MINA, Aug 19, (Agencies): Pilgrims headed to Mina on Sunday to perform the rituals of the first day of Hajj called “Yawm At Tarwiyah”, meaning the day of quenching thirst before heading to Mount Arafat on Monday. The pilgrims would stay in Mina until sunrise, where they start heading to Mount Arafat, about 20 km east of Makkah. Arafat day is the main ritual of Hajj, where they stand in contemplative vigil to repent from their past sins and seek mercy from Almighty Allah.
Later on after sunset, pilgrims will proceed to Muzdalifah where they will spend the night praying and sleeping on the floor in the open, before heading back to Mina to perform the ritual of stoning the devil.
Mina is a headquarter to many governmental bodies providing services to facilitate pilgrimage for worshippers, while it also has large areas where tents are set for pilgrims. More than two million Muslims from around the globe started the Hajj on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest annual gatherings in a country undergoing unprecedented change.
The ultra-conservative kingdom – where religion remains a guiding force amid dramatic social and economic reforms has mobilised vast resources for the six-day journey, a pillar of Islam. “It’s the dream of every Muslim to come here to Makkah,” said Frenchman Soliman Ben Mohri. “It’s the ultimate journey. What worries me is the return to my normal life. For the moment, I am in a dream,” the 53-year old told AFP.
Every Muslim is required to complete the Hajj journey to Islam’s holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst ever disaster three years ago when around 2,300 worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede.
This year, the Saudis have launched a “Smart Hajj” initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care. The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Makkah had already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from abroad including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Wearing the simple white garb of the pilgrim, most of the faithful began moving on Sunday from Makkah to the nearby Mina valley.
They will spend the night there in fire-resistant tents in the desert, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Thousands of buses and vehicles carrying the pilgrims lined the eight kilometre (five-mile) road from Makkahto Mina. Many pilgrims made the journey walking under the scorching sun, some carrying white or blue umbrellas.
For the Muslim faithful, Hajj retraces the last steps of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and also honours the Prophets Abraham (PBUH) and Ishmael (PBUH). It ends with the Eid al-Adha feast, which is marked by the slaughter of sheep, a tribute to Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son.
Earlier in Makkah pilgrims performed a ritual walk seven times around the Ka’aba, a black masonry cube wrapped in a silk cloth embroidered in gold with Quranic verses at the centre of the Grand Mosque. The shrine is the point towards which Muslims around the world pray. “I feel so fortunate to be here,” said Nazia Nour, 36, who came to Saudi Arabia from Auckland. Pushing her father on a wheelchair, she added: “I can’t believe he (God) chose me.”