Pilgrims gather in Arafat at Haj climax

Updated 24 September 2015
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Pilgrims gather in Arafat at Haj climax

ARAFAT: Nearly two millions pilgrims from 164 nations gathered on Wednesday on the plains of Arafat, about 20 km from Makkah, for what is described as the most important and central element of the five-day annual Haj pilgrimage.
The pilgrims began moving into Arafat from Mina on Tuesday night. They took trains and buses to make the 14-km journey from Mina to Arafat. The weather was very harsh and instead of the sea of white that is the usual image during Haj, the multicolored umbrellas provided a different appearance to the landscape.
Helicopters hovered overhead and it was only when one got close to the Al-Namira Mosque that one had a clear sense of the millions that are here for Haj. The pilgrims, especially men, packed the massive mosque to listen to the Haj sermon delivered by Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh.
In the front row in the mosque was Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, wearing the two-piece mandated seamless white cloth. Outside the mosque, hundreds of thousands had lined up row after row in order to pray the combined Dhuhr and Asr prayers. It was a very dense crowd with every pilgrim lost in contemplation and reflection. They were beseeching Allah to forgive their sins of omission and of commission.
Most of the pilgrims, with their voices quivering, eyes moist and foreheads beady with perspiration, were praying for an easy life in the hereafter. Many women pilgrims also prayed for their children and grandchildren.
The pilgrims were thanking Allah for having provided them the means and the physical strength to undertake the journey of a lifetime.
Rafe Nayeemul Hassan from Bangladesh was happy beyond words. “Allah has been very kind to me,” he said. “Only the lucky ones get to come here to this blessed land.”
Hassan’s wife, Maimoona, was also ecstatically happy. “I feel as if a big load has been lifted from my back,” she said. “I feel light and exactly like a newborn. I have cleaned the slate of my past life and all that I do henceforth will be a new life. I will spend my life in the service of Allah who blessed us with seven children, all of whom are happily married and settled.”
Akram Ghannam, 45, from war-torn Syria, told AFP that being in Arafat is a feeling that cannot be described. “I pray to Allah to ease the pains of all those who are oppressed,” he said.
Naimatullah Jagirdar, from India, came to perform Haj for his late father. “He wanted to come for Haj three years ago. He applied but his name was not among those drawn in the lottery which selects the limited number of Indians who come. That very year, he died and while he was on his deathbed, I promised him that I would perform Haj on his behalf. And today I did.”
As he said those last words, he cried inconsolably. “This is the least I could do for my late father,” he said, burying his face in his hands to hide his tears.
Yawar Ali Qureshi, from Pakistan, was busy praying and meditating on Jabal Al-Rahma, the Mount of Mercy. He recited verses from the Holy Qur’an. “There are so many people here. Millions. But everyone is lost in himself or herself. This is what it will be like on the Day of Judgment,” he said. “Everyone will be worried because he/she will be accountable for what they did in this world. Being here on this day is a blessing from Allah. Now we get a chance to repent and to start a new life of piety and good deeds,” said Qureshi.
“I got goosebumps, a feeling that cannot be explained, when I got to the top of Jabal Al-Rahma,” Ruhaima Emma, a 26-year-old Filipino pilgrim, told AFP. “I pray for a good life for everyone,” she said.
As the pilgrims stood in prayer at Arafat, millions of Muslims around the world prayed for their safety and well-being. Photos of pilgrims from Arafat and the live feeds on television channels moved the entire Ummah and they turned to social media to congratulate the pilgrims on having made it to Arafat. “O, Allah accept the prayers of the pilgrims,” wrote Ziyad Muammar, a Twitter user from Egypt. “Just as the Muslims are united on the plains of Arafat, may they be united everywhere on this planet.”
As the sun went down, the pilgrims began the journey to Muzdalifa which is about 9 km from Arafat. They will spend the night under the open skies, collect nearly 50 pea-sized pebbles and return to Mina on Thursday morning to perform the other rituals, including the stoning of the devil.


Saudi Arabia says halt in arms sales will embolden Iran

Updated 20 June 2019
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Saudi Arabia says halt in arms sales will embolden Iran

  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir was speaking after UK suspended issuing new licenses for weapons sales to the Kingdom in response to a court ruling
  • UK government disagrees with the judgement and will seek permission to appeal

LONDON: Halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia will only benefit Iran, Adel Al-Jubeir said Wednesday, after the British government announced it would suspend issuing new licenses for the sale of arms to the Kingdom.

The UK’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced the decision in parliament after a court ordered the government to “reconsider” the sales because of their humanitarian impact in Yemen.

Fox said he disagreed with the judgement and would seek permission to appeal.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said the deployment of weapons in Yemen was legitimate.

“The decision by the court in the UK has to do with procedures for licensing, not any wrongdoing that took place,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters in London.

“The coalition is an ally of the West and the coalition is fighting a legitimate war at the behest of a legitimate government to stop Iran and its proxies from taking over a strategically important country - so the only beneficiary of a cut-off of weapons to the coalition is going to be Iran.”

The court ruling does not halt Britain's arms exports but means the granting of new licences will be paused.

Leading British defence firm BAE Systems said it would continue to support the UK government “in providing equipment, support and training under government to government agreements between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia is part of the Arab coalition fighting to support the internationally recognized government in Yemen which was driven from the capital Sanaa in 2014 by Iran-backed militants.

Saudi Arabia accounted for 43 percent of Britain's global arms sales in the past decade, Reuters reported.

The legal action against the British government was brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

Meanwhilw, a State Department official said the US must stand with Saudi Arabia as a key security partner, when asked about the Thursday's court ruling in the UK.
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper said both the US and Britain had long-standing bilateral ties to Saudi Arabia.
"They are carrying a significant amount of equity to protect US interests and US persons, and it is incumbent upon us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners, especially when they are on the front line for our interests," he said.

*With Reuters