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Muslim Pilgrims Reach Climax of Haj By Standing On Arafat, a Day Before Eidul Adha, 9 Dhul Hijja, 1435


Muslim pilgrims on Arafat Muslim pilgrims on Rahma Mountain, Arafat

Pilgrims make stand at Arafat seeking mercy

Arab News, 9 Dhul Hijja, 1435, October 3, 2014


Tears flowed and prayers filled the air as the annual Muslim Haj by close to two million believers from around the world reached its zenith on a vast plain in western Saudi Arabia Friday.

“I am now a newborn baby and I don’t have any sin,” Nigerian pilgrim Taofik Odunewu told AFP, standing at the foot of Mount Mercy on the Arafat plain, tears streaming down his face.
Odunewu raised his hands to the heavens in the seamless two-piece white “ihram” outfit that he wore.

“I pray for prosperity, long life and.. I pray for my country,” Odunewu said with a broad smile.
“I’m very blessed to be part of this occasion. I don’t think I will go back to the sinful way,” he pledged.

The Haj, which officially ends on Tuesday, is the world’s largest Muslim gathering.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform at least once, the high-point of his or her spiritual life.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrived at Arafat on Friday carrying suitcases and other luggage among thousands of white tents which stood ready to accommodate the multitude.    
From early morning, pilgrims crowded onto the slippery, rocky hill known as Mount Mercy, where Muslim Prophet Muhammad made his final sermon 14 centuries ago.

The pilgrims’ attire turned the hill white in color, and they carried umbrellas as shields against the hot desert sun.

All male pilgrims dress in white ihram to symbolize a state of purity, which also emphasises their unity regardless of social status or nationality.

Some pilgrims sat alone on rocks, praying silently, as others gathered in groups, their voices in a loud appeal to God.

Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Ahmed, 53, sat with his wife under a yellow garbage bag they set up as a make-shift tent.

He said they were praying for “the victory of Muslims, those who are weak, oppressed, and jailed... all over the world.”

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said the Haj had attracted almost 1.4 million foreign pilgrims from 163 nations.

Local media report that several hundred thousand Saudis are also participating, pushing the total toward two million.

Security forces were deployed en masse across Arafat plain and Mount Mercy to organize the wave of humanity.

“This way, Haji. Don’t stop here. You’re blocking the way,” security men shouted through loudspeakers, trying to control the crowds.

“Sometimes we have difficulties understanding each others’ languages, and mostly the elderly can’t understand what we are saying,” said Ali Al-Shemmari, a soldier stationed at the hill.
“The pilgrims believe that they should climb up, although this is not necessary... But things are going well,” he said.

The number of faithful seemed fewer than past years following a crackdown by authorities on illegal pilgrims, more than 145,000 of whom have been turned away, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Permits are a way of ensuring that such a large gathering with massive logistical challenges proceeds smoothly.

AFP reporters said security appeared to have been stepped up, helping the crowds to flow more smoothly than in past years.

Saudi authorities are also striving to protect pilgrims from two deadly viruses, Ebola and the MERS coronavirus.

No such cases have been recorded among the Haj visitors, officials say.

Odunewu and other pilgrims from Nigeria were permitted to enter Saudi Arabia for Haj, despite eight Ebola deaths in their country, but three West African states hardest hit by Ebola have not been allowed Haj visas.

Pilgrims will stay at Mount Arafat until sunset when they set off for nearby Muzdalifah, where they gather pebbles for the symbolic “stoning of the devil” on Saturday.

In conjunction, animals will be slaughtered for Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice celebrated by Muslims worldwide.

Over 2 million pilgrims prepare for Haj climax

In scenes of devotion seen nowhere else on the planet, over two million pilgrims, wrapped in seamless white cloth, made their way into an extremely hot Mina on Thursday. They came in buses, large utility vehicles, two-wheelers, wheelchairs, and on foot for the journey of a lifetime.

As they walked into the valley, they were greeted by a sea of white tents as far as the eye could see. At one end was the massive multistoried concrete structure of the Jamarat, with Masjid Al-Khaif one side and Masjid Al-Kuwaiti at the far end.

Pilgrims traversed through a maze of roads to reach their tents. Vehicles were not allowed inside the tent city. The pilgrims were dropped off at various bridges and walked to their camps.

Once inside, the pilgrims prayed Dhuhr, Asr, Maghreb and Isha. The able-bodied walked to Masjid Al-Khaif to say their prayers. Inside the massive mosque, they recited verses from the Qur'an. It was scenes full of piety and devotion to Allah.

Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif said a total of 1,389,053 foreign pilgrims have arrived for Haj this year from 163 countries. Among them 757,981 are men and 631,072 women. “There was an increase of 8,545 pilgrims or 0.6 percent compared to 2013,” he said. Of this year’s foreign pilgrims, 1,315,850 came by air, 59,204 by land and 13,999 by sea.
As the day wore on, the intense heat subsided and a light wind sprang up, cooling the city considerably, making it more pleasant for the pilgrims.

“I no longer feel alone,” said Nasser Aref from Syria. “We had to endure a lot of hardship to come here. The fact that we are alive is a miracle,” he said and narrated the difficulties that his family had faced in escaping from Aleppo on their way to the Haj.

Omar Obaidat, a journalist from Amman, Jordan, said: “It is a great spiritual experience for me. This is my first time. It is a dream come true for me because in Jordan only the elderly are allowed to go on Haj. I came here as part of the media delegation and that is how, even though I am only in my 30s, I am getting this wonderful chance. I am happy and excited.

Saudi Arabia is a great place and all the negative stuff that I read and heard are untrue. The Saudi authorities are handling the Haj arrangements with utmost care. They deserve praise.”
Habib Qaiser from Karachi, Pakistan, refused to discuss anything other than the spiritual aspect of the Haj with Arab News. “I am here to seek atonement for all the sins that I have committed in my 59 years,” he said. “I am surrounded by thousands of people here but I am alone because I am looking within.”

Qaiser said he wanted to live a pious life. “Allah has given me the chance to correct myself, my ways. If I am good, then I can become a role model for other members in my large family. I am so thankful to Allah for choosing me to be among the people performing Haj this year.”
There are many young pilgrims this year from the United Kingdom, who feel excited and privileged to be performing Haj this year.

Yusuf Matadar from the Council of British Hajis (CBH), the body providing on-the-ground support to British pilgrims, was one of the first to arrive in the tent city of Mina on Thursday. “The transportation from Makkah to Mina has been an easy ride compared to previous years,” he told Arab News. “We arrived in record time at Fajr by coach and those undertaking the walking Haj arrived a few hours later.”

Altaf Arif from Arif Haj & Umrah Services based in Nelson, United Kingdom, said: “The transportation to Mina has been extremely efficient this year. Our group has arrived. Many are first timers and are resting ahead of Arafat on Friday.”

One pilgrim, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It is very hot compared to previous years, and I am disappointed to see that some air conditioning units have not been serviced. I hope this is resolved very soon.”

For the majority of the 100,000 Indian pilgrims the movement from Makkah to Mina was hassle-free. “Our pilgrims started their journey in groups from Makkah at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and by 10 a.m. on Thursday, all of them were in their tents,” said Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak.

One reason for the smooth flow of Indian pilgrims is that most of them are housed in Makkah’s Aziziah district. “The distance from Aziziah to Mina is pretty short and the roads are also very wide. All this facilitated the easy movement of our pilgrims,” said Mubarak.

However, some 300 pilgrims had anxious moments when the buses hired by their operator failed to arrive. The Indian Haj Mission then used their staff vehicles to ferry the pilgrims to their tents in Mina.

“Our pilgrims are resting and catching up on some sleep after being awake the whole night,” said Mubarak.

Mubarak said some pilgrims had suffered under the 45-degree heat at noon on Thursday. “Even the younger pilgrims are feeling thirsty,” said Mubarak. “Once you are inside the tents, it is even hotter. The air-conditioners are on but they will take some time to cool the tents,” he said.

Among the heads of state present were Sudan President Omar Bashir and Bangladesh President Mohammed Abdul Hameed.

The Haj will climax on Friday when all the pilgrims assemble on the plains of Arafat, for what many describe as a reflection of the Day of Judgment when every person will be held accountable for their actions.

Despite checkpoints, many pilgrims without permits still managed to enter Mina. They were seen sleeping under the bridges and on the hilltops that surround the city.

A top official told Arab News that the government is not against anyone performing the Haj. “Pilgrims without documents have no place to sleep or pray. So they make themselves comfortable in pedestrian pathways, blocking the movement of pilgrims. If they come through a proper operator, then they have proper accommodation and do not become a problem for other pilgrims,” he explained.

Saudis are here in large numbers to help pilgrims, and getting a lot of praise for their dedicated service.

“It is a source of pride to us that the majority of healthcare providers at the Haj are Saudi,” acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih said in a press statement on Wednesday night following a tour to inspect the readiness of the field and emergency facilities.

Nearly 22,000 medics, paramedics, and administrators are here to provide healthcare services at 182 healthcare facilities. Around 60 percent of those are Saudis from different parts of the Kingdom.

The facilities include 25 hospitals with 5,250 beds, and 157 primary healthcare centers at the holy sites in Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.

Tariq Al-Arnoos, the commander of the field and emergency medicine fleet at the Haj, said that the Health Ministry has mobilized around 157 ambulances at the holy sites for emergencies, including overcrowding, fires, and unexpected rains.

Mina's tent city, which is in a valley, comes to life only during the five days of Haj. The fire-resistant tents remain in place throughout the year.

— With input from Saeed Al-Khotani. 

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

A large number of pilgrims climb Jabal Al-Rahma in Arafat to pray standing on the mount, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is the most famous place in Arafat after the Namira Mosque. Located between the seventh and eighth roads east of Arafat, Jabal Al-Rahma is 300 meters long and seven meters high. Some pilgrims wrongly believe that their Haj would not be complete without standing on this mount. During his farewell sermon, the Prophet said: “I stood here and all other places in Arafat are valid for the stand in prayer ritual” during the peak of the pilgrimage.

Human rights

Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission, has called on Muslims to get inspired from the message of Haj as well as from the last sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) that contained important principles for the protection of human rights. “What was mentioned in the last sermon represents the first comprehensive document for human rights,” Al-Aiban said. “We have to follow the Prophet’s instructions in that speech including protection of women, respect for blood and honor and fulfillment of trust.”

Muslim Pilgrims Stand on Arafat Today

Arab News, 9 Dhul Hijja, 1435, October 3, 2014


Allah the Almighty preferred some months to others, some days to others and some nights to others and selected specific times in the year to be seasons of worship and righteous deeds, and in these blessed times the reward for righteous deeds is multiplied and sins are forgiven. One of these blessed times is the Day of Arafat which is the 9th of the month of Dul-Hijjah (the 12th lunar month in the Islamic calendar).

As pilgrims gather in Arafat today for their most important ritual, it is worthwhile to talk about the merits of this blessed day and what we should do on this day to get the great reward from Allah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the days of the month of Dul-Hijjah, which is one of the four sacred months in the Islamic calendar. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Verily, the number of the months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred.” (Qur’an, 9:36)
The four sacred months in the Islamic calendar are Dul Qada, Dul Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab, and they are the 11th, 12th, 1st and 7th months respectively.

The Day of Arafat is a day in one of the months of Haj as Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Haj (pilgrimage) is (in) the well-known (lunar year) months” (2:197). The months of Haj (pilgrimage) are Shawwal, Dul Qada and Dul Hijjah.

The Day of Arafat is one of the well-known days that Allah the Almighty praised in the Noble Qur’an: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the Name of Allah on appointed days.” (Qur’an, 22:28)

Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that those appointed days are the first 10 days of the month of Dul Hijjah.

The Day of Arafat is one of the ten days that Allah The Almighty swore by in the Noble Qur’an, Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:” By the ten nights” (Al-Fajr: 2). Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the ten nights mean the first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah.

The Day of Arafat is one of first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah, and these 10 days are the best days ever in the whole year as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “No other days, in which righteous deeds are beloved by Allah, are better than these days. The Prophet’s companions asked: “Are they even better than jihad in the cause of Allah?” The Prophet replied: ‘Yes, they are, except a man who takes his properties and goes out for jihad and sacrifices his soul and properties for the sake of Allah.”

The day of Arafat is one of the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah on which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged us to observe fasting, and some of the prophet’s wives narrated that he used to observe fasting during the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to observe fasting on the day of Arafat in particular, and when he was asked about fasting on the day of Arafat, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Fasting on the day of Arafat is an expiation for the sins committed in the previous year and the sins will be committed in the next year.” Yet, for those who are performing Haj, they are not recommended to observe fasting on the Day of Arafat.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to supplicate to Allah on the Day of Arafat as he said: “The best supplication is the supplication on the Day of Arafat.” This of course manifests the great status of the Day of Arafat.

The aforementioned are some of the merits of the day of Arafat. We ask Allah The Almighty to assist us all to avail of the great opportunity of the day of Arafat, forgive our sins and guide us all to his right path.




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