Arabia): The holy city of Makkah
reverberated with chants of “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (O God,
here I am answering your call) as nearly three million pilgrims
from around the world readied themselves for what is often
described as once in a lifetime journey of faith.
Large groups of pilgrims have started arriving in the tent city of
Mina for the Yaum Al-Tarwiya ritual where they will spend the day
and night of Friday in prayer and meditation before heading for
Arafat on Saturday in the climax of the annual pilgrimage.
More than 2.5 million pilgrims, including 1.8 million who have
come from abroad, will take part in this year’s Haj, the largest
annual gathering of Muslims in the world. Saudi Arabia has
mobilized all its resources to make the annual event a big success
The pilgrims arrived in Mina by walking and on buses and other
vehicles, chanting Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik. About 50,000
officers have been deployed in various parts of Makkah and the
holy sites to ensure the security and safety of pilgrims and
smooth flow of vehicles.
Islamic scholar professor Akhtarul Wasey, who is the guest of the
Ministry of Haj, said the atmosphere in Makkah is highly
emotional. “There is real spirit of Islam here. People from all
corners of the globe are united by their faith in One God and the
message of the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Everyone
is praying for every one and trying to console each other.
Everyone is spiritually charged. You can see it on their faces.
They seem very close to their Creator.”
The pilgrims are excited.
“Alhamdulillah, I am among Allah’s chosen ones,” said 61-year-old
Indonesian pilgrim Sumiti. “There are hundreds and thousands
people whose only wish is to be in this holy land on this
auspicious occasion. Many of them take their wish to the grave. I
am the lucky one and I thank Allah for giving me this opportunity.
I will pray for all Muslims, and of course my sons and daughters.”
Faheem Abdul Qader, a middle-aged Indian pilgrim, said he still
can’t believe that he is about to perform Haj. “I was in Saudi
Arabia eight years ago. I had a job in Riyadh but I could neither
perform Umrah nor Haj during the six months that I stayed on the
job. And here I am exclusively to perform Haj. Allah has his ways.
We just need to be patient,” he said. “I am delighted beyond words
and looking forward to walking all the way to Mina. The weather is
good and I want to live and breathe this place and feel this air.”
Muhammad Habib Talib, an orthodontist from Lahore, said one just
can’t explain his feelings here and now. “I only know one thing:
Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) asked us to undertake this
journey. His words are command to us. We will do as he told us to
do. People before undertook this journey and people after us will
undertake this journey till the Day of Judgment.”
And what will be uppermost in his prayers? “Of course, the
well-being of my country Pakistan. We want peace to reign in our
lands. We want deliverance,” said Talib.
Brig. Saeed Al-Qarni, commander of Civil Defense forces in Mina,
said his department’s firefighting, rescue and civil protection
units have been readied to confront any eventualities. “We have 46
units spread in various parts of the holy sites,” he told Arab
News. He said a number of firefighters on motorbikes have been
deployed to reach out to fire accidents quickly. “We have given
special training to our officers to deal with floods and
stampedes,” Al-Qarni said.
Col. Abdullah Al-Saif, assistant commander of Civil Defense, said
his department has taken into consideration all possible dangers
for pilgrims and taken precautionary measures to avert them. “We
are also following the movement of pedestrians and vehicles
through tunnels to avoid any mishaps.”
Large numbers of security forces have been deployed near the
Jamrat Bridge, where pilgrims will throw stones at pillars
representing satan for three days in a row, beginning from Sunday.
They will also keep a close watch on the Mashair Railway operating
in full swing this year to transport about a million pilgrims.
The Haj Ministry has coordinated with Tawafa organizations for
pilgrims from different countries to transport their pilgrims at
specific times in order to avoid congestion on roads leading to
Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy said his ministry would punish Haj
service agents involved in selling Haj permits, adding that their
licenses would be suspended. He also disclosed plans to reduce the
service fee of Tawafa organization to the minimum.
“Efforts are also under way to increase space in the holy sites
and construct permanent resident buildings there to accommodate
more pilgrims,” the minister what quoted as saying by Al-Madinah
Arabic daily. “We are going ahead with various Haj development
projects with a futuristic vision,” he added. Al-Farsy said there
was no delay in allotting tents in Mina to pilgrims this year.
Throughout Thursday the pilgrims were reciting verse from the Holy
Qur’an and performing prayers. Many had a challenging time
circumambulating the Holy Kaaba in the center of the Grand Mosque
before the trek to Mina.
Police have set up dozens of checkpoints at all roads and highways
leading into Makkah to stop those without valid Haj permits from
undertaking the journey. But despite all the checkpoints, there
were still a number of people who were trying to circumvent their
way into Makkah. But their number seemed far less compare to
previous years. A major reason for this development is the fatwa
(religious edict) from Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh
who advised everyone not to disobey the rules governing the
performance of Haj.
Many pilgrims were seen making telephone calls to their beloved
ones before donning the ihram, the two pieces of seamless cloth
worn by the pilgrims.
The Haj is one the five major pillars, or tenets, of Islam that
followers of the religion must abide by. The others are the
Shahadah, the declaration of the faith; Salah the five daily
prayers; Zakah or mandatory giving of a portion of a person’s
wealth to the needy; and Saum or fasting during the month of
On Saturday, the pilgrims will move toward Mount Arafat where the
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered his last sermon
more than 14 centuries ago. The pilgrims will then return to Mina
after spending the night in Muzdalifah. They will throw stones at
Jamrat Al-Aqaba representing the devil and sacrifice animals to
mark the Eid Al-Adha, which starts on Sunday and will spend the
final two days in Mina to take part in the symbolic stoning of the