[HIGH P0INT: Jabal Al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy on the plains of Arafat is flooded by Hajis during the peak of the annual pilgrimage on Monday. (AN photos by Abdullah Al-Mohsen)]
By SIRAJ WAHAB
Arafat, (Arab News): A white sea of faithful surged from Mina to Arafat as dawn broke on the second day of the five-day event.
Waves of men in seamless white robes and veiled women in long dresses joined voices in a crescendo chanting Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik (O God, here I am answering your call).
The pilgrims were completely lost to their surroundings in a fervor of religious enthusiasm. Many had tears streaming down their cheeks while others raised their faces to the sky, beseeching Allah for forgiveness and mercy.
It was hot, with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius. However, the harsh sun did not dampen the spirit of the pilgrims and they remained unperturbed and continued to recite Qur’anic verses with even greater vigor.
Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh addressed the vast multitude of Hajis. Delivering his sermon from the pulpit at the majestic Al-Nimira Mosque, Al-Asheikh said: “The Muslim community is targeted by the enemies of Islam … They want to serve blows, sow divisions and spread chaos … So it is necessary for us to control this … It is necessary for Muslims to protect their homelands.”
He urged Muslims to avoid divisions, chaos and sectarianism. Al-Asheikh said there was “no salvation or happiness for the Muslim nation without adhering to the teachings of the religion.”
At a little distance away from mosque, tears rolled down the cheeks of pilgrims as they climbed Jabal Al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered his final sermon more than 14 centuries ago.
The hillside was flooded by pilgrims who sat or stood there for hours contemplating and praying. Standing at Mount Arafat in prayer before sunset on 9th Dul Hijjah is the high point of the Haj.
Among the heads of performing Haj were Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Turkish President Abdullah Gul. India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed his admiration for the Saudi government “for the excellent arrangements for the pilgrims.” Speaking to Arab News, he said: “On behalf of the government of India, I congratulate the Saudi leadership for the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.”
The faithful spent the day praying for mercy and forgiveness. “I can’t describe my feelings in words,” said senior Indian journalist Qurban Ali. “Coming to Haj was a long-cherished dream, and now that it has come true I have no words to describe my happiness.” As he spoke, Ali’s voice choked with emotions. “It is the wish of every Muslim to perform Haj, but only the lucky ones get the chance to be part of this vast concourse of Muslims,” he said.
Syrian pilgrim Mohammed Firas has come to Haj without his children. “They were killed in the ongoing civil war,” he told The Associated Press. “I pray to God on this great day to swiftly lift our country’s suffering.” Obaid Arif, a young telecom engineer from Karachi, Pakistan, was equally thrilled. “All my life, I dreamed of performing Haj,” he told Arab News. Hiding away his tears, he said: “Till the last minute, I was not sure if I would make it. I made it. Praise be to God.” Arif said since he was bothered by the bad situation in his home country, praying for peace and stability in Pakistan was his priority. “I am praying for my country,” he said. “We are a great country and we just need peace and stability to take root. If that happens, and InshaAllah, it will, we will thrive and prove all the naysayers wrong.”
Palestinian pilgrim Mahmood Dabbagh said: “Here at Arafat, tears speak louder than words.”
The Saudi leadership and arrangements came in for special praise from the pilgrims. “I want to thank Saudi Arabia and its leadership for all their efforts in making the pilgrimage easier,” said educationist Mohammed Abdullah, from Jalna, India.
An elderly Afghan pilgrim Obaidullah Orakzai, said Arafat reminded him of the last prophet (pbuh). “He asked us to undertake this journey and here we are. We have been undertaking this journey for the last 14 centuries and Muslims will continue to do so until the Day of Judgment,” he said.
Local food and drinks companies distributed their products for free to the crowds, and each time distribution trucks opened their bay doors hundreds flocked to catch the drinks thrown from them.
Soon after sunset, the pilgrims headed to nearby Muzdalifah where they will spend the night under the open skies and collect pea-sized pebbles to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual on Tuesday in Mina.