MAKKAH: Over two million pilgrims from all parts of the world, expected to perform Hajj this year, Tuesday began their journey from the holy city of Makkah to nearby Mina for the world’s largest annual gathering.
Hundreds of thousands undeterred by a crane collapse in Makkah this month that killed 109 people and injured nearly 400 at the Grand Mosque arrived in the holy city to perform the pilgrimage.
Beginning of Hajj
The hajj begins with Tarwiah Day, when pilgrims traditionally watered their animals and stocked water for their trip to Mount Arafat, about 10 kilometers southeast of Mina.
The Hajj pilgrims spend their time there in prayer and reciting the Holy Quran. The Arafat Day, which falls tomorrow (Wednesday), will be the climax of the pilgrimage. The Imam offers the sermon of Hajj at Mount Arafat.
On Arafat Day, on the 9th of Zilhaj, September 23 this year, the pilgrims gather on the hill known as Mount Arafat, and its surrounding plain, where they remain until evening for prayer and Quran recitals. Hazrat Mohammed (P.B.U.H) , the Prophet of God, delivered his final Hajj sermon there.
Stage of Ihram
With the start of hajj, pilgrims enter the stage of ihram — a state of purity in which they must not wear perfume, cut their nails, or trim their hair or beards.
In ihram, men wear a seamless two-piece shroud-like white garment, emphasising unity regardless of social status or nationality. Women must wear loose dresses exposing only their faces and hands.
After sunset on the 9th of Zilhaj, pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah, half-way between Arafat and Mina, where they stay at least until midnight. They gather pebbles to perform ‘Rami’, the symbolic stoning of the devil.
After dawn prayers on the 10th of Zilhaj, or the Eid ul-Azha feast, pilgrims return to Mina. The first of three stoning rites, known as Jamarat al-Aqabah, begins after sunrise. Traditionally, seven pebbles are thrown at a post representing the devil, emulating the actions of Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S).
Since 2004, it has been replaced by walls to accommodate the rising numbers of pilgrims and avoid deadly incidents.
After the first stoning, sheep are slaughtered and the meat distributed to needy Muslims, symbolising Hazrat Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Hazrat Ismail (A.S) on the order of God, who provided a lamb in the boy’s place at the last moment.
The Hajj rites start on the 8th of the Islamic month of Zilhaj and end on the 13th. The hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and every capable Muslim must perform the pilgrimage at least once in their life.