Pilgrims gather in Arafat at Haj climax

Updated 24 September 2015

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 eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Updated 26 May 2020

Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Curfew to be eased on Sunday, except in Makkah, as domestic travel permitted
  • All curfews in Saudi Arabia to be lifted by June 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced the easing of restrictions that has halted much of the activity in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday 31, May, the curfew on all areas of the Kingdom will be eased, except Makkah. Movement in cities and within the regions of the country will again be permitted, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The easing will mean the Kingdom’s 24-hour lockdown is relaxed with a curfew from 3 p.m to 6 a.m until Sunday, after which the hours will change to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Makkah will remain under a full 24-hour lockdown.

On June 21, all curfews in the Kingdom will be lifted and prayers at Makkah’s mosque will be permitted.

Before then, social distancing guidelines must continue to be adhered to and gatherings of more than 50 people will continue to be banned.

Authorities have also allowed the attendance at ministries, government agencies and private sector companies, and the return of their office activities.

Some economic and commercial activities will also be allowed to take place including those at wholesale and retail shops, as well as malls. Cafes will be permitted to operate once more.

However, all job sectors where social distancing rules are harder to achieve such as beauty salons, barbershops, sports and health clubs, recreational centers and cinemas will remain closed.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights will continue to be suspended until further notice.

The new rules are subject to constant evaluation at the health ministry and can be changed if the situation warrants it.

Earlier, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the health minister, said: “The phases start gradually until we return to normalcy, with its new concept based on social distancing.” 

He added that the precautionary steps taken by the Kingdom early in the outbreak helped to limit the spread of the virus. 

Now, he said, the ministry has developed a plan for the next phase that relies on two main factors: The capacity of the health care system to cope with critical cases, and the expansion of testing to identify new infections as soon as possible.

Reassuring the Saudi nation on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The bad conditions will pass, God willing, and we are heading toward the good, God willing.” 

The Kingdom recorded 2,235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total to 74,795, and the death toll rose by nine to 399. Worldwide the virus has infected more than 5.5 million people and killed nearly 350,000.