Hajj 2019: Some 2.5 Million Pilgrims Stand in Arafat

Published: Sun 11 Aug 2019 12:39 PM
Hajj 2019: Some 2.5 Million Pilgrims Stand in Arafat For Peak of Pilgrimage Before Starting Trek to Muzdalifah
The total number of international and domestic pilgrims this year is 2,489,406
On the second day pilgrims left Mina from the morning for Mount Arafat, where they stood in contemplation, praying and asking for forgiveness of sins
The faithful then started to head at sunset to Muzdalifah ahead of beginning the rituals of the third day of Hajj on Sunday, which also marks the first day of Eid El-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia, 10 August 2019 (CIC) – Nearly 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims marked on Saturday the second day of Hajj, the peak of the Islamic major pilgrimage, the world’s largest annual gathering of the faithful. The 2019 Hajj pilgrim numbers surpassed last year’s.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrived on Saturday in Mina, to supervise over the comfort of the pilgrims and the provision of services and facilities to them in order to perform their rituals easily and safely, according the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The Saudi General Authority for Statistics said on Saturday night that the total number of international and domestic pilgrims this year has reached2,489,406, including 1,855,027 pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom. A total of 634,379 are domestic pilgrims, 67% of them non-Saudis. The numbers for 2019 have already surpassed last year’s, when 2,371,675 pilgrims performed Hajj.
The number of male pilgrims, both international and domestic, was 1,385,234 pilgrims, while the female pilgrims numbered 1,104,172, it said.
Hajj officially started on the evening of 8th of Dhul Hijjah, or Friday August 9th, and lasts until the 12th of Dhul Hijjah but some pilgrims still perform Hajj on the 13th of the same Islamic month, corresponding to Wednesday August 14th.
The second day of Hajj is known as Yawm Arafa, as pilgrims left the holy site of Mina for Mount Arafat (also known as Arafa). Once at Mount Arafat – where Prophet Mohammed delivered his last sermon in 632 CE – the pilgrims stood in contemplation, praying and asking God for forgiveness of their sins amid continuous chanting of “Labbeika Allahumma Labbeik” (“Here I am, O God, here I am”). They also listened to a sermon near Jabal Al-Rahmah.
After sunset on Saturday, the pilgrims started to leave the Arafat holy site, to complete their journey of faith to Muzdalifah, another sacred site. At Muzdalifah, they spend the evening praying and sleeping on the ground under the open sky. They also gather pebbles for the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil on the third day of Hajj.
Pilgrims headed to Muzdalifah mostly aboard trains, or buses but some made the trek on foot.
The Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Benten praised the efforts of the government agencies in the service of pilgrims, which contributed to the success of its plans for the more than 2.4 million people to stand in Mount Arafat, thanks to round the clock cooperation between government agencies, as joint operations rooms continued to make sure services are available to the pilgrims.
In an interview with state-run Al Ekhbariya TV channel on Saturday, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Dr. Benten reviewed the efforts of the Kingdom in providing additional pilgrimage projects in 2019. He said the pilgrims had several options to reach Muzdalifah: a train that transports about 350,000 pilgrims, buses that will transport 900,000 pilgrims through frequency trips, as well a one-trip buses that will transport about 700,000 pilgrims. As many pilgrims enjoy taking the walking route, the asphalt was painted in temperature-reducing colors.
The minister spoke about the Makkah Route initiative, a program first launched by Saudi Arabia during Hajj 2017 with a view to facilitate travel by international pilgrims. The program started with some Malaysian pilgrims but the new procedure was later expanded to include other countries. This year the program was implemented at Jakarta, Dhaka, Kuala Lumpur, Islamabad, and Tunis airports, used by 171,648 pilgrims this Hajj.
Commenting on the Makkah Route initiative, which is in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030, Dr Benten said the Kingdom begins to serve pilgrims before their arrival. “There are electronic platforms that facilitate the registration of pilgrims, offices of pilgrims affairs in their countries inform them of services before they come, and their trip is scheduled before they come to the Kingdom,” the minister said.
Photo by CIC.
During Arafat Day, the pilgrims cram into an area that is about 33 square kilometers in area, making the movement of pilgrims between the holy sites, especially on peak day, a major logistical challenge that Saudi authorities undertake every year.
Mount Arafat was a sea of white on Saturday, peppered with other colours, as the pilgrims, in their Ihram white special garments, and with many pilgrims carrying green, yellow, blue or red umbrellas to guard against the scorching sun, began as of sunrise on Saturday to move to Arafat to stand there in contemplation before God. This segment of the second day’s ritual is referred to as “Standing before God,” and is one of the most solemn of the pilgrimage.
According to a well-known Hadith of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) “Hajj is Arafat”. This saying underscores the fact that standing in Arafat is key ritual of Hajj, the major Islamic pilgrimage. Muslim scholars have interpreted this saying as meaning ‘Whoever misses the standing (in Arafat) has missed Hajj’.
As part of the second day, the pilgrims also perform Sa’i, a key rite that involves walking back and forth seven times between Safa and Marwah hills near Kabaa in the Haram.
The pilgrims also perform prayers and listen to a sermon at Arafat’s 110,000-square-meter Masjid Namirah (Namirah Mosque) and the surrounding areas, which marks the location where Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) set camp before he delivered his final sermon.
Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is the most important spiritual journey in a Muslim’s life.
This year, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has directed hosting under a Hajj guests program 200 pilgrims of the families of the victims and injured of the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed more than 50 people. Some 6,500 pilgrims from 79 countries travelled to Makkah as guests of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah, which is implemented by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance. The guests include Islamic figures such as preachers, scholars, muftis, and officials, as well as the families of martyrs and the injured.
Speaking in Makkah, Rachid Omar, a pilgrim from New Zealand, whose son Tariq was killed in the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, said: “It’s a healing process. I feel like I’m at peace at the moment … everything is very peaceful, everyone is very nice with each other and—yeah, it has been a lovely experience so far.”
Asked what were his first thoughts when he reached Makkah, Omar said: “At first I didn’t believe I was on a flight coming here to Saudi Arabia, to Makkah, because it was a childhood dream coming here. At first, all I was thinking about was all in my supplication to my deceased son and also for myself to have—to heal myself and my wife and my family. That’s my main intention, apart from the main—doing the obligation of the fifth Islamic pillar, doing the Hajj.”
“I burst into tears when I saw the Kaaba .. I was thinking about my son. And also I was thinking about—I’ve been praying towards Kaaba all my life, and a few days ago, I’ve seen the real thing, and mashallah. It’s just indescribable, the feeling was so amazing, especially my first Tawaf and when I touched the wall of Kaaba. It was an amazing feeling.”
The Saudi Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah said on Saturday that the health situation of pilgrims is reassuring and no cases of epidemics or infectious diseases among the pilgrims have been recorded.
He said that as directed by King Salman to provide the best health care for pilgrims, preparations were underway long before Hajj, noting there were 25 hospitals in the Holy Sites, Makkah and Madinah with more than 5,000 beds serving pilgrims.
“We have around 30,000 people to serve pilgrims, in addition to great preparations in the Holy Sites .. We also have mobile clinics that provide services on site directly, and we have more than 100 mobile clinics that are close to gatherings of pilgrims to provide emergency services urgently for those in need,” he said in the remarks carried by SPA.
He said that “we transferred to Arafat Holy Site around 400 patients from hospitals outside Arafat, and some of them from Madinah, in order to ensure that they complete their Hajj rituals.”
According to the latest Ministry of Health statistics, 363,567 pilgrims received medical care free of charge in hospitals and health centers in Makkah and Madinah and the holy sites between July 4, when the Hajj season started, and Saturday August 10.
According to the ministry, a total of 29 open heart operations and 685 cardiac catheterizations were performed in the hospitals in Makkah and Madinah, along with 1,948 dialysis operations, 103 endoscopic operations and 532 different other surgeries, while 2,044 pilgrims were admitted to hospitals. Eight births were also recorded to date.
Before embarking on Hajj, pilgrims perform rituals such as donning Ihram, or the special white garments, signifying purity and equality, declaring their intention to perform the major pilgrimage; walking seven times counterclockwise around the Kaaba. Hajj started on Friday with Yawm Al Tarwiyah (Day of Quenching Thirst) with the performance of the first rituals, with pilgrims wearing the Ihram garments and heading to stay overnight in Mina, located between Makkah and Muzdalifah, seven kilometers north-east of the Grand Mosque.
One of the most beloved events of Hajj started on Friday night when the Kiswa, the finely embroidered cloth that covers the Kaaba at the center of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, was replaced, as it is customary, every year on the eve of second day of Hajj when most worshipers have made the trek to Arafat. The Kiswa replacement was carried out by 160 technicians and makers. The Kiswa consumes about 670 kilograms of raw silk and 120kg of gold wire and 100kg of silver wire.

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