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Important spots for Hajj pilgrims in Mecca

Published : Wednesday, 23 October, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 213

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah are the three pertinent spots little away from the holy Kaaba and Masjid al Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, without visiting, staying and performing prayers and rituals there the hajj for a Muslim is never complete.

However, every pilgrim must perform Tawaf (anticlockwise walking seven times round the Kaaba and Sai (running seven times between the Safa and the Marwa hills) to conclude the hajj pilgrimage.

The 450 metre (1,480 feet) terrain where sai is performed was brought years ago under the extended part of the air-conditioned Masjid al Haram that encompasses the Kaaba, to which Muslim all over the world face while offering prayers five times a day. Running for seven round of sai amounts to some 3.2 km or 2.0 miles.

The Tawaf (the circumambulation seven times around the Kaaba) can range from 1.4 km to 4.1 km (depending on the crowd and which floor it is performed). Besides Mataf space around the Kaaba circumambulation can also be performed in three more levels.

Min? - the Tent City, 7 kilometres (4.4 miles) east of  the Kaaba, stands on the road from Mecca city centre to the Hill of Arafat. It covers an area of approximately 20 sqkm (7.7 sq mi). Mina is best known for the role it plays during the annual hajj with more than 100,000 air-conditioned tents that can house some more 3 million people for three to four days. This year in 2019 some 2.5 million pilgrims from across the world including 0.65 Saudis participated in the hajj.

Like every other years, all the male pilgrims wearing ihram - two pieces of seamless white cloths covering the lower and the upper portion of the body without covering the head moved to Mina from Mecca in droves within the first half of 8th Zilhaj.

Women pilgrims use normal wears but they must keep their faces and hand uncovered and are allowed perform rituals along with the male pilgrims. However, men and women have to stay and sleep in separate tents.

Ihram is also a vow for pilgrims to live a restrained life by shunning sex, perfumes, scented soaps and luxury items for couple of days during hajj.  Killing even insects, cutting own hair, nails etc and bickering with anyone including fellow pilgrims are also prohibited when passing days in Ihram for hajj.

Hundreds and thousands of devout Muslims who gather in Mecca ahead of the start of hajj are supposed to move in droves to Mina on 8th Zilhaj, the day of the start of the five - day hajj.  There they stay at their designated concrete tents to say prayers for the scheduled five times from noon (Zohar) on 8th Zilhaj to dawn (Fazar) prayer on the following day. After the daybreak the pilgrims are supposed to move to the foot of mountains Arafat 7  km east of Mina.

Thousands of air-conditioned buses are operated to transport the pilgrims near to the tent city, from where pilgrims chanting particular Quranic verses walk up to the designated tents with the help of volunteers, hajj officials and law enforcers. Streets around the important spots designated for hajj rituals are generally made out of bound for unauthorised vehicles.

Such a disciplined and orderly but short journey of hundreds and thousands of people with caravans of buses during the annual hajj is unique in the world. Despite facing hassles in boarding buses and walking along with the huge crowd, pilgrims show utmost patience and keep calm to find out their allocated tents among tens of thousands of such structures in Mina.
 But the schedules for the movement of pilgrims during hajj prescribed in Islamic tradition cannot be maintained now as the number of pilgrims has grown enormous over the years. It has become impossible to move such big number of pilgrims from one place to another simultaneously.

 Hence the hajj guides and agents are now allowed to move their pilgrims ahead or after the scheduled time to Mina from Mecca and to Arafat from Mina in thousands of air-conditioned buses. As a result many pilgrims move to Mina from Mecca late early on 8th Zilhaj.
 It may be mentioned here that the date of a lunar month begins immediately after the sunset. Similarly scores of pilgrims start for Arafat from Mina hours ahead of the start of 9th Zilhaj instead of the sunset.

After arriving at Mina on the 8th Zilhaj pilgrims irrespective of their financial,  social and political status have to accommodate themselves at the overcrowded tents and stay with minimum facilities and amenities. Because arranging optimum and adequate level of comfort and amenities for hundreds and thousands of pilgrims is not practically possible. Staying at Mina is almost compulsory for pilgrims on 8th Zilhaj and 10th Zilhaj to 12th, with one night on 9th at Muzdalifa.

The hajj authorities who arrange accommodations for the pilgrims also supply three meals, fruits,  dry foods,  tea in the morning and in the afternoon under an agreed hajj package. The management perhaps never fails to serve the pilgrims at an acceptable level which also includes medical services in need. The tents vary in size and accommode optimum number of people making the tents over crowded in terms of normal accommodations.

Gathering at Arafat on the 9th of Zilhaj by pilgrims is the most important part of the hajj. The Khutbah of hajj is narrated and Zohar and Asar prayers are prayed together. The pilgrims spend the whole day on the plain and the mountain to supplicate to Allah to forgive their sins and to pray for personal strength in the future. Failure to be present in the plain of Arafat on the required day invalidates the pilgrimage.

Temporary tents are set up at Arafat with massive public washrooms like those constructed at Mina and Muzdalifa capable to serve thousands of pilgrims simultaneously. Thousands of engineering,  technicians, plumbers, cleaners are engaged round the clock to serve the pilgrims. Still due to huge participation of pilgrims long queue are created in all massive wash rooms designated separately for men and women particularly at Mina mainly in the morning. 

The plain of Arafat on the foot of the 70 metre (230 feet) high Mount Arafat, a granite hill is located at  about 20 km (12 miles) east of central Mecca. It is also known  as the Mount of Mercy (Jabale e Rahmat), because according to Islamic belief  Prophet Adam and Bibi Hawa reunited on the earth after being ousted from the heaven. They were  also forgiven by Allah at this spot, according to the religious tradition. A pillar is erected to show the place where the aforementioned took place.

 Muslims also believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered his Farewell Sermon to the Muslims who had accompanied him in his only hajj in 632 AD,  just three months ahead of his demise.
After the hajj rituasls at Arafat at sunset pilgrims then move to Muzdalifa for Maghrib Prayer and a shortened (qasr) Isha prayer and for a short rest.

Muzdalifah is an open, level area near Mecca It lies just southeast of Mina, on the route between Mina and Arafat.
The Zamarat complex, the spot for stoning the Devilis also situated at a corner at Mina. The stoning is performed from 10th to 12th of the lunar month of Zilhaj during the annual hajj that starts on 8th. After the overnight camping on the street under the open sky with prayers and rest at Muzdalifah millions of pilgrims move to big Zamarat to stone the Devil on 10th Zilhaj. Each of them throw seven pebbles collected overnight from Muzdalifah.

After stoning Satan, pilgrims slaughter goats or lambs and shave off their heads. At this stage they return to their Mina tents and change over from Ihram to general apparels.

After stoning the devil from dawn to noon on the 10th Zilhaj - the day of Eid-ul-Azha, pilgrims rush back to Mecca to cicumambulate the Kaaba seven times and perform Sai between Safa and Marwa hills along with relevant prayers and rituals which also include drinking water of the amazing Zamzam well. 

After the rituals they flock back to Mina to stay next three more nights with stoning the devil two times at the three walls (previously pillars)  namely the small,  the medium and the big Zamarat on the 11th and the 12th Zilhaj. At each pillar every pilgrim throws seven pebbles each making the numbers of pebbles to 49 while stoning the Devil in the hajj. Stoning the Devil on the 11th and 12th Zilhaj is to be done any time  from the the Zohar (noon) prayer to before Magrib (after the sun set) prayer.

The stoning is obligatory for the pilgrims commemorating the occasion the Prophet Ibr?h?m stoned the Devil who tried to deflect the prophet from obeying the order of Allah.
The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer.

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