Angels of Arafat: How faith in oneself and others can help you sail through tough times

Muslim pilgrims gather on Mount Arafat. (AFP)
Updated 28 August 2018

Angels of Arafat: How faith in oneself and others can help you sail through tough times

MAKKAH: Hajj may have a different meaning for different people.

Besides prayers, days of intense physical activities are a humbling experience and teaches the faithful to survive in tough conditions.

In Arafat and Muzdalifa, I found the philosophy of life in a journey that lasted a day and a night.

Losing my way

Even though preparations start early, the day of Arafat is the most intense part of Hajj.

Our start from the Mina camp was delayed because a wind storm the previous evening had hampered preparations.

Due to slow-moving traffic, fellow pilgrims decided to leave the bus and walk toward Arafat. I joined them too.

But when you have millions of people walking around you in the same attire, keeping track of fellow pilgrims becomes next to impossible.

To me it seemed getting separated from the group and losing my way is where the actual journey of Arafat started.

Lost in Arafat

The heat in the Mount Arafat region was at its peak, so much so that I was not able to walk properly.

When the given address was nowhere to be found, I took refuge in a nearby camp housing pilgrims from Pakistan.

Pilgrims here not only gave me space to rest but also offered food and water and then guided me toward my destination.

On my way, I once again felt exhausted and this time decided to seek medical help from a nearby onsite government health care center.

At the clinic, staff were very responsive and efficient. They gave me ORS solution and I was back on my feet within minutes.

But, a few miles later, I felt exhausted again. With unbearable heat and surrounded by millions, I felt for a while that I wouldn't be able to survive and it was the end.

But there were more "Arafat angels" around to make things easier. The cleaner of a nearby camp rescued me this time around.

He took me inside a tent where several other pilgrims, separated from their groups, were trying to catch up with prayers.

Warm welcome

These pilgrims made me feel like a family.

This is when I decided not to waste time and energy in looking for my designated camp and instead spend the rest of my time here with the new Arafati family.

The group of people inside this tent were wonderful. None of us knew each other. All of us from different parts of world. We didn’t even speak the same language but we were all connected like a family.

The best part of the camp was a celebratory atmosphere about this special day in Arafat. They were praying as well as sharing food with each other. Some were reading the Qur’an, some were offering salat. And few were resting and having Kahwa.

The pilgrims also sang a very soulful Nasheed devoted to the day of Arafat.

Till this point I was worried about my health and whether I would be able to travel to Muzdalefa, our next stop.

But not anymore!

A Burmese family in the tent offered to give me a ride.

Hence, soon after sunset, we started a new journey with strangers. Noor and his wife and sisters were extremely caring.

We all traveled together. We spent a night at Muzdalefa together and by dawn we parted ways.

Lessons and reflections

Those 18 hours have been the experience of a lifetime for me.

A friend had rightly said: “Hajj is just a slight reflection of Youm Akhara (the Day of Judgment) when your loved ones will be nearby but you will still be all alone.”

During my Hajj journey, especially on Arafat day, I will never forget the souls as they came forward whenever we needed help the most.

I learned the most important lesson in life: How faith in oneself and others can help you sail through tough times.

Even if you are alone in the worst situation, Allah is there to rescue you. Just have faith!

Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019

Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Mohamed Jafar and Hany Osman, cabin crew with Saudi Arabian Airlines, were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels targeted
  • Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi says officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests

COLOMBO: Two Saudis were among 31 foreigners killed in a string of Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said on Monday, a day after the devastating attacks on hotels and churches killed at least 290 people and wounded nearly 500.

The extent of the carnage began to emerge as information from government officials, relatives and media reports offered the first details of those who had died. Citizens from at least eight countries, including the United States, were killed, officials said.

Among them were Saudis Mohammed Jafar and Hany Osman. They worked as cabin crew on Saudi Arabian Airlines, and were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels that were hit.

Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi said that officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests on the two Saudi victims, and only after these are received will their names be confirmed.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the Sri Lankan government believes the vast scale of the attacks, which clearly targeted the minority Christian community and outsiders, suggested the involvement of an international terrorism network.

“We don’t think a small organization can do all that,” he said. “We are now investigating international support for them and their other links — how they produced the suicide bombers and bombs like this.”

The attacks mostly took place during church services or when hotel guests were sitting down to breakfast. In addition to the two Saudis, officials said the foreign victims included one person from Bangladesh, two from China, eight from India, one from France, one from Japan, one from The Netherlands, one from Portugal, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the UK, two people with US and UK dual nationalities, and two with Australian and Sri Lankan dual nationalities.

Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were among the foreigners who were killed, a spokesman for the family confirmed. Povlsen is the wealthiest man in Denmark, the largest landowner in Scotland and owns the largest share of British online fashion and cosmetics retailer Asos.

Two Turkish engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka also died in the attacks, the English-language Daily Sabah newspaper reported. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gave their names as Serhan Selcuk Narici and Yigit Ali Cavus.

Fourteen foreign nationals remain unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said, adding that they might be among unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s morgue.

Seventeen foreigners injured in the attacks were still being treated at the Colombo National Hospital and a private hospital in the city, while others had been discharged after treatment.