MAKKAH — A white sea of pilgrims ascended the vast plains of Arafat on Monday to pray and repent at the climax of the annual pilgrimage of Haj, bringing together nearly 2.4 million faithful from around the world.
Men in white seamless garments and women in loose dresses, who came from 165 countries, assembled for one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has arrived in Mina on Monday evening to oversee the Kingdom’s Haj operation. Those performing Haj this year from within the Kingdom and abroad accounted for 2,371,675 pilgrims, according to the latest report of the General Authority for Statistics. These included 5,400 pilgrims who came to perform Haj under the King’s Guests Program. Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance announced that King Salman will meet the expenses of sacrificial animals for these pilgrims.
The journey of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat went smooth with no incidents. Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Naif and Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal closely followed the ascent of pilgrims on the plains of Arafat. Prince Khaled announced that the movement of pilgrims from Arafat to Muzdalifah has also been completed in a smooth manner.
Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said that no cases of epidemic diseases recorded among the pilgrims so far. The ministry took 420 pilgrims from the hospitals in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah to Arafat.
The pilgrims started arriving in Arafat since Monday morning either on buses, on foot or by Mashaer train from Mina where they stayed Sunday. Some pilgrims carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun as temperatures surpassed 40 degrees Celsius after an evening of thunderstorms and high winds.
Sheikh Hussein Bin Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, the imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, delivered the Arafat sermon and then led the prayers at the grand Namira Mosque.
Retracting the noble tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who said “Haj is Arafat”, pilgrims performed noon (Dhuhr) and evening (Asr) prayers, shortened and joined together, at the time of Dhuhr with one adhan and two iqamas, and then immersed in prayers seeking forgiveness and mercy of Almighty Allah as well as praying for the welfare of the Muslim Ummah and for world peace.
The standing at Arafat, one of the four pillars of Haj, began after noon prayers. Pilgrims engaged in prayers and supplication until after sunset. Arms raised, pilgrims repeated “There is no God but Allah” and “Allahu Akbar”(God is greatest). They were overwhelmed with feelings of passing through the most blessed moments during their lifetime spiritual journey.
“The feeling is indescribable,” said Umm Ahmad, 61, who made the journey from Egypt. Jai Saleem, a 37-year-old Pakistani, said he cried when he and his wife arrived on Mount Arafat. “It feels great,” he said. “I have always seen this area, since my childhood, in photographs and on television.”
“We know that it’s a difficult task,” said Amna Khan, a 35-year-old American Muslim pilgrim. “That’s why we are all here. We’re doing this to get closer to Allah, to be absolved.”
Many faithful could be seen sipping from bottles of water throughout the day. “I knew it would be a little hard to climb Mount Arafat,” said Nigerian pilgrim Saidou Boureima. “So I prepared for this challenge by working out. And God willing, we can see it through.”
Pakistani pilgrim Mohamed Forqan, 30, said it was a great day to be a Muslim. “Here in Arafat we feel that we are born today asking Allah to forgive our sins,” he said. Hilal Issa, 70, from Algeria, said he was praying for God to pardon all Muslims and save the Arab world from its afflictions.
Muslims across the world observed fasting on Monday in a sign of solidarity with the pilgrims. It is a great Sunnah for those who do not perform Haj to observe fasting on Arafat day.
After completing their main ritual of standing at Arafat in a smooth manner, pilgrims proceeded to Muzdalifah after sunset to pray the Maghreb and Isha together, stay the night and move after midnight or early morning to Mina to complete their Haj rituals including throwing the stones at the Jamarat, slaughtering their sacrificial animals, shave their heads, change into plain clothes and go to the Grand Mosque for the Tawaf Al-Ifadah (Tawaf of Haj) and sa’i, the remaining two pillars of Haj.
Majority of pilgrims from Asia
The total number of pilgrims who came to perform Haj reached 2,371,675, of whom 1,758,722 pilgrims are from outside the Kingdom, while the number of domestic pilgrims reached 612,953, according to the latest report of the General Authority of Statistics, released on Monday evening. The number of male pilgrims reached 1,327,127 while women accounted for 1,044,548.
Among the total number of foreign pilgrims, those from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states stood at 34,140 and that makes up 1.9 percent, and the number of pilgrims from the Arab countries, except the GCC states, reached 395,410 and this figure represents 22.5 percent.
According to the report, the number of pilgrims from Asian countries, except the Arab States, reached 1,049,496 that makes up 59.7 percent while the number of pilgrims of African countries, except the Arab countries, have reached 166,083, constituting 9.5 percent, and the number of pilgrims from the European countries stood at 88,601, representing five percent and the number of pilgrims of North and South America and Australia countries account for 24,992 and that constitutes 1.4 percent.