphasized the need for intellectual security and protection from extremist, deviant, terrorist and extremist ideologies.
He lashed out at the electronic media that spread lurid and immoral ideas aimed at destabilizing the moral integrity of youth in general.
Meanwhile, the Civil Defense continued to urge pilgrims not to use cooking gas at the holy sites for their own safety. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Amro, commander of the Civil Defense’s Haj force, said that the ban reinforces a previous order of not using gas for cooking purposes at the holy sites, adding the ban applies to government sites also. In a press statement he said, “We are coordinating with the appropriate authorities to prevent cooking gas inside the sites.”
He also said that the Civil Defense safety teams are regularly inspecting Haj camping sites to make sure that safety measures are applied. He also said statistics revealed that there is a decline in the number of people caught using cooking gas from past years, indicating that awareness has increased among pilgrims.
The Ministry of Health warned pilgrims about infections that could be caused by bad food habits while they are at the holy sites. The ministry said food poisoning could result from eating food that’s gone bad. The ministry urged pilgrims to drink more water and take appropriate medicines and to check the expiry date on canned food.
The Saudi scouts managed to guide more than 17,000 lost pilgrims of all nationalities on the eighth day of Dul Hijjah in Mina and Arafat.
As part of an annual norm, the Kiswa (Kaaba cover), was changed yesterday on the ninth day of Dul Hijjah. Officials from the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs took off the old Kiswa and installed the new one, which is made of pure silk and gold threads. It costs more than SR20 million and is considered one of the most exquisite works of Islamic art.
The Civil Defense, meanwhile, issued a warning not to overcrowd during the first day of Jamrat today. The Civil Defense identified the dangerous areas in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah and have fielded emergency teams and medical and ambulance teams in these areas for a quick response to any eventuality. The Civil Defense called on pilgrims to follow instructions for their own safety and not to rush to the Jamrat complex during peak times. They also urged pilgrims not to carry their luggage with them on Jamrat Bridge.
Civil Defense officials were ready in Mina and Muzdalifah with more than 3,500 members in different places to supervise the pilgrims’ journey from Arafat to Muzdalifah and then to Mina. Director General of Civil Defense Lt. Gen. Saad Al-Tuwaijri said more than 208 fire hydrants have been installed in Muzdalifah. He said that there are 40 teams in Mina that are ready to serve pilgrims.
— With input from Saeed Al-Khotani
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