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#3211 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:47
Jabal Rahma draws pilgrims
‘like iron filings to a magnet’

THE MOUNT OF MERCY: On the plains of Arafat, Jabal Al-Rahma remains the most important place for pilgrims to go.

15 october 2013

In the plains of Arafat, pilgrims are greeted even from a distance by two significant landmarks. One is the majestic Nimira Mosque and the other is Jabal Al-Rahma or the Mount of Mercy.

Jabal Al-Rahma is a small hillock and it is from this platform that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, delivered his unforgettable farewell sermon, enunciating far-reaching religious, economic, social and political reforms.

A small white pillar atop the hillock denotes the place where the Prophet stood more than 14 centuries ago. It is the wish of every pilgrim to reach Jabal Al-Rahma and pray in its vicinity.

On Monday, the scene was no different. Pilgrims, including the elderly and women, were climbing the mount and trying to secure a good location to pray and supplicate.

“This is the place from where our Prophet addressed us and so it is emotionally significant for us to get as close to it as possible,” said Sarah Sharaya, en elderly pilgrim from Egypt. “This is out of our reverence for our beloved Prophet.”

Osman Mustafa, from Khartoum, Sudan, said: “There is nothing greater than walking in the footsteps of the Prophet. I wish all Muslims can also follow all that the Prophet said from this place centuries ago.”

Many scholars repeatedly advise pilgrims not to attach any significance to the place, but pilgrims from all countries are instinctively drawn to the Mount of Mercy like iron filings to a magnet.

“This is such a vast plain, and one can stay anywhere,” admitted Rahat Farooqui, a young Pakistani pilgrim. “But I get a spiritual high when I come close to the Jabal Al-Rahma. It reinforces my faith in Islam and my undying love for our Prophet.”

Early in the morning the mount was filled with the faithful, wearing the white ihraam. The searing sun was no deterrence for the spiritually charged pilgrims. From distance and from the pictures, the Jabal Al-Rahma looked like a vast sheet of multicolored cloth, thanks to the hundreds and thousands of multi-colored umbrellas that the pilgrims use for shade.

In Arabia, Jabal Al-Rahma is also called as Jabal Al-Dua or the Mount of Prayers.

Black rocks surround the hillock, which is about 300 meters tall and in the center. The white pillar on top of it measures seven meters.

From the mount, one gets a panoramic view of the vast plains of Arafat.

Although to stand at the top of the mountain is not among the duties of Haj, many pilgrims believe that it is among the rites of Arafat. This is a misconception because standing in Arafat means spending time prayers and supplication anywhere within the boundaries of Arafat.

The plains of Arafat are surrounded by an arc of hillocks and the Arna Valley. It covers an area of 10 square kilometers, and it is uninhabited except during Haj. With the exception of some government buildings, there is no other construction in the area.

Standing in Arafat, known is Arabic as wuqoof-e-Arafat is the most important pillar of Haj.


Advice at Jabal ar-Rahmah

Dear pilgrims: your belief that it is obligatory to climb Jabal ar-Rahmah
(The Mount of Mercy) is a reprehensible innovation, so don't do that.

When tears speak louder than words

15 October 2013

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.


Duped 20,000 pilgrims find no Mina transport


15 october 2013

Some 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims complained that their service providers failed to provide them with train tickets, which they paid for as part of their package.

The pilgrims said the service providers promised to arrange transportation for them by train, but failed to arrange tickets for them, describing their behavior as negligent and irresponsible.

Naved Ahmed told Arab News that the service providers charged him and other pilgrims in the group for the train service as part of the Haj package. However, when they reached Makkah they were not given train tickets.

“After much complaining and frantic calls, officials finally responded and arranged buses for some of us. However before last night, there was no response from any of the organizers. In one instance, one official told us that the government would reimburse us for the amount we paid for transportation, instead of reassuring us that our requests would be met,” Ahmed added.

Arab News contacted Syed Akif, director general of the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs to inquire about the services provided to Pakistani Hajis.
Akif’s answer was that pilgrims facing transportation difficulties are not the ministry’s responsibility as they (the pilgrims) have contracted with private Haj service providers, who do not fall under the government’s Haj scheme.

“We have no idea about this problem, as we are not responsible for pilgrims who came with private tour operators; they never involve us in their arrangements. However, if I am given the name of the officials in charge, I will see what I can do for them.”


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#3212 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:48
Hajj Statistics

IFF volunteers assist Hajis

15 Oct 2013 - The Indian Fraternity Forum (IFF), a leading Indian community organization, has deployed over 800 volunteers to assist Haj pilgrims in Mina and other holy sites in Makkah.
EM Abdullah, IFF regional coordinator, said that the first group of 100 volunteers left for Arafah from Jeddah on Sunday, while 75 IFF volunteers from Makkah are already assisting pilgrims.
Another 200 volunteers will be in Arafah starting on Monday and all IFF volunteers will be based in the holy city in phases till the departure of all Haj pilgrims.
EM Abdullah said that the IFF volunteers were presently assisting pilgrims board Mashaer train service and will broaden their services to other areas in the coming days.
The IFF also expressed appreciation to the Indian consulate and Saudi authorities for providing accommodation to the volunteers in Mina to assist pilgrims.

974 Haj-bound expats arrested in Jeddah

15 Oct 2013 - Security forces across the Kingdom are on an alert mode and have arrested hundreds of unauthorized pilgrims and sent back thousands who tried to sneak into the holy city of Makkah to perform Haj without permits.

Jeddah Police have arrested 974 expatriates, including some Asian women, who tried to sneak into Makkah without Haj permits. “Police backed by CID teams are active at all the embarkation points in Jeddah. These expats were arrested when they tried to sneak into Makkah for Haj without permit,” First Lt. Nawaf Bouq of Jeddah Police told Arab News. Police also seized 123 vehicles, which were used for transporting illegal pilgrims.

The arrested expatriates included Pakistanis, Yemenis, Egyptians, Indians and some other nationalities, he said, adding that this was in addition to over 3,000 pilgrims who were turned back by police forces.

Nawaf Bouq said that police, using loud-speakers, were continuously warning pilgrims not to break rules, but those who ignored the warnings were arrested. The police arrested 24 Indonesian women on Sunday when they tried to enter Makkah without permits, he said.

Meanwhile, checkpoints at the main entrance of Taif have turned back thousands of pilgrims who were on the way to Makkah from Riyadh and other regions to perform Haj. Temporary checkpoints at Asheera near Taif also turned back 5,000 violators besides seizing hundreds of vehicles. Security was beefed up at Hada check-post to curb illegal entry to Makkah.
At Qunfuda border checkpoint for pilgrims from Southern Province, 200 persons were arrested and another 6,000 sent back. Police also seized over 1,000 vehicles used to transport unauthorized pilgrims.

120,000 violators sent back

15 Oct 2013 - Makkah Governor and Chairman of the Haj Central Committee Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said 95 illegal Haj companies had been discovered across the Kingdom and their staff arrested. More than 120,000 violators of Haj regulations and about 46,000 cars were sent back.

In an interview with Saudi Channel One, he said that the reduction in the number of domestic and external pilgrims had a positive impact on pilgrim movements and the number of accidents. There was a reduction of 20 percent of foreign pilgrims and 50 percent of domestic Hajis from last year.

Prince Khaled said the government departments’ stations in Mina will be moved to the new complex. This year, some stations shifted into 10 buildings in the complex from a total of 50 which will be ready by the next Haj season. This will free 23 percent of the tents’ area for pilgrims. However, field staff will continue to be present in the tent areas.

He said the Ministry of Haj had approached more than 30 domestic-pilgrim companies to offer low-cost programs ranging between SR2,500 and SR5,000.
He said there was increased awareness of Haj regulations this year.
“We succeeded in convincing people that respecting regulations is part of self-respect and respect for the country one is living in. We will not allow an illegal pilgrim to cause inconvenience to legal pilgrims whose safety and dignity must be respected.”

186,000 pilgrims from Turkey, Europe and US are performing Haj

15 oct - ABHA — A total of 186,000 pilgrims have come from Turkey, Europe, America and Australia to perform Haj this year, according to their Mutawif Tariq Anqawi, who said as many as 44 field teams have been mobilized to serve them.

Anqawi said the number of pilgrims from these countries used to number about 250,000 but has gone down under the 20 percent cut in the number of external pilgrims because of the ongoing expansion projects in the Grand Mosque.

He said there was a slight increase in the pilgrims who came from New Zealand and some Caribbean countries. "We understood the decision to cut down the number of pilgrims which will reduce the crowd and ensure a safe and secure pilgrimage," he said.

Anqawi said the reduction of the number of pilgrims will also ensure them with better services. "There is a growing need for the expensive special services. Because of these costly services we have not incurred any losses as a result of the drop in the number of pilgrims," he said.

He said about 50 percent of their pilgrims will remain in Mina until Dhul Hijja 13 (October 18) to spare them the crowd in the Grand Mosque on Dhul Hijja 12. Anqawi said about 6,000 of his pilgrims were transported by the Mashair train because their camps were close to the Jamarat area.

All went well and according to plan

15 Oct 2013 - ARAFAT — Civil Defense plan for smooth movement of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat and then to Muzdalifah went off perfectly well. Saudi Gazette was able to monitor the movement and the success of the plan from a helicopter provided by Commander of Security Aviation Maj. Gen. Muhammad Al-Harbi. The S92 helicopter was flown by Capt. Fahd Al-Ghaith and his assistant Capt. Sultan Al-Bishri at a height of 2,500 feet.

Al-Harbi said daily monitoring from air has shown that all is going according to the plans laid down by authorities. The situation was reassuring in Arafat and the other holy sites. Security helicopters monitored smooth flow of traffic while pilgrims moved from Mina to Arafat.

The Civil Defense has established special teams comprising officers and privates to preserve the safety of pilgrims during the stone-throwing ritual at the Jamarat Bridge. The teams will professionally deal with all possible risks, provide rescue services and evacuate pilgrims in case of emergency.

Commander of the Civil Defense forces at the Jamarat area Col. Nasser Bin Ali Al-Nahari said their teams will focus on the safety of pilgrims during the stone-throwing ritual.

He said his forces will also extend support, whenever necessary, to the security forces in the Grand Mosque, the Civil Defense centers in the holy sites, the Makkah municipality and all the other vital establishments. Col. Al-Nahari said Civil Defense units on the Jamarat bridge will guard all entrances and exists especially during peak hours. He said the teams have been equipped with the necessary tools to carry out their duties including protective clothes and gurneys to evacuate the sick and injured. “The teams have been thoroughly trained before the Haj and they have carried out a number of drills,” he said.

“The operations room of the General Security will provide officers with data on the movement of pilgrims and inform them of any emergency situations,” he added.

‘We gave up our play time to serve pilgrims’

15 Oct 2013 - HOLY SITES — “We left playing so as to serve the guests of Allah,” Rital and Ilyana, two young girls said, expressing their happiness to serve pilgrims. They did not care about the material reward for their services. All that they cared for were the smiles of satisfaction and happiness that they exchange with the guests of Allah and the encouragement and praise that they hear from their father and the employees of the establishment.

The Tawafa Establishment for South Asian Pilgrims has granted work permits to the two youngest female mutawwifs to participate in the annual program prepared for the women’s section so as to serve the women guests of Allah during the Haj season this year after the two girls Rital (6) and Ilyana (4), the daughters of the mutawwif Yasser Ahmad Mahboob, Chairman of the Field Service Office No. 72, voluntarily gave up playing with their toys during Eid Al-Adha vacation.

Instead they participated with their father in serving pilgrims in the holy sites. Mahboob, the two girls’ father, said his daughters’ work has come so as to instill the Tawafa profession in the young and revive the traditions that were there in the homes of mutawwifs since olden times.

All the family members of the mutawwif, both males and females, work in serving pilgrims. He confirmed that the experience will have a positive effect on his daughters’ personalities.

He said he has discerned their love to help others and they mix with people. The two girls are keen to learn the occupation of their father and grandfathers and their interest to depend on themselves.

Savings box helps Pak woman, 85, perform Haj

15 Oct 2013 - HOLY SITES — The long distance, travel expenses and old age have not prevented Amina, an 85-year-old Pakistani woman, from performing Haj after several failed attempts to come to the Kingdom.

Amina said she used a black box to put her savings in but did not think it would take her years to collect enough money to perform the obligatory pilgrimage.

“I made the black box myself to save money and keep it away from sight so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend it. I didn’t realize that I would be performing Haj when I reached 85,” she said, adding she broke down into tears the first time she saw the Kaaba.

Amina said since her group arrived in the Kingdom, Saudi authorities warmly welcomed them and were hospitable.

“Makkah is much more beautiful when you see it with your own eyes. It has a reverence that a even a stony heart cannot bear without becoming emotional.”

Livestock market replete with sheep and cattle for Adahi

15 Oct 2013 - JEDDAH — There are more than 3.2 million heads of sheep, cattle and camels currently available in all livestock markets in Saudi Arabia for residents to choose their sacrificial animal for the Eid Al-Adha.

Deputy chairman of the livestock committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Fahd Al-Sulami told Saudi Gazette that the pilgrims consume about one million of these animals while the citizens and expatriates consume the other 2.2 million.

He said about 75 percent of the animals to be slaughtered during the Eid Al-Adha this year have been imported from outside while 25 percent of them have been raised locally by animal breeders. The Eid will start today (Tuesday) and continue for two more days.

Al-Sulami praised the government subsidies to the domestic animal breeders and said this support is manifested by the reduction of the prices of barley and other animal fodders. He said a number of Saudi animal importers have established special centers to assemble the sheep imported from Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti.

Al-Sulami considered the current animal price hikes to be only temporary coinciding with the Eid Al-Adha and said the increases ranged between 10-20 percent. He expected the prices to go up by about 100 percent on the Eid eve. “The prices will go back to their normal rates after the Eid,” he said.

The deputy chairman said the prices of the sheep imported from Somalia and Djibouti range between SR450 and SR500 while the Sudanese sheep start at SR600 and go up to about SR900. “The locally bred Al-Nuaimi sheep are the most expensive. Their prices start at SR1,600 and go up to SR2,000,” he said. He said the rises in the animal prices have become an annual phenomenon with the Haj season every year. “The prices usually go up during the three Eid days before they return back to normal. A day after the Eid the prices will be affordable to every interested buyer,” he said.

Al-Sulami noted that the Saudis prefer local animals while expatriates go for the imported sheep because of their reasonable prices. “Some Saudi families slaughter more than one sheep for their Adahi while some of them do the Adahi on behalf of their dead relatives,” he said. He said the Saudi Arabia Sacrificial Meat Project, being managed by the Islamic Development Bank, has helped stabilize prices through the provision of enough quantities of sheep for the pilgrims to use for Hadi, Adahi and Fidda.

The bank sells the sacrificial coupons for pilgrims at Al-Rajihi bank all over the Kingdom especially in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites. The price of the coupon is SR490.

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#3213 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:49
Ancient Pilgrimage


Some Haj traditions lost to modernity

WANING TRADE-ITION: Sellers offering their wares in Makkah in 1953. (Photo courtesy National Geographic)

15 october 2013

As with any annual event that grows over time, Haj has become a complex, carefully choreographed ritual that leaves little wriggle room to include some of the simple traditions of the past.

In fact, it’s inevitable. Up until this year, about 3 million pilgrims converged in Makkah. This year it’s about 1.5 million. In 1941, it was just 24,000. In the 1960s, it might have been a couple of hundred thousand pilgrims.

But imagine a time when Makkah was virtually empty as pilgrims headed for the holy sites. And imagine the intimacy of staying in Makkah with a small group of friends, friendly strangers offering their homes for shelter and the celebrations. The modern world has been it difficult continue some of these cherished traditions.

Even receiving Zamzam water has evolved over the decades.

“There were special people for delivering Zamzam water to pilgrims’ places of residence for a fee,” recalled Fuad Nayta of Haj about 50 years ago. “Zamazmahs had a job to replace Zamzam flasks at the Holy Mosque. There was a person who prepared Zamzam in metal cans called Samkari. He’d fix metal into the shape of the cans, fill the can with Zamzam water and then seal it so pilgrims can take it back home as gifts for family and friends.”

An older Saudi, Abdullah, who performed Haj more than 50 years ago, recalled an even earlier practice. He said Zamazemahs brought Zamzam water from the well and placed it in a large pottery reservoir and then poured it into small pottery flasks to keep it cool. Delivery was made door to door and replaced daily with new cool pottery flasks. “The flasks were scented with misk incense,” he said.

Today, Haj companies perform a very structured, yet complete service for a fee that starts at about SR6,000. But Haj pilgrims once relied on Al Mutawifeen, whose job was to be responsible for one nationality of foreign pilgrims to provide housing, food and transportation.

The Mutawif personally took pilgrims to Al-Haram, Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina before returning them to Makkah. Mutawifeen were a family business handed down from one generation to another. The same family took care of the same nationality year after year because they spoke the language and had become familiar with their clients’ culture.

“The Mutawif used to market his service by going to the pilgrims’ country to connect with his past clients,” one Mutawif told Arab News.

Mutawifeen would rent their entire houses to pilgrims and take rooms on another floor or move out entirely, taking their furniture with them and allowing their guests to move in rented furniture.

“The connections and relationships grew between the pilgrims and the people of Makkah,” said one elderly Makkah resident whose aunt opened her home each year to strangers.

“Pilgrims lived among us.

They mixed with the family hosting them and we exchanged cultural traditions, learned from each other and cooked together. That is why Makkah’s cuisine is so rich. They even intermarried. It was once said that a lucky girl gets married to the Mutawif’s son.”

One tradition now extinct was the celebration among women and children who stayed behind in Makkah while pilgrims trekked to the holy sites. Known then as Gais, it was celebrated by the women when men went off to perform Haj.

The shops closed and housewives baked just before Haj traditional pastries of ma’moul and ghuraibah. They would design the treats in different shapes and sizes. No house was empty.

With this newfound liberty, the women would wear costumes and some would don their husband’s thobes or even police uniforms.

“Some women wore hats and walked around their neighborhood or gather in one place singing, dancing and maybe acting,” said one older Makkah resident.

The modern world has affected the custom of Gais, especially since older neighborhoods have been replaced by hotels near the Grand Mosque,” said one Makkah resident. “However, some surviving older neighborhoods continue with Gais.”

Another celebration, gradually losing the battle against time is “jojoe,” which commemorates a child performing Haj for the first time.

A Jeddah mother recalled having jojoe when she was 7 years old. Following her Haj rituals, the family placed her in a chair and placed a veil above her head and sang songs, gave her money and threw sweets to her while the other children collected them. Some families still perform the informal ceremony. Similar ceremonies were given for teenagers as well to encourage the younger children to perform Haj when they got older.

“It was something we always looked forward to,” the mother said.


First Englishman to record his Haj
experience was a former slave

15 october 2013

The first Englishman to perform Haj and record his experiences is believed to be Joseph Pitts of Exeter (1663-1739), and the first British woman was Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1867-1963).

Though Pitts was probably not really the first British Muslim to perform Haj, he was the first to write an account in English, of the pilgrimage.

Born in Exeter, Joseph Pitts had a basic education before going to sea as a boy. However, on his very first voyage in 1678, his small fishing boat was captured off the coast of Spain by an Algerian corsair vessel. Its Muslim captain turned out to be a Dutchman and its first mate an Englishman. Sold twice as a slave in Algiers, Pitts converted to Islam. Sold once more, he accompanied his third master on a pilgrimage to Makkah, in 1685 or 1686. The pair arrived in Jeddah by dhow from Suez, and then spent about four months in the Holy City before going on to Madinah.

After completing the Haj, Pitts was granted his freedom. He then spent several years serving as a soldier in Algiers, before making his escape while serving at sea. Crossing much of Italy and Germany on foot, he returned to England some 17 years after he had first left. On his first night on native soil he was press-ganged into the navy. Following appeal, he was released, and Joseph Pitts went on to write of his experiences in his book, “A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans”, published first in 1704 and then again, in a fuller version, in 1731. This has now been republished, together with an extensive commentary by the acclaimed Arabic scholar, Paul Auchterlonie, under the title ‘Encountering Islam; Joseph Pitts: An English Slave in 17th-century Algiers and Makkah.’

He covers almost every element of the “religion and manners” including the first-ever description (in English) of the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah, but also taking in everything from Muslim daily ritual and practice, which he describes exhaustively, to Turkish cuisine and Algerian childcare, women, and wrestling. Through all of this, one of Pitts’s recurring themes is his admiration of Muslim devoutness and punctilious adherence to their rules and rituals, which he holds exemplary. He writes movingly of the pilgrims’ deep emotions as they performed the Haj.

Lady Evelyn Cobbold, Mayfair socialite, owner of an estate in the Scottish Highlands, was also the first British-born female Muslim convert to record her pilgrimage to Makkah.

Fluent in Arabic, Lady Evelyn performed Haj in 1933, as a wealthy 65-year-old. She published her account, ‘Pilgrimage to Makkah’, the following year. In it she promotes Islam for its simplicity and tolerance, describing it as ‘the religion of common sense’. Interestingly, she also provides the first description by an English writer of the life of the women’s quarters of the households in which she stayed. She lived another 30 years after her pilgrimage, and was buried as a Muslim on a remote hillside on her Glencarron estate.


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#3214 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:50
Makkawi women crowd
the Grand Mosque on Arafat Day


15 October 2013

MAKKAH — The holy city was virtually empty of pilgrims, cars and pedestrians on Monday as the guests of God had assembled on Arafat plain at the climax of their pilgrimage. The Makkawi women took advantage of the fact that Makkah was totally empty of men so they came to the Grand Mosque where they spent the whole day.

The Makkah women used to call Dhul Hijja 9 the "orphan night" because all the men would go to Arafat either to do the Haj or to be at the service of the guests of God.

"We moved freely on this day as there were no men around. Many of us who fasted on the Arafat day, break our fast inside the Holy Haram," a Makkawi woman said. She did not want to be identified.

Amina Zawwawi, an elderly Makkawi woman said the Arafat day was called the "orphan night" as almost all the men would go to Arafat and from there to Muzdalifah for the entire day and night.

"We used to have Makkah entirely for ourselves. We would go to the Holy Haram before Asr prayer and remain there until the Isha payer. We also used to have our Iftar (breaking the fast) inside the Grand Mosque," she said.
Amina said some women would socialize, visiting their friends and relatives on this day taking advantage of the absence of their husbands, brothers and sons.

She recalled that after Isha prayer, the women would go out to the streets of Makkah to dance and play until the wee hours of the next morning. "When the women saw any man they would rebuke him for not going to Arafat to serve the guests of God," she said.

Amina said on this day the women would also cook some special dishes and make pastries to serve to the pilgrims when they come back to Makkah after the end of the Haj. "We also wear special dresses and exchange gifts on the occasion," she said.

Amina remembers that the pilgrims used to live with their Mutawifs at their homes. "There were no hotels or furnished apartments at that time so the pilgrims would stay with their Mutawifs who would accommodate them and serve them with food," she said.


Why Haj permits are needed, clarifies Minister Al-Sheikh

15 october 2013

MINA — The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Saleh Aal Al-Sheikh stated that Haj permits were enacted due to the space limitations of the holy sites,which can accommodate limited numbers of pilgrims. The Haj permit was not meant to prevent Muslims from performing Haj, as some believe.

He said that the Ministry has launched educational and awareness programs on television and the radio, since the beginning of Ramadan.

These programs seek to educate pilgrims of Haj rituals before they come to Makkah.

The Ministry also intensifies its efforts during the Haj season through Jum'ah prayers, text messages, and a free toll telephone number which pilgrims can call for questions.

In addition, the Ministry distributes brochures in all languages to arriving pilgrims, and presents pilgrims with copies of the Qur'an at their departure. Pilgrims awareness programs have achieved great success through partnership and cooperation with media and advertising bodies inside and outside the Kingdom.

Aal Al-Sheikh pointed out that the awareness programs include a number of subjects that are linked to Haj. These program complements the efforts of other government bodies to provide a better service to pilgrims. The awareness programs discuss a number of Shari'ah and behavioral issues, and seek to provide a complete guide to pilgrims, and facilitate their Haj rituals.


20.76 million liters of Zamzam water to be distributed

15 October 2013

An estimated 20.76 million liters of Zamzam water is expected to be distributed this Haj season.

The number of 1.5 liter containers to be distributed on Haj campaigns, hospitals, and the ceremony of the Ministry of Haj is estimated at 120,000 bottles, according the chairman of the unified Zamazimah office.

The operational plan for this season was allocated three working programs, the first started with the beginning of September and ended Monday. The program operates around the clock and distributes water to pilgrims in guidance offices of the Ministry of Haj as soon as they reach the holy rites.

This program aims to distribute 538,917 liters of water filled in 330 ml water bottles, the number of personnel who work in the program are 130.

The second program distributes water to pilgrims in their residence, and uses around 122 cars to transport 20 liter water containers, with 863 employees to carry out this task.

Zamazimah unified office finishes Haj tasks with the third program, which distributes water in grouping centers on Makkah–Jeddah highway. The program distributes 1.56 million liters of water in 330 ml water bottles, and employees 130 people to carry out this task.


Bride traded honeymoon for Haj

15 october 2013

MADINAH – Three days after their wedding party and just moments before their travel for a honeymoon overseas, the bride from Madinah suddenly asked her husband to postpone their honeymoon so that they could go to Makkah to perform Haj. According to information received by Okaz/Saudi Gazette, the husband had completed all arrangements for their travel abroad, including visas, flight bookings and accommodation. But the bride requested her husband to cancel all reservations and to book with a domestic pilgrims company for Makkah. The bride explained to her husband that their marital life should start from the holy sites. The husband agreed. The couple are currently in the holy sites performing Haj.


Indian pilgrim smiles when husband dies

15 october 2013

MADINAH – Madinah police officers were surprised and got suspicious when they saw big smile on an Indian female pilgrim’s face while they were transporting her deceased husband to the hospital.

Suspicious of a possible foul play in her husband’s death, they opened an investigation into why the wife was happy over her husband’s demise. She told her story. She said her husband had worked hard for a great deal of his life in India to save money and buy a house for his family. He bought the dream house where they lived with their children for a while. Then, she said, her husband insisted that sell the house so they could perform Haj this year. Although she was against the idea, she agreed later when her husband told her that “Allah will give us a better house.” “I’m happy because my husband died in Madinah where he will be buried too. I’m happy because he came for Haj and hope Allah will bestow His mercy upon my husband,” she told the police officers.


Believed dead, Indian pilgrim found alive

SECOND LIFE: Indian pilgrim Barkatullah talks to his son on the telephone
from King Abdulaziz Medical City in Makkah with the help of a Haj volunteer.

16 october 2013

Tragic news that a woman’s husband who was performing Haj had died turned to elation Tuesday when the missing man turned up alive at King Abdullah Medical City.

Badarunnisa and Barkatullah of Chennai city had come to Makkah to perform Haj, but were separated during the confusion of the first day. Following a four-day search for Barkatullah, Badarunnisa concluded that her husband had died alone. Other pilgrims in her group came to the same conclusion, and the family made arrangements Tuesday to conduct ceremonial final rites in India.

“I was in a state of shock,” Badarunnisa told Arab News. “I was praying for my husband’s soul to rest in peace and I called the family back home in India to inform them to do the same.”

The family in India canceled their Eid celebration and began mourning Barkatullah’s death. They conducted Qur’anic recitations.

But late Tuesday, Indian IFF volunteer Ashraf discovered an unidentified elderly man at the intensive care unit of King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah.

Saudi emergency crews had taken Barkatullah to Arafah by ambulance to help him fulfill his life’s dream of perming Haj and then returned him to the medical center.

Medical authorities tracked down Badarunnisa and also managed to call their son in Chennai.

Volunteer Ashraf told Arab News, that “the wife in Mina and the son in India both took some time to realize that their beloved one is alive.”

“It’s nothing sort of miracle for us, as we firmly believed that he was dead,” Badarunnisa said. “But we found him alive with medical care. It was amazing to know that Saudi authorities are providing such degree of care to foreign pilgrims.”

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#3215 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:51
Jamarat facility considerably improved

15 October 2013

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has executed new improvements to benefit pilgrims at the Jamarat facility in Mina. The Jamarat facility will begin receiving pilgrims from midnight on Monday and Tuesday morning (10th of Thul Hijjah corresponding to Oct. 15, the day of Eid Al-Adha) to the end of Tashreeq days on the 13th of Thul Hijjah corresponding to Friday Oct. 18.

Saud Al-Thekri, head of the project execution administration at the Central Directorate of Development Projects at the ministry, said the new improvements are expected to ease access to the facility for pilgrims and distribute the masses to all four floors, the ground floor and the surrounding yards. The recent linking of the Shuaibain and Muaisam areas to the facility’s third floor is expected to ease access for 30 percent of pilgrims. The project that linked Aziziya area to the second floor is expected to increase the number of pilgrims performing the ritual by 25 percent.

The ministry has allocated 226 electric vehicles for pilgrims with special needs, the sick, the elderly, and women.

Wajdi bin Hassan Toulah, director of the ministry’s Department of Operation and Maintenance at the Central Directorate of Developmental Projects in the Holy Sites, indicated that the electric vehicles will serve 70,000 pilgrims during this year’s Haj season. He said his department has designated a number of mobile workshops to deal with any malfunctions or disruptions of elevators, escalators and moving belts, air-conditioning, water-spraying fans, lighting and fire-extinguishing systems.

Food products readily available in Arafat

Arafat witnessed a day of relative stability.

Large amounts of food products were provided to the guests of the Grand Mosque.

Follow-up teams from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry made intensive campaigns on stalls, coolers and vehicles selling foodstuffs, which were present in abundance and at reasonable prices.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry stressed its responsibility toward pilgrims regarding food, including bread.

The ministry made sure that enough bread was available in Makkah and Jeddah. A large number of refrigerated trucks were loaded with food and placed in Mina and Arafat.

The ministry’s plan this Haj season included 161 refrigerated trucks and 430 licensed food stalls in the holy sites.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry stressed the importance of defining consumer needs in Makkah, Madinah and other holy sites in collaboration with merchants and wholesalers of foodstuffs. The ministry also provided the holy sites with 1,700 vehicles loaded with food.

Mina power usage up by 34% from last year

Abdulmaeen bin Hassan Al-Shaikh, head of the western sector and general supervisor of the Electric Company for Haj, confirmed that the company’s operation plan this year is being carried out as planned. This year, the electricity usage during the day of Al-Tarwiya in Mina has increased, in comparison to the previous year, he said.

Al-Shaikh said, the electrical load recorded in Mina was 220 MW, an increase of 56 MW, or 34 percent, from the 164 MW load recorded on the same day last year. He confirmed that the company is seeking to provide the highest and most reliable service to pilgrims to ensure their comfort and convenience during the pilgrimage.

This year’s plan involved several aspects, he said, including full supervision of the operation and maintenance of the electric grid, strengthening the electric system to ensure the highest degree of reliability through operating the electricity generators at their full capacity during peak times. The plan also involves enhancing the electricity network in Makkah by operating and expanding transfer stations at a voltage of 380/ 110 Kv, as well as operating new sub-transfer stations and expanding some existing ones.

According to Al-Shaikh, this year the company will focus on enhancing the electricity network in Makkah and along the pilgrimage entry roads, in addition to preparing emergency teams to repair any damage to these networks and enhance the distribution in Makkah.


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#3216 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:53
Eid Al Adha

10 Dhu-AlHijjah 1434


Pilgrims stone devil in final Haj ritual

A Muslim pilgrim casts pebbles at a pillar that symbolizes Satan during
the annual Haj, on the first day of Eid Al-Adha in Mina on Tuesday.

15 October 2013

MINA: Pilgrims converged on Mina valley on Tuesday for the stoning of the devil ritual, the final stage of the annual Haj pilgrimage.

The occasion coincides with the first day of Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, which is celebrated by Muslims around the world.

Although the numbers this year are down to less than half the 3.2 million who attended last year’s Haj, the crowds of faithful managed to transform Mina valley, just outside the holy city of Makkah, into a vast sea of white as they flocked from all directions toward the place of stoning.

An endless torrent of pilgrims, dressed in the ihram, a two-piece seamless white garment, cried “Allahu akbar” (God is the greatest) as they hurled pebbles they had collected overnight at nearby Muzdalifah at concrete pillars representing the devil.

After pausing to say prayers, they then moved along the massive concrete structure constructed by Saudi authorities to avoid deadly incidents.

Hundreds of police guarding the multi-story building struggled at times to keep the crowd under control but those performing the ritual reported a less chaotic experience than in past years.

“The crowd this year was smaller and as a result the movement was smoother,” said Shiraz Khorshid from Pakistan.

“My experience was very nice and arrangements were excellent at all facilities,” said Khorshid, a 35-year-old lecturer at a training institute in eastern Saudi Arabia.

“This year is certainly better than last year especially with regards to traffic jams and easy movement. We were able to use the train for the first time,” said Turkey Al-Ashwal from Yemen, who had also performed the Haj last year.

Haj authorities slashed the numbers of pilgrims from abroad by 21 percent and reduced the number of permits for domestic pilgrims by more than half this year, allowing a total of 1.5 million pilgrims, including 1.38 million foreigners from 188 countries.

The kingdom cut the quotas over pending completion of massive projects to expand the capacity of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Islam’s holiest place of worship.

The stoning rituals continue until Friday but pilgrims in a hurry can complete it a day early.

The ritual is an emulation of Prophet Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) stoning of the devil at three spots where the devil is said to have appeared trying to dissuade the patriarch from obeying God’s order to sacrifice his son, Ishmael.

The pilgrims had been on the move since early Sunday when the Haj began. They left Makkah to Mina, then climbed Mount Arafat on Monday for the high point of the Haj.

After spending the day at Mount Arafat in prayer and reflection, pilgrims traveled on Monday evening to Muzdalifah to collect stones and to stay the night.

Early Tuesday they continued to Mina in groups, with leaders carrying their countries’ flags and banners.

A group of Syrians were seen carrying the rebels’ flag while a number of Egyptians raised their four fingers, a sign of support for deposed Islamist president Muhammad Mursi, though no protests were staged.

The stoning of the devil used to mark the most dangerous phase of Haj for Saudi authorities as it was marred by deadly stampedes in the past as well as fires in tent camps.

In past years, however, tents have been fire-proofed while gas canisters and cooking are banned in the camps. The stoning area has been expanded to avoid overcrowding.


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#3217 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:56

6-year-old serves mother during Haj

15 Oct 2013 - MINA — A six-year-old Pakistani child, Mehyar, has been caring for his mother ever since they arrived at Mina.

He holds an umbrella over his mother's head to protect her from the sun, and hands her a piece of cardboard for her to rest when she feels tired. He is seen running around her to cater for her needs, even though she did not ask him to do so.

He said that he is very keen on caring for and honoring his mother, as his Qur'an teacher had stressed on him to do.

Um Mehyar said that she came to Haj a few years ago with her mother who is now deceased.

As she was the only child, she used to care for her mother, whether during Haj or at home.

When Um Mehyar was married, she did not leave her mother's house so that she may care for her.

She infused in her son good manners and goodwill, and is grateful to God that she could perform Haj with her son. She said her son was very eager to see Makkah, Madinah and the two holy mosques.

Mehyar was discussing with his mother various Islam teachings, and that he wanted to go to paradise, which his teacher told him that he will not, unless he honors his mother.

Haj meeting ends strained relations between 2 sisters

15 Oct 2013 - HOLY SITES — On Arafat plain, two sisters Ani and Marya from Indonesia met after a break off of relations for over 25 years following a family dispute between Ani and their mother due to her demand for her share in the inheritance after her father’s death.

The conflict between them was to the extent that she kept away from her family for all these years after receiving her share of the inheritance. She and her husband left the village in which her family was living. The scene of the reunion was very emotional with continuous embracing and tears flowing unchecked, depicting the harshness of the times and agony of separation.

Ani told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that she used to feel the longing and need for her family and wanted to check on their conditions, but her husband was stubborn, as he forced her to make a choice between remaining with her children and divorce if she communicated with her family.

After several years of break in relations, Ani worked in several Arab and Gulf countries due to her family’s economic conditions. This forced her to work as a housekeeper until she got a job with a Gulf family, which came to perform Haj this year and she came with them.

She had the intention of looking for her family when she returned to Indonesia. She stressed that she would never leave them, especially after learning that her husband had relations with another woman during her absence for work abroad.

Religious books in demand during Haj

15 Oct 2013 - MINA — Bookstores in Makkah have reported an increased demand for religious books during the Haj season. Pilgrims look for foreign language translations of the Holy Qur’an, books on the Sunnah and those that explain Haj rituals.

Abdullah Baroom, a local bookstore owner, said the increase in demand is not only for religious books but also for cultural books as pilgrims show great interest in reading about the Kingdom.

“They seek to buy rare books on the Sunnah, stories of prophets, and supplication books, all of which flood the book market in Makkah during Haj,” he said.

He added that many buy books to take back with them as presents for family members. Saudis, he said, mainly buy the Qur’an, supplication books and those on the rituals of Haj.

Sayed Mohammad, a Sudanese national, said most bookstores have books on a number of highly regarded Islamic scholars such as Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya and Ibn Taymiyyah.

Ali Al-Hasan, an Iraqi pilgrim, said bookstores in the Kingdom contain a variety of precious and rare books by prominent Islamic scholars such as Ibn Baaz and Ibn Othaimeen.

But not all pilgrims sought religious books. Sayed Badawi, an Egyptian national, said he bought books that contained old photographs of Makkah, Jeddah, the Grand Mosque, the Prophet's Mosque, Zamzam well, Arafat Mountain and the cave of Hera.

“I also want books on the birth place of the prophet, his companions, the Muslims wars, swords of the prophet’s companions and other rare photographs that are very difficult to find anywhere else.”

Saudi barbers take a turn at pilgrims’ hair

15 oct 2013 - MINA — Barber shops have mushroomed near the Jamarat bridge in Mina where pilgrims shave off or trim their hairs after throwing the pebbles at the Satan. This is the first step towards relinquishing their Ihram.

After the hair shave, the pilgrims can put on their plain clothes. The process of going out of the restrictions of the Ihram will be completed after the pilgrims have done the Tawaf Al-Ifada in the Grand Mosque.

The barber shops are owned and run by young Saudis who have been trained on shaving. The prices range between SR30 for complete shaving off of the hair and SR15 for shortening it.

The young Saudi barbers expressed happiness to be serving the pilgrims enabling them to complete their Haj rites of which shaving is an integral part.

The barbers use sterilized razor blades and plastic towels which are used only once before they are disposed off. The pilgrims queue for the shaving operation in a highly organized style. Each shop has a number of chairs and each chair will be hosting hundreds of the pilgrims.

There are about 1,100 licensed barber shops in Makkah in addition to the seasonal shops in Mina.

The Makkah municipality undertakes regular inspection campaigns on all these shops to ensure that they are both legal and hygienic.

Saudi barbers take a turn at pilgrims’ hair

15 Oct 2013 - MINA — Barber shops have mushroomed near the Jamarat bridge in Mina where pilgrims shave off or trim their hairs after throwing the pebbles at the Satan. This is the first step towards relinquishing their Ihram.

After the hair shave, the pilgrims can put on their plain clothes. The process of going out of the restrictions of the Ihram will be completed after the pilgrims have done the Tawaf Al-Ifada in the Grand Mosque.

The barber shops are owned and run by young Saudis who have been trained on shaving. The prices range between SR30 for complete shaving off of the hair and SR15 for shortening it.

The young Saudi barbers expressed happiness to be serving the pilgrims enabling them to complete their Haj rites of which shaving is an integral part.

The barbers use sterilized razor blades and plastic towels which are used only once before they are disposed off. The pilgrims queue for the shaving operation in a highly organized style. Each shop has a number of chairs and each chair will be hosting hundreds of the pilgrims.

There are about 1,100 licensed barber shops in Makkah in addition to the seasonal shops in Mina.

The Makkah municipality undertakes regular inspection campaigns on all these shops to ensure that they are both legal and hygienic.

More child labor observed during Haj

15 Oct 2013 - di laws that strictly prohibit children from working in temporary or permanent jobs.

In addition, these children are exposed to health, psychological, and many other hazards.

This Haj season, there are children who are selling drinks, foods, mobile phones, chargers, shoes, and mats, at stalls in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina.

Salah Mohammad is a Burmese, eight-year-old, second grade student at an elementary school at Rusaifah neighborhood in Makkah. He sells rice meals that his mother prepares, in addition to drinks and sweets, and is complaining about the scorching heat and the garbage waste near his location.

He said that his mother encourages him to benefit from the Haj season to provide money for his family, as have his brothers for the past 10 years. His business is flourishing, and that he expects to make SR10,000 by the end of Haj.

His older brother transfers that money to their father in Burma, who is suffering from financial and medical problems, and has been in his house for the past two years, due to the troubles against Muslims from Buddhists in Myanmar.

Human rights activist, Fayez Al-Aqeel blames the poor financial situation on of some families as the reason for this trend. He said that most of these children are in fact beggars, who exploit selling as a cover up. Their families are illiterate and lack the awareness of the hazards they subject their children to.

Pediatrics consultant, Dr. Mohammad Al-Seba'ei said that children are more prone to diseases, as their immune system is weak.

Children need different nutrition than adults, and need more than 12 hours of sleep. Standing for long hours under direct sunlight subjects them to heat and muscle exhaustion, in addition to respiratory illnesses.

The head of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), Dr. Mefleh Al-Qahtani, said that Saudi laws, and international agreements prohibit the employment of children.

Security officer dies while serving pilgrims

15 Oct 2013 - MAKKAH — An emergency security force officer passed away in Makkah while serving the guests of Allah. Hameed Al-Rashidi breathed his last inside the Grand Mosque right after performing Dhuhur prayer. Doctors said he had a heart attack. The deceased’s brother said Hameed was deployed to Makkah last Friday in order to help his colleagues serve pilgrims. His colleagues who were with him said he fell right to the ground suddenly. They described him as a disciplined and polite man.

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#3218 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:57
Makkah Municipal projects ‘on track’

16 Oct 2013

Prince Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdulaziz, minister of municipal and rural affairs, confirmed that the action plan of the Makkah municipality is on schedule. Around 23,000 employees of various secretariats and municipalities in addition to 27 service centers at the holy sites are working to implement the plan.

The minister inspected the new projects in the holy sites recently implemented by the Makkah municipality.

These projects include the construction of roads and bridges that will be used for the first time this Haj season.

During the visit he said the municipality is mobilized to offer the best services speedily to pilgrims, which reflects the Saudi government’s concern for them.
These preparations are in line with the directions and aspirations of the Higher Command, which aims to provide pilgrims with services that facilitate the Haj process.

He said the new facilities this Haj season, include a transit waste station in Arafat (Al-Maghmas road), comprising a reservoir with a capacity of 150 tons at a value of SR 2.25 million.

It also includes a project to reorganize and lay out electric cables on the main road next to Al-Masdar. This involves laying 25,000 linear meters of cables, and 20,000 linear meters of fossil voltage cables at a total value of SR5 million.

The project also involves developing pedestrian paths in the holy rites areas, with 1,000 chairs to ensure pedestrians’ comfort, 100 waste baskets, 50 light poles, 5,500 meters of grass sidewalks, 200 sign posts, 100 concrete barriers, and 100 sunshades.

He said the total cost of this project was SR1.5 million. Street lighting on the road that links Al-Sail with Arafat (Al-Maghmas), a length of 13 kilometers and the establishment of 323 poles with 646 light bulbs were valued at SR3.5 million.


370,000 transported by Mashair

370000 pilgrims transported ny the Mashair train from Mina to Arafat and back via Muazdalifah.

16 October 2013

MINA — A total of 377,000 pilgrims have been transported by the Mashair train from Mina to Arafat and back via Muzdalifah, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.

Saud Bin Hamdan Al-Dhikri, of the central administration for the development projects of the holy sites said the pilgrims were from Saudi Arabia, the Arab Gulf region and Southeast Asian countries.

"The pilgrims, who were all ticket holders, were successfully taken to Mina, then to Arafat for the Grand Stand and back to Mina via Muzdalifah to throw pebbles at the Jamarat," he said.

Al-Dhikri said there was no congestion or over-crowdedness at any of the railway stations in Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah and the Jamarat bridge. "We have not received any complaint from any Haj mission or any Haj service-providing company that a single passenger was left out or could not find a place on the train," he said.

Al-Dhikri said the train will operate smoothly without any problems during the three days of Tashreeq which are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. "The embarking and disembarking of pilgrims went on without a hitch," he said.


Algerian woman kept her dower half a century for Haj

16 Oct 2013

“This is my greatest joy, my real joy indeed. For years now, I saved my dowry (the money paid by the groom to the bride according to religion and traditions) so that I could perform Haj one day. As I stand here in Arafat, raising my hand to the Almighty asking him for forgiveness, this is the day I have been living for,” she exclaimed.

Zainab’s wrinkles, which have changed the features of her face, momentarily disappear as she recalls her moments of youth, particularly the day she got married. “That was the day of the birth of my dream to perform the Haj rituals, to stand in Arafat and move between the holy sites, to cry at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and ask the Almighty for forgiveness.”

Zainab is more than 80-year-old now, but the joy and contentment she experienced made her restless tongue continue uttering words in praise of the Almighty.

The Algerian Haji kept staring at Mount Al-Rahma Mount in awe, not believing she was actually in the place she dreamt to be all her life, saying: “This is my own special Eid, my real joy.”

Tears of joy came running down her cheeks as she stood there in astonishment, satisfaction and peace of mind enjoying the greatest day of her life.


‘Tears for my departed father on Arafat’

EMOTIONAL JOURNEY: Mohammed Shokat, the British consul general, speaks to Arab News in Mina on Tuesday.

16 Oct 2013

A British diplomat could barely hold back his tears as he recounted praying for his recently departed father on the plains of Arafat on Monday.

Mohammed Shokat, the British consul general, and his family are among 18,400 pilgrims from the United Kingdom at the annual pilgrimage this year.

During an interview with Arab News on Tuesday inside his tent in Mina, Shokat said his father, Salahuddin, died four weeks ago.

“The first and foremost person in my prayers on the plains of Arafat on Monday was my father,” said Shokat, his voice quivering. “May Allah Almighty grant him the best place in Paradise.”

Shokat has already completed two years as the British consul general in Jeddah, but this is his first Haj. “I've always wanted to perform the Haj with my wife and children,” he said.

When he first came to Jeddah to take up the diplomatic assignment, he could not undertake the pilgrimage because his wife was pregnant. Last year, his youngest son, Ahmad, was only seven months old, so Shokat put off the Haj one more time.

“This year, everything went according to our intention and plan,” he said. “My wife, 7-year-old son Taha, 9-and-a-half-year-old daughter Ayesha, and youngest one who is now 18 months old are all here for Haj.”

Shokat said parents' main responsibility is to teach their children about Islam. “To me, the best way to teach them about Islam is to bring them here,” he said. “At the Haj, they see Islam in action; let them see it, feel it, touch it.”

The British diplomat thanked Allah for the opportunity to perform the pilgrimage. “People dream and pray for this opportunity to perform the Haj, and I had this opportunity, not just to perform it myself but with my children,” he said. “I pray to Allah to grant all those Muslims who wish to come here to get an opportunity (to do so).

He also prayed for peace in Syria and elsewhere. “We switch on our television sets and see people being killed in Syria,” he said. “They were also in my prayers; I prayed for peace to reign everywhere.”

Shokat praised the government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for organizing the event. “I say to everybody that the Saudis take this responsibility of serving the guests of God very seriously,” he said. “For the Saudi government, the Haj is not a profit-making process.”

As a child growing up in the UK, he used to hear about the problems and deaths at the Jamarat where the symbolic stoning of Satan takes place. “We are beyond that now because of this massive multi-storey Jamarat complex,” he said.

The massive expansion projects are further evidence of the Saudi government’s commitment to pilgrims.

“Look at the new airport in Jeddah, the expansion of the mosque in Makkah, the expansion of the mataf (the circumambulation area), the expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, the Haramain High Speed Railway, the transportation projects in Makkah,” he said. “We can't calculate the billions of riyals that have been and are being poured into these projects.”

He said the Saudi government wants to make the Haj easy. “Not just easy, the government wants to make it safe ... This is a very big responsibility, and they are doing whatever it takes to make the Haj better, easier and safer,” he said. “All we can do is thank them.”

Shokat criticized those who hurt others in the name of Islam.

“I say, you hear about people who pretend to be there in the name of Islam, who undertake violence in the name of Islam, but if you want to see the real Islam, look at this — young and old, rich and poor, Asian and American, all wearing the same clothes. This is the real Islam and these are the real Muslims,” he said. “Not those people who claim to blow up and kill innocent people in the name of Islam, not those who commit violence in the name of Islam.”

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#3219 [Permalink] Posted on 18th October 2013 16:59
11 Dhu-AlHijjah 1434


Stoning ritual goes well

Pakistan pilgrims pray after casting pebbles at the three pillars, symbolizing the Satan, in Mina on Wednesday.

16 October 2013

MINA — Throngs of pilgrims took part in the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual for a second day Wednesday. Later, several of them converged on Makkah to perform Tawaf Ifadah followed by Sa’i (walking between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times) to commemorate Hajjar’s, mother of Prophet Ismael (peace be upon him) search for water for her child.

Around two million men, women and children from 188 countries are attending this year’s pilgrimage, according to Saudi Arabia’s public statistics office.

This is down from 3.16 million last year, after the Kingdom cut the quotas over fears of infections from the MERS respiratory virus and because of massive projects to expand the capacity of the Grand Mosque.

The number of foreign pilgrims was 1.38 million compared to 1.75 million in 2012.

Pilgrims said the stoning ritual proved easier to perform this year due to the lower numbers.

The head of the hi-tech Command and Control Center for Haj Security, Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, said two factors had played a role. “The reduction in the number of pilgrims and the correct implementation of the security plan have contributed to the better organization of this year’s Haj,” he told reporters.

The center has installed more than 5,000 cameras to monitor all the holy sites, including 1,200 at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

“We have installed and experimented with highly-advanced cameras for the first time this year and this has proved successful,” Zahrani said.

The center in Mina has a large number of television screens that receive live videos round the clock from the holy sites.

Backed by three helicopters, the center is able quickly to pinpoint problem areas and inform the concerned security authorities.

The faithful began the stoning rituals on Tuesday, which was also the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha, when they threw pebbles at one of three huge concrete structures representing the devil.

On Wednesday, they threw seven pebbles at each of the three pillars in a ritual they will repeat over the next two days. Those who are ill or pressed for time can complete the process on Thursday.

The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for Preventive Medicine, Dr. Ziad Meimish, said that the health conditions of pilgrims so far was satisfactory, stressing that no epidemic or quarantine diseases have been reported.


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#3220 [Permalink] Posted on 19th October 2013 11:20
Journey of faith in final stage

REJECTION OF TEMPTATION: Pilgrims perform the ritual of stoning the devil on Tuesday in the Jamarat Complex, Mina

16 October 2013

On Day 3 of Haj, nearly 1.6 million pilgrims returned to the tent city of Mina from Muzdalifah, on the plains a few kilometers from Mount Arafat, where they spent the night praying and collecting pebbles for the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil.

At the break of dawn, pilgrims started walking into the tent city and headed toward the multistoried Jamarat complex. It was here that they threw seven pea-sized pebbles at Jamarat Al-Aqaba, which is one of the three elliptical-shaped walls representing the devil. Assisted by hundreds of security officials, the ritual was conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Special assistance was provided to elderly women pilgrims.

The ritual symbolizes Prophet Ibrahim’s stoning of the devil that appeared three times to him and to his son, Ismaeel, and tried to dissuade them from carrying out God’s command.

The ritual symbolizes the rejection of evil. It will be repeated for the next two days during which pilgrims will hurl seven pebbles everyday at each of the three walls inside the Jamarat complex.

An endless stream of pilgrims, dressed in the ihram, a two-piece seamless white garment, cried “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is the Greatest) as they hurled pebbles at one of the walls representing the Satan.

There was no respite from the harsh weather as daytime temperatures continued to hover between 40 and 45 degrees Celsius. Once inside the Jamarat complex, pilgrims heaved a sigh of relief in the face of cool draft of air from giant humidifying fans.

Helicopters hovered constantly overhead to monitor the huge crowds with the help of more than thousands of high-tech cameras, all connected to a control room run by top security authorities. The ritual of stoning the devil means different things to different pilgrims. “To me, this ritual means I have finally said goodbye to the temptations of this world,” said Lutfullah Tirmizi, from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Syeda Maimunnisa, from Delhi, India, described it as an act of catharsis.
“When I was throwing those pebbles, I was basically sending a clear message to Satan that I have seen through his nefarious designs and that I will no longer be swayed by him,” she said.

Sultan Al-Saeed, a Saudi pilgrim from Hafr Al-Batin, said it was simply a symbolic act of saying no to the worldly temptations. “Haj is all about renouncing and repenting for all that we have done wrong in the past ... We now begin a new life, a life of piety, prayers and good conduct,” he said.

Some pilgrims saw in the walls a representations of their immediate enemies.
Fayez Abed, a middle-aged Syrian pilgrim, told AFP that when he was carrying out the stoning ritual, he imagined “those who are slaughtering Muslims.
Sulaiman Al-Shatri, from Kuwait, said: “These walls represent the enemies of Islam and Muslims, and by throwing these pebbles at the walls, we are expressing our displeasure toward them.”

After the stoning, pilgrims offer sacrificial meat, normally by slaughtering a sheep. At present, however, most of the sacrifices are slaughtered at a number of state-of-the-art abattoirs run by the Islamic Development Bank and the meat is sent to poor countries.

On Wednesday, color will return to Mina with pilgrims donning their traditional best in celebration of the completion of what to them was a journey of faith, a journey of a lifetime.


Egypt sent most Arab Haj pilgrims


17 October 2013

Egypt has the most Arab pilgrims on Haj this year, with 67,470 or 25 percent of 260,000 from 19 countries.

A report by the National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Arab Countries revealed that 122,080 pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom at King Abdulaziz International Airport, 14,215 at Jeddah Islamic Port, 70,578 in Madinah, and 15,058 at Al-Burj station in the city.

The report stated that 33 Arab pilgrims died on Haj. Egypt had the most deaths with 11 pilgrims, followed by six Iraqis, six Sudanese and three Moroccans.

The second-highest number of pilgrims came from Algeria with 28,406, followed by Morocco with 26,990, Iraq 26,191, Sudan 26,123, Yemen 19,894, Tunisia 9,048, and Syria with 2,019.

A total of 15,000 Haj visas were issued for Syrians under the supervision of the Syrian coalition, for pilgrims traveling from Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. The report found that the poor condition of Syrians resulted in the reduced numbers. Last year 1,000 Syrians performed Haj.

Faisal bin Muhammad Nouh, a mutawwif and chairman of the tawafa body, said plans were in place to cater for Syrian pilgrims. “Several meetings were held with Muhammad Shukri, the head of the Syrian pilgrim affairs office, to welcome Syrians coming from neighboring countries, but to no avail.”


Project to reduce waste at holy sites

17 October 2013

Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar recently revealed that the municipality is considering a new project for waste and garbage recycling in the holy sites.
“The project is still under review with no budget allocated for it yet,” said Al-Bar, noting that the municipality had signed six new projects to clean the holy sites during this Haj season.

“The contracts worth SR8 million are set to reduce the volume of waste by 60 percent compared to last year,” Al-Bar said.

He said that the municipality seeks to boost hygiene standards at the holy sites. “But the first step is to find the best solutions to mitigate the side-effects of waste recycling,” he said.

The cost of waste containers in Arafat and Muzdalifah this Haj season amounted to SR499,000 each, while SR999,000 was allocated to support cleaning operations at Mina,” he said.

The cleaning operations at Muzdalifah cost SR42 million with an additional SR480,000 for the installation of hygiene and cleanliness awareness billboards.
The three holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah covering an area of 33 square kilometers experience many unhygienic practices leading to the piling of huge quantities of waste and garbage.


Haj Day 4: A festive air

17 October 2013

Nearly 2,000 pilgrims of all ages and nationalities returned to the holy sites on Day 4 of Haj dressed in their best traditional clothing.

Pilgrims finished the ritual of stoning of Satan at the Jamarat complex. On a day far more relaxed than the previous day, many pilgrims took on a festive air and found time for a bit of tourism, snapping photographs and calling home to wish loved ones happy Eid Al-Adha.

The day went off without a hitch with security men and volunteer guides keeping a tight rein on the vigil and keeping pedestrians moving in an orderly manner.

Perhaps the biggest novelty for pilgrims who had previously performed Haj, were the trains, which now dot the landscape and have proven to be a vital link between Makkah and the holy sites. It’s almost as if pilgrims wouldn’t be able to manage without the trains constantly shuttling passengers from the tent city to Jamarat satation

Daily transportation services also operated smoothly. Equally important were the sidewalks and streets clear of clutter so pilgrims could move about.
To keep order, more than 5,000 cameras monitored all the holy sites, including 1,200 at the Grand Mosque.


South Asia pilgrims comprise
the biggest clientele of Mashaer train


17 October 2013

The journey to and from the Jamarat and Mina used to be the most difficult part of Haj, but now with the induction of the metro train connecting the holy sites, there has been a radical change in this regard. Most pilgrims now opt to use the train for transportation, thereby reducing vehicle congestion as well as noise and air pollution.

According to an official, pilgrims from South Asian countries account for the majority of Mashaer train users. However, compared with the previous year, there are fewer crowds at train stations in the holy sites. The initial plan for the metro train service was to carry 500,000 passengers but this figure was later reduced to 377,000.

“By Tuesday, a total of 359,000 pilgrims had availed of the train’s services. About 241,000 pilgrims were from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and about 181,000 passengers were from within the Kingdom,” Farid Al-Ghamdi, a senior official of Al-Mashaer Al-Mugaddasah Metro Project (MMMP) told Arab News on Tuesday night.

He said elaborate security arrangements have been made at the train stations, with security forces overseeing the entrance and exit of passengers.

Train tickets cost SR250 for seven days and SR100 for four days. The ticket is in the form of a colored bracelet given to the pilgrim prior to Haj. There are five different colors of bracelets for the five different categories of passengers.

The metro train has 12 cars with a capacity of 250 pilgrims each. The train can transport a total of 80,000 passengers in an hour.

Passengers board from nine tent-shaped stations: Three in Arafat and three in Muzdalifah and Mina. Each station can accommodate up to 12,000 passengers.

Upon disembarking from the metro, pilgrims proceed to the station based on the colored bracelet given to them.

The China Railway Construction Corp., part of the Saudi-French-Chinese consortium, maintains the trains.

Earlier, Haj operators used over 75,000 buses to transport pilgrims. But now there are less than 20,000 and the figure is expected to further decrease in the years ahead.

The ambitious metro train project began three years ago at a cost of SR6.7 million and is gradually expanding to service all pilgrims.

New firm to operate Mashair Train for 5 years

HOLY SITES — A new company has been selected by a ministerial committee to run the Mashair Train for the next five years, according to Dr. Habib Zain Al-Abideen, Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs undersecretary for developing holy sites’ projects.

The committee, which has representatives from the ministries of finance and municipal and rural affairs, required the new company to achieve an 80 percent Saudization for its workforce.

“The competition among 10 mega global companies has been fierce as they all are specialized in running and operating trains at the international level,” Dr. Zain Al-Abideen said. The ministry opened competition for global companies when the contract of the Chinese company, currently running the Mashair Train, was about to expire, he added.

French, German, British companies with offices in Dubai expressed their desire to participate in the competition. The selected company offered the lowest quotation.

The China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) started implementing the project, which links Makkah with the ritual sites — Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah — in 2009 at a total cost of SR6.7 billion. There are three stations in the ritual sites and its last stop is located at the fourth floor of the Jamarat Bridge.

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#3221 [Permalink] Posted on 19th October 2013 11:22
Mina hospital treats hundreds of elderly patients

17 October 2013

Mina's Al-Jasr hospital has treated hundreds of mostly elderly patients suffering from dehydration and chest infections over the past few days, the facility’s director said here on Wednesday.

Hasan Zahrani told Arab News that on the first day of the ritual stoning of the devil, the hospital handled 320 pilgrims with these ailments, including some who fainted in the heat.

The Al-Jasr hospital is the largest medical facility in Mina. Arab News saw ambulances arriving every four to five minutes with ill patients.

Zahrani said that five surgeries and 1,224 laboratory tests were carried out on Wednesday. The hospital has 500 staff members working around the clock.
The hospital will close after Dhul Hijja 15 and all inpatients will be transferred to Mina Emergency Hospital.

There are 15 hospitals with 3,256 beds providing services for pilgrims in Makkah and the holy sites. These hospitals are equipped with emergency services, intensive care units and operating theaters.

This is in addition to 175 health centers — 75 in Makkah, 46 in Arafat, 44 in Mina, six in Muzdalifah, and two inside and on the rooftop at the Ajyad entrance of the Grand Mosque. There are seven seasonal health centers at different entry points in Makkah.

There is a special airstrip for air ambulances from Mina and Arafat for critical cases. All Ministry of Health hospitals are connected to a central system to track patient’s data.

Hunt on for pilgrim smugglers

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal has ordered city security officials to track 100 criminals who smuggled pilgrims into Makkah during this year’s Haj.
The smugglers marked out routes and resting places through the Al-Hada Mountain close to Makkah, and even installed ropes in certain steep areas.

None of the pilgrims had permits to perform Haj. They faced severe health and other risks coming through the mountainous terrain. Prince Khaled said the perpetrators face severe punishment.

150 Saudi women working on trains

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has for the first time employed 150 Saudi women to usher pilgrims and help them board Mashaer Train over a period of five days. The supervisor said that the women will use sign language instead of speech to avoid argument and confusion and to ease the movement of pilgrims.

The women began operations between camps and ensured that female pilgrims wore the designated bracelets on their wrists and the ticket to board the Mashaer Train.

This is in line with the ministry’s new mechanism this Haj season for pilgrims’ safety, which involves strict controls when boarding the train through the electronic gates.


WHO commends health services for Haj pilgrims

17 October 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations agency concerned with international public health, has commended the health services provided by Saudi health authorities to Haj pilgrims this year.

WHO praised in a report released on Wednesday the health services provided as a “comprehensive and integrated health system,” stating that the Kingdom faced a major challenge concerning the health care of about 2 million pilgrims in a short period, and it fully succeeded in overcoming this great challenge

The report, available on WHO’s website entitled “Saudi health authorities ready to assist Haj pilgrims,” said: “Haj dates back to the 7th century and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has accumulated centuries of experience in hosting waves of pilgrims from all over the world. Preparations for each Haj begin with lessons learned at the end of the previous pilgrimage season.”

“Last year alone, more than 372,000 people were assisted at the Ministry of Health facilities during Haj. All health services are provided free of charge, even complicated and costly interventions such as open-heart surgeries. Traditionally, cardiovascular diseases, heat exhaustion and dehydration, burns, food poisoning as well as kidney problems are leading causes of medical interventions during Haj,” the report said.

“This year, 22,500 health workers from across the Kingdom arrived to staff 25 hospitals with 5,250 beds and 141 health centers at the four main pilgrimage areas. The Emergency Hospital of Mina is built exclusively to serve pilgrims, as it is located between the holy sites of Makkah and Arafat, where every pilgrim is supposed to begin the pilgrimage,” the WHO report said, adding: “Closed the rest of the year, the Mina hospital has 190 beds and sees between 10,000 and 12,000 patients daily during Haj.”

It further elaborated that new equipment was introduced this year, and 95 small ambulances, described as ‘mobile Intensive Care Units (ICU)’, each with a doctor, nurse and the latest state-of-art technology, were positioned in crowded areas to rapidly treat or transfer patients in need, bringing the total number of ambulances to 175.

The WHO report also applauded the Kingdom for building on knowledge and experience of mass gatherings.

It said that for the fourth consecutive year, the WHO has been invited by the Saudi Ministry of Health to observe and provide any required technical assistance during Haj.

“One result of this collaboration and of KSA’s vast experience in dealing with large gatherings of people for religious, sporting, cultural or other events — called mass gatherings by the WHO — is that the WHO this year designated the Kingdom’s Center for Mass Gathering Medicine as a WHO Collaborating Center. Together, WHO and KSA are learning from and building on the Kingdom’s experience in mass gatherings for the benefit of other countries,” the UN body said.

Health education activities have also been stepped up with the introduction of a toll-free line where medical doctors respond to calls, it said, adding that brochures with health information in 10 languages were distributed to arriving pilgrims and to the media.

Commenting on the Coronavirus challenge, it maintained that the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) had prompted health authorities to strengthen surveillance and health education for incoming pilgrims.

“In addition to the existing laboratory facility in Jeddah and Madinah, a new laboratory unit has been installed at Mena Alwadi Hospital in order to rapidly conduct tests for suspected cases,” the WHO report said.

The Saudi National Scientific Committee for Infectious Diseases recommended that persons older than 65, children, pregnant women and those with underlying conditions should postpone the pilgrimage due to the MERS-CoV risk.

According to Saudi health authorities, random checks on pilgrims are performed upon arrival at the country’s airports, it said.

However the WHO maintained that countries outside the affected region should maintain a high level of vigilance, especially those with large numbers of travelers or guest workers returning from the Middle East. Surveillance should be enhanced in these countries according to WHO guidelines along with infection control procedures in health care facilities.


Serving pilgrims is a lifetime experience for volunteers

India Fraternity Forum volunteers in action in Mina.

17 October 2013

JEDDAH — Islam is a religion which considers serving people as worship to God. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that those who are keen to alleviate the suffering of people are very dearer to Allah. Needless to say then about the rewards for serving the guests of God.

There are thousands of volunteers in action to render help to Haj pilgrims at the holy sites of Mina and Arafat during the first four days of Haj. This time, the presence of a large number of women and children was especially noticeable. These volunteers belong to different Indian social, cultural and religious forums, such as the Jeddah Haj Welfare Forum, India Fraternity Forum (IFF), the Indian Pilgrim Welfare Forum (IPWF), Haj Cells of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Center (KMCC), Risala Study Circle and the Indian Dawa Center (IDC). As many as 250 students from the International Indian School-Jeddah have also joined them. Pilgrims from all over the world were the beneficiaries of their selfless, untiring and dedicated service.

Saudi Gazette saw these volunteers everywhere in Mina where they have proved themselves as a great help and support to mainly elderly pilgrims and those who had lost their way or got separated from their mahrams (blood relatives). They also serve food to pilgrims and were busy engaged in completing burial procedures of the dead pilgrims.

The credit for fielding the largest number of volunteers goes to India Fraternity Forum, which has been serving the pilgrims since eight years. Tipped as the most organized among the groups, IFF fielded a total of 1,200 volunteers, including 32 women and 24 students.

These expatriate volunteers, who belong to different states of India, come from various corners of Saudi Arabia after getting the best ever training in field voluntary work. Some 72 teams have been assigned for field work while 34 teams served elderly and sick pilgrims in their tents, in addition to 40-member special team deployed at Mashair train stations. They are wearing blue T-shirts and the saffron-colored jackets provided by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).

“We are getting full support from the Indian Haj Mission, which arranged accommodation for our pilgrims in Aziziyah, as well as from the Saudi authorities, especially the Haj and Health Ministries, and the South Asian Tawafa Organization. This serves as a big boost to the morale of our dedicated volunteers,” said Ahmad Kutty, media coordinator of IFF Haj Service, which began with 30 volunteers in 2005. Jeddah IFF President Ashraf Morayur said that the timely action on the part of one of their volunteers saved one pilgrim who almost got stuck in between the train and its automatic door on Tuesday.

KMCC Haj Cell has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers. Ahmed Palayatt, President of KMCC Jeddah Central Committee and General Convener of the Haj Cell, told Saudi Gazette that their volunteers distributed rice soup for nearly 100,000 pilgrims during the last four days of Haj. “We are also using 40 wheelchairs and two ambulances to render various types of services to pilgrims. Our volunteers are now mainly concentrating on guiding pilgrims to and fro between their camps and Jamarat,” he said.

Jeddah Haj Welfare Forum Chairman Chemban Abbas said that their volunteers assisted pilgrims who could not eat the Arab food distributed by some mutawwifs (Haj guides) in their tents in Arafat and Mina. “We are now distributing rice soup among the pilgrims, in addition to guiding lost pilgrims to their tents and helping them to get medical aid,” he said. The Forum, which has been serving the pilgrims since the 90s, is the umbrella body of about 20 social and cultural organizations based in Jeddah.


1,657 female Saudi nurses serve pilgrims

17 October 2013

MINA — A total of 1657 female Saudi nurses are participating in taking care of sick pilgrims, according to Dr. Munira Al Osaimi, the Assistant Deputy Health Minister and Head of Laboratories, Nursing, and Nutrition committee at Ministry of Health in this year Haj season.

“We are seeing more participation from Saudi nurses, whether males or females, in Haj healthcare service by the passage of time. Their participation is determined by their qualifications and experience, and willingness to serve,“ she said. She added the above figures represent 28% of the total nurse workforce participating in Haj service at the ministry and that the Saudi nursing workforce, male and female, represent almost 65% of the total nurses in Haj this year, while the total number of nurse represent over 26% of the total 22,500 healthcare workers in Haj this year.

Dr. Al Osaimi said the Ministry has prepare these nurses for serving in Haj. “For example they receive training session in how to deal with pilgrims, and this we wanted to teach them some major language of pilgrims. So, we made a booklet withcommon words and phrases used in communication between nurses and patient in 12 languages including English, French, Urdu, and others, “ she said. — Saeed Al Khotani


Pilgrims risk health with unlicensed head shaves

A pilgrim has his head shaved after casting pebbles at a pillar that symbolizes Satan during
the annual Haj pilgrimage, on the first day of Eid Al-Adha in Mina.

17 October 2013

MINA — Every year hundreds of part-time, unlicensed barbers flock to the holy city of Mina to shave the heads of pilgrims observing the last step in performing the Haj.

“I’m shaving my head because this is what the Prophet (pbuh) asked us to do, and it’s really hot now, so having a shaved head isn’t a bad idea,” said Yemeni Mohamed Hassan, as he crouched on the ground under a barber’s razor. “We are on Haj, so God will cause no harm to us,” he said, wiping dripping blood from his head with his hands.

The barbers wield the same razor on dozens of men, exponentially increasing the chances of spreading sickness and disease among this year’s estimated two million pilgrims on Haj.

It’s a practice the Saudi Health Ministry has been trying to stamp out for years. The barbers avoid arrest by maintaining they are relatives of their clients, and claiming not to receive compensation for their service. This year, in addition to bringing in licensed barbers from around the country and putting up posters as usual, the authorities have flooded television and radio with warnings of the potential health hazards.

It’s a tough sell. The owner of a licensed shop in Mina said with many of the pilgrims on a tight budget, at least 60 percent go to the unofficial barbers or shave themselves. “I can’t afford to pay anything over 10 riyals ($2.7) and the barbers that the government approves here are expensive,” said Salam Assem, a factory worker from Egypt.

Ministry officials say it is difficult to know how many pilgrims contract diseases because of razor-sharing because they return to their home countries after their visits, complicating data collection and coordination. But the concerns are very real.

“Sharing razors can be incredibly dangerous,” said Amin Al-Mahdi, physician manager of a hospital in Mina during Haj. “Through open wounds, viruses like HIV, hepatitis C and B in addition to malaria can be transferred from one person to another. And even through dirty hands there’s a risk of getting mange and other skin infections,” he said.

Such infections are only part of the health risks associated with the physically demanding Haj. A 2008 study by the Journal of Infection and Public Health detailed a long list of what it called “extreme stressors” during the Haj — heat, sun exposure, thirst, crowding, traffic congestion, steep inclines and rough ground underfoot.

Health experts say countries that send large numbers of pilgrims can help by warning their citizens of the dangers before they visit.

Abdel Rahman Rajab, a student from Jeddah, said taking the risk of shaving on the streets was not worth it. “I came to a licensed barber because at least I know the razor he’s using is new, and he took it out of the packet in front of my eyes,” he said. “I paid 50 riyals for a shave: It’s a lot of money but it’s better than getting a dangerous virus.”

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#3222 [Permalink] Posted on 19th October 2013 11:26
Mina bursts into color after successful Haj

Muslim pilgrims head to the "Jamarat" ritual, the symbolic stoning of Satan,
in Mina near the holy city of Makkah, on Oct. 16, 2013. (AFP)

17 October 2013

The tent city of Mina burst into color Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims donned their traditional best, with the most vivid and striking outfits worn by Africans, Indonesians and Pakistanis.

There were scenes of jubilation as pilgrims completed the mandatory ritual of stoning the three gray walls that represent the devil inside the Jamarat complex. Pilgrims threw seven pebbles at each of the three walls in a ritual they will repeat on Thursday before leaving Mina.

The pilgrims seemed under no stress or duress. They marched toward the Jamarat complex with smiles on their spiritually radiant faces. Many found time to take pictures and make long-distance calls to their loved ones in their home countries who were celebrating Eid Al-Adha on Wednesday.

Many of the faithful also exchanged pleasantries with fellow pilgrims. The men in uniform joined the celebrations by congratulating the Hajis.

“We are delighted beyond words,” said Nabila Hasan, an Egyptian pilgrim from Alexandria. “I can't believe we carried out these rituals. They seemed daunting at the outset, but were pretty easy to carry out, thanks to the wonderful arrangements.”

Security forces continued to remain vigilant along pedestrian walkways and did not allow anyone to block the passages. There was no letup in the harsh weather, with hospitals treating many pilgrims for sunburn and exhaustion because of the constant walking.

The Haj trains, which have now become a dominant feature of the annual pilgrimage, continued to ferry pilgrims from one end of the tent city to the Jamarat station.

With everything under control, this was described by many as the most successful Haj.

Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, head of the high-tech command and control center for Haj security, told an international news agency that the success was based on two factors. “The organization for this year's Haj was better because of the reduced number of pilgrims and the correct implementation of the security plan,” said Al-Zahrani.

The center installed more than 5,000 cameras to monitor all the holy sites, including 1,200 at the Grand Mosque.

“We installed and experimented with highly advanced cameras for the first time this year and this has proved successful,” said Al-Zahrani.
The center in Mina has many television screens receiving live videos around the clock from the holy sites.

Backed by three helicopters, the center is able to quickly pinpoint problem areas and inform security agencies.

“Our thanks go to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, the entire Saudi leadership and the Saudi people for taking such good care of us all,” said Habibur Rahman from Azamgarh in India.

Faiz Ahmed Kidwai, the Indian consul general, said a remarkable achievement of this year’s Haj was that only 41 Indian pilgrims were reported missing since the start of operations in Mina, compared to 300 last year during the same period. “This year's Haj is a massive success,” he said.



Pilgrims stone the devil for 3rd straight day

17 October 2013

MINA, Saudi Arabia: Pilgrims stoned three huge concrete structures in Mina representing Satan for the third straight day Thursday, after which some of them started leaving the Kingdom at the end of this year’s largely incident-free Haj.

Although the Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, comes to a close officially on Friday, pilgrims are allowed to leave a day early after taking part in the stoning of the devil ritual.

The ritual is an emulation of the Prophet Abraham’s (peace be upon him) stoning of the devil at the three spots where Satan tried to dissuade the patriarch from obeying God’s order to sacrifice his son, Ishmael.

After the stoning, pilgrims performed the final tawaf, or circumambulation, around the Kaaba in the middle of the Grand Mosque, Islam’s most important shrine in the holy city of Makkah.

Muslims believe the Kaaba — which they call the “House of God” — was built by Abraham 4,000 years ago.
Thousands of pilgrims were later seen loading trucks with luggage and departing their hotels in Makkah.
A majority of them travel the 100-kilometer (60-mile) journey to Jeddah international airport to take flights back home.

The Saudi government has deployed more than 100,000 troops to maintain the security of the pilgrims during the Haj.

The authorities have declared this year’s Haj a grand success after it finished free of accidents and diseases, especially the deadly MERS virus which has so far killed 60 people worldwide, 51 of them in the kingdom itself.

The overall number of pilgrims at this year’s Haj was just under two million, sharply down on last year’s 3.2 million, after the Saudi government slashed quotas for foreign pilgrims due to ongoing construction work to expand the circumambulation area's capacity.

Foreign pilgrims accounted for 1.38 million of them, compared with 1.75 million in 2012.

Officials said the smaller number contributed to the success.
The pilgrimage was monitored by more than 5,000 cameras installed at all holy sites, including 1,200 at the Grand Mosque, managed by the Command and Control Center for Haj Security.

Saudi Minister of Haj Affairs Bandar Hajar said on Wednesday that his ministry has been instructed by the king to work out a 25-year plan to ensure the smooth running of the pilgrimage.


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#3223 [Permalink] Posted on 19th October 2013 11:29
Train girls: Signs of the times

Female guides using signs to aid pilgrims traveling in Mashair train.

17 October 2013

MINA — Without any great noise or fanfare, the 'train girls,' as they are being called, have started practicing their new profession using simple hand signs to communicate and assist.

One hundred and fifty Saudi girls have started carrying out Haj tasks this year for the first time. They started work Tuesday and will continue for five days. Their task is to organize the flow of groups of pilgrims for Al-Mashair train.

For the first time this year, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has allowed the participation of 150 Saudi girls to serve groups of pilgrims using the Al-Mashair train. The ‘train girls’ began their work in the morning of Arafat Day by spreading out in the tent camps to ensure that women pilgrims have wrist bands and organize them at the station gates, Al-Watan reported.

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has prepared a new mechanism to operate Al-Mashair train in this year’s Haj. It includes making the follow up measures stricter for the safety of pilgrims to embark onto the train through e-gates.

The new mechanism, whose implementation is being supervised by the Central Administration for Development Projects in the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, includes observations made during last year’s Haj at some of the stations. This implementation is being carried out in coordination with all the pertinent authorities, like the Ministry of Haj, Public Security and the Civil Defense.

Al-Watan tried to ask the girls about the method and mechanism of their work which they carry out in near silence, to which one of the female supervisors replied that the girls are silent so as to carry out their work without any disturbance. "Carrying out dialogue or discussion with people might disturb the movement of pilgrims especially as many of the pilgrims do not speak English or Arabic." The supervisor added hence this requires their total dependence on signs and becoming proficient in it so as to convey the message fast and clearly.

The 'train girls' were carrying out their work at the station efficiently. The matter requires of them to use certain signs, like asking the pilgrim to raise his or her hand so as to show the wrist band for the e-ticket at the special gates for entering the station. The girls have become proficient in their work.


‘If there is a will, there are several ways’

17 October 29013

• “If there is a will, there is a way.” This is what we learned from school. But the Haj experience showed us that there are several ways to serve Allah’s guests if we have a will to earn reward from God, said Hurairah Chorghay, head boy of International Indian School-Jeddah. He was one among 250 IISJ student volunteers who served pilgrims in Mina and Arafat during the first two days of Haj.

Chorghay said. “Our assigned job was to guide pilgrims from their tents in Mina and Arafat to the Mashair railway stations No. 1 and 2. While returning from the station, we saw on the route to the tents, many pilgrims, who were tired and thirsty due to extreme heat, seeking water. We helped them by getting a driver of a truck full of bottled water to use our assistance to distribute water among the pilgrims. We helped the driver distribute the bottles to all pilgrims. Nearly 100 student volunteers helped in the distribution. Each one of us distributed an average 10 cartons of water.”

Chorghay, who hails from Mumbai, said this was a great practical experience to the effect that if we have a real will to do virtues, Allah will open in front of us various ways for this. The head boy said that the presence of IISJ Principal Syed Masood Ahmad, headmaster for boys’ section P. Noufal and about 10 teachers helped us a lot in properly doing our service. “This great experience prompted me to go to Mina again to serve the pilgrims,” he said. Chorghay reached Mina on Wednesday and engaged in serving the pilgrims under the banner of India Fraternity Forum.

Ahmad said it was a wonderful experience as our students get little exposure for voluntary service. “Highly charged with religious enthusiasm, our students did a marvelous job in serving the pilgrims,” he said. Ahmad, who was leading the IISJ volunteers for the second consecutive year, also shared a unique experience. “While engaged in service, we saw two elderly pilgrims, who were in an exhausted state and unable to walk any more. So, we took care of them, and our students went out in frantic search of a wheelchair that they managed to get from an Indian dispensary, half a kilometer away. They then pushed the pilgrims two kilometers to the railway station.”

Jabir Haneef, another student leader, said: “We have the general feeling that we are now responsible grown up people entrusted to do a great job for Allah’s guests. It was an amazing experience and many of us eagerly want to get such opportunities again and again.”

“We also guided pilgrims to Jabal Rahma, and Namira Mosque. We were instrumental in quenching the thirst of many pilgrims,” he said. – Hassan Cheruppa


Young Makkawis using bikes to transport pilgrims


17 October 2013

MAKKAH — A number of young men in Makkah are using motorbikes to transport pilgrims from the holy sites to Makkah and vice versa. The motorbikes, commonly known in Makkah as the flying taxis, can easily go through the waves of human beings and the car-congested streets but they remain a dangerous means of transport.

Musa Faisal, a young Saudi, said the Haj represents to them a high season during which they can make extra bucks. "The pilgrims prefer to ride with us because we take them quickly to their destinations as we will not be hampered by traffic bottlenecks or congestions," he said.

He complained that the traffic police always chased them and confiscated their motorbikes and imposed fines on them.

Faisal said the young Makkawis teach each other the techniques of driving the motorbikes to gain extra money during the Haj and Umrah seasons. He said they charge a single pilgrim between SR200 and SR300 depending on the distance. "The price for the same distance could go up to SR500 during peak hours," he said.

Col. Mohammed Al-Bassami of the Makkah traffic police warned against using motorbikes to transport pilgrims and said this was a violation which was punishable by law. "Whoever transports pilgrims on motorbikes will be punished according to the system," he said.

Director of Makkah traffic Col. Solaiman Al-Jumaie warned against using the motorbikes as a means of transport during Haj and said about 630 motorbikes have so far been impounded.


‘Sign’ of brotherhood:
Even lost Chinese Hajis find way home


17 October 2013

This was one group of Chinese pilgrims who could not fall back on the rapid strides made by their country in technology, and instead, they had to rely on sign language to get to their lodging.

While more than 1.5 million pilgrims were removing their ihrams on Tuesday after finishing the grand day of Arafat standing, 35 Chinese pilgrims found themselves lost when their guide went missing, and they do not speak Arabic or English. They resorted to the sign language to get directions to the place they wanted to go.

This lost group, out of 11,000 Chinese pilgrims who came to perform the holy rituals, was lost in the City of Five Days, Mina. The group was doing the Jamarat ritual when they were lost. The language-handicapped pilgrims, despite the almost 30,000 characters included in their mother language which were of no use within the borders of a city of 4.2 sq. km, could only use the sign language.

The scout center in the city, the voluntary group that provides great service to pilgrims, sent a scout to light the way for them on the first day of Eid to get them safe to their lodgings.

The scout first had difficulty in counting their numbers as they switched places every time he started counting. To him, they all looked the same! Finally, he used sign language to get them stand in a queue to lead them. There was only one young woman among the 35 lost elders. Then they began their trek back to the blue camp, the assigned color for Asian pilgrims.


Street vendors rake in profits

Vendors sell fruit at a side street in Mina on Thursday.

17 October 2013

For the street vendors operating under the King Faisal Bridge in Muzdalifah, Haj season is the time to make a profit, exploiting the thousands of pilgrims seeking food, beverages and water, and charging exorbitant rates for them.

Nabiah Al-Rashi said she sells her home-cooked meals for SR10 for a small plate and SR20 for a big plate. While her entire expenditure during the season doesn’t exceed SR400, she rakes in profits in excess of SR15,000.

“I know we are violating rules and regulations, and our business is illegal. But it is only during the Haj season that I make such huge profits,” she said.

“A pilgrims’ primary need is water. Hence, I bought two containers of water and put them in ice to cool and sell them. I sell a cold water bottle for SR3, and a non-refrigerated one for SR2. Every year I come to Muzdalifah Bridge, even though I know it’s forbidden, but I don’t want to lose the chance to make some money during this season,” said Um Al-Faraj.

Zulikha Eiman, echoing similar views, said: “There are only a few foodstuff stores on the pilgrims’ road which leads to Muzdalifah, and since they pass next to me, I sell pastries, refrigerated juice and water to the pilgrims. Profits are not stable because of the fierce competition from other vendors who reserve and put up their stalls a day before Tarwiyah.

These are usually areas in vantage position of Muzdalifah where sales are good,” she said.

“I brought my daughters to ensure that we get good slots,” said Basitah Khadraa. She reserves a number of places and rents them for SR100 per day, making as much as SR400 a day.

Osama Zaitouni, director-general of information and public relations in the municipality of Makkah, said the municipality is intensifying its efforts and working round-the-clock to keep the situation under control.

He said it was difficult to bring all the illegal vendors under control, though there are daily confiscations of goods, especially foodstuffs. “Many people exploit the Haj season and sell foodstuff and beverages at double the normal prices,” he added.

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#3224 [Permalink] Posted on 19th October 2013 11:31
30 percent of pilgrims used walkalators


17 October 2013

MINA — The head of the special emergency forces, Maj. Gen. Khalid Al-Harbi said that 30 percent of pilgrims have utilized the walkalators inside tunnels. These tunnels connect Al-Shabain and Al-Me'aisem area with the third level of the Jamarat bridge, and have provided a great service to pilgrims. He pointed out that the the current pedestrian tunnels were widened, and rerouted to cross over King Khalid Road toward the third level of Jamarat, through two new tunnels. The southern path toward the Jamarat is 1,770 meters long, and the northern path is 2,550 meters long. These walkalators are being used for the first time this Haj season.

The deputy Minister of Municipalities, Dr. Habeeb Zainulabedeen. Said that in addition to these moving walkways, there is 100-meter long underground path connecting Al-Me'aisem and Al-Shabain areas to the tunnels. He pointed out that there three tunnels in the area; the old tunnel that will be used to transport pilgrims from the western area to Al-Me'aisem area.

The other two tunnels will connect Al-Shabain to the third level of Jamarat bridge, without passing through Mina.

He stressed that these tunnels will help in controlling pilgrims masses. These tunnels are equipped with lighting, and proper ventilation.


Pilgrim blames devil for his divorce

The furious pilgrim

17 october 2013

MINA — It took security officers a great deal of time and effort to convince this man (in picture), who stormed his way through the crowds holding a long stick to beat up the pillar symbolizing Satan. Eyewitnesses said the man was furious and he kept shouting at the pillar. He blamed the Devil for his divorce with his wife which he said destroyed his life.


Pakistani volunteers in Mina serve pilgrims

18 October 2013

Hundreds of Pakistani expatriates, most of them based in Jeddah, have taken to voluntary work for Haj and are busy in Mina serving their country’s pilgrims.

The volunteers have set up base in Makkah and Mina besides other holy sites to assist pilgrims, mainly guiding them to their accommodation as many of them often find themselves lost while moving between holy sites and also their visit to the Grand Mosque. The interaction in their native language by their own kin brings cheer to pilgrims wandering around in unfamiliar and difficult conditions.

An Arab News reporter in Mina saw Pakistani volunteers consoling lost pilgrims who were desperately seeking their loved ones, and escorting them to their accommodations based on the information tag on the bracelets worn by pilgrims.

“Our objective is to guide pilgrims in Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa and Jamarat in their native language and to make them understand rituals,” Mohammed Zia-ul Hafeez, coordinator of Pakistan Haj Volunteer Group (PHVG) told Arab News.

He said: “We have provided GPS-enabled mobile devices to our volunteers in the field to navigate pilgrims to their destinations.

We are working closely in coordination with the consulate of Pakistan and the Word Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) within the parameters of Saudi laws to serve the guests of Allah in the holy sites.”

Mohammed Zia-ul Hafeez said over 1,000 volunteers had come forward to serve the pilgrims. “Volunteers work in two shifts of 12 hours, and they have been provided with extensive training. No volunteer is performing Haj and their duty is only to serve the pilgrims,” he said.

PHVG had won praise last year with its service to aged pilgrims in facilitating medical care and guiding pilgrims to their accommodations. The group has its exclusive accommodation in Aziziyah in Makkah where volunteers stay during their service in Makkah. In all, 133,386 pilgrims from Pakistan are performing Haj this year.


Scouts happy to serve pilgrims

Boy scouts direct pilgrims at Emergency Hospital in Mina during Haj.

18 october 2013

MINA — A total of 319 members of the Saudi Arabian Boy Scouts Association were assigned to service in healthcare facilities in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites this year. Every year, the association, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education, mobilizes around 4,500 of its members, all Saudis, to serve in Haj.

Dr. Khalid Marghlani, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, said that he welcomes boy scouts for their vital contribution at healthcare facilities every year.

“This contribution includes organizing queues in clinics, maintaining order in the corridors of hospitals, pushing wheel chairs of sick pilgrims in hospital premises and helping sick pilgrims reach their tents,” he said.

“On other side, don’t forget that all these boy scouts are students. So, the ministry considers their participation in Haj service a real opportunity to familiarize themselves with the healthcare industry and even consider a career in healthcare when they go to college,” he added.

Saudi Gazette interviewed a number of boy scouts working at the main hospital in Mina: Mina Emergency Hospital.

For 12th grader Abdulaziz Al Jrayed, joining the Haj service this year for the first time meant he could serve the guests of Allah. He said that the one-week training he received prior to his Haj service in life saving techniques and dealing with patients who suffer from diabetes, sun stroke or a heart attack, has helped familiarize him with the hospital work environment.

Ibrahim Al Mubarak, also a 12th grader, said this was the second time he participated in the Haj service.

The first time he served with the Makkah municipality. “Working in the hospital was easier compared to the work I did last year with the municipality as it mostly required me to survey long distances and take stranded pilgrims back to their camps.”

Boy scouts who participate in Haj service usually receive a stipend of SR1,500 from the association and certificates of appreciation which are handed to them during a ceremony in their home regions. During the Haj, they are provided with accommodation and meals from hosting government departments.


Many evade Haj rules: Report


18 October 2013

MINA — Despite authorities efforts to keep pilgrims who don’t have the necessary Haj permits from performing Haj, many citizens and residents entered Makkah in their plain clothes and then put on their Ihrams, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

Some arrived in Makkah with their Ihrams on but upon seeing the intense scrutiny of Haj permits, they put on plain clothes to avoid police detection and then changed back into their Ihrams once they passed the check points located in Makkah’s outer city limits.

Several experts said such acts exploit the laws set by the government and breaking such laws is prohibited. Haj permits are required to ensure that pilgrims receive suitable housing, food and other services.

Taher Barakat, an Egyptian, said he decided to perform Haj this year and he passed through the inspection points in his plain clothes. After entering Makkah, he put on his Ihram and paid SR1,000 for a sacrifice, which he said was much cheaper than paying for a Haj package.

Arshad Khan, a Pakistani, said he had performed Haj two years ago with the necessary permit but since regulations only allow citizens and expatriates to perform Haj once every five years, he entered Makkah in his plain clothes and then put on his Ihram. He also offered a sacrifice.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Sehli, head of the Islamic Studies Center at Umm Al-Qura University, said Haj permits are necessary to ensure the comfort and safety of all pilgrims.

“The entry into Makkah by pilgrims wearing plain clothes is a trend that is repeated every year. Last year, I received several inquiries from pilgrims who had entered Makkah in their plain clothes. Such pilgrims have committed many sins by ignoring both Shariah laws and the laws of the government,” he said, adding that the Shariah penalty for such an act is to offer a sacrifice, feed six poor people or fast.

Dr. Khalid Al-Humood, professor of Shariah, said using trickery to perform Haj is a sin especially since it is committed with the purpose of pleasing God. He added that allowing other pilgrims to perform Haj is a blessed behavior and that the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed Haj only once.

“It is more fruitful for citizens and residents to donate the cost of their Haj to others who cannot afford it. If they do that, they will gain double the reward,” he said.


Pilgrims inject SR1 billion into textiles market in Haj


18 October 2013

JEDDAH — The Chairman of the Readymade Clothes and Textiles Committee in Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Muhammad Al-Shehri has estimated the volume of pilgrims’ spending during the current Haj season to purchase clothes and fabrics at over SR1 billion.

This was injected in the clothes market in Saudi Arabia, the volume of whose investments are estimated at SR10 billion.

Al-Shehri said the pilgrims will spend about SR1 billion during the Tashreeq days in Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah.

He announced a drop in the percentage of counterfeit textiles and clothes that violate the specifications and standards in the Saudi market by 70 percent during the current Haj season due to the rectification campaigns that the market witnessed before the Haj period.

These campaigns are continuing till now. He said this period has helped in the exit of a big number of expatriate workers, who were promoting old clothes and those violating the standards and specifications at the lowest prices. They used to attract many customers.

As to the products that attract pilgrims, Al-Shehri said ihrams come at the top, as their sales reach SR150 million annually. Of these, the Kingdom imports nearly 1.9 million ihrams annually. These form 93 percent of the total ihrams in the Saudi market. The Kingdom manufactures about 7 percent only.

Al-Shehri said there were no complaints by pilgrims this Haj season on the bad quality of ihrams that were sold to the Haj groups during the current season. The pilgrims used to complain about the same ihrams during the past years due to skin inflammations for those who wore them. They got rid of them after creating awareness among the importers about the specifications of ihrams. Most important among these is that they should contain 80 percent cotton besides Shariah requirements.

Al-Shehri called on the Ministry of Commerce to intensify monitoring campaigns on clothes’ safety and prices. He mentioned the efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and the Customs Department to prevent entry of many commodities of bad quality and low standards and specifications.

Asked about the effects of clothes brought by pilgrims with the intention of selling them during the Haj season, Al-Shehri confirmed those sales do not affect the market greatly. They provide a variety of products.

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#3225 [Permalink] Posted on 19th October 2013 11:32
Haj Mabroor


Journey of a lifetime ends successfully

HAJ MABROOR: After arriving in Makkah from Mina on Thursday,
pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba marking the end of Haj.

18 October 2013

The once-in-a-lifetime journey of faith, endurance and determination for hundreds of thousands of Muslims from nearly 200 countries came to a successful end on Thursday.

Relief was writ large on the faces of pilgrims, many in the autumn of their lives as was evident from the deep furrows on their brows. Here at Mina, they were the personification of sheer determination.

Many pilgrims woke up early on Thursday and straight after sunrise began throwing seven pebbles at each of the three huge concrete structures representing the devil.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal described this year’s Haj as an overwhelming success.

“All government institutions, security forces, volunteers, pilgrim establishments and men on the ground worked as one team to ensure the success of this year’s Haj,” he said. “You can call this a turning point,” he said, and praised Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif.

“All the rituals were carried out in a calm atmosphere and free of any political demonstrations, proving that Islam is a religion of peace, civilization and progress,” he said.

Outside the press conference venue, pilgrims echoed his words.

“With God’s help and the Saudi government’s excellent arrangements, we could complete all the rituals,” said 69-year-old Athar Mohiuddin, from Pakistan’s Hyderabad. “The rituals were not really easy for me, especially because I had to push my wife in a wheelchair,” he said. “We know Haj is hardship, but now that we have done it we beseech Allah to accept it.”

Mohiuddin and his wife performed the stoning ritual at 2 p.m. on Thursday before taking the bus out of Mina. “We are now heading to Makkah to our temporary residence before heading to Pakistan next week,” he said. “We want to rest now.”

Other pilgrims, after living in spartan conditions for the past week, traveled to Jeddah to catch flights home or to Madinah. “This is a miracle,” gushed Mohammed Quraishi, from Agra, India. During Haj orientation camps in India, Quraishi was told that this year’s pilgrimage was going to be hard because of the paucity of space at the holy sites.

“We were mentally prepared,” he said. “However, everything went so smoothly, we could hardly have imagined it,” he said.

Quraishi’s acquaintance, Muhammad Farooq, nodded in affirmation. “Yes, we are very happy at having completed the Haj,” said Farooq. “We come from the city of Taj Mahal, but the real crown is here in this holy Kingdom,” he said, playing on the Urdu word “Taj” which means crown.

Zafarullah Khan Faridi from Kabul was delighted at the completion of the Haj. Flashing an infectious smile, he was more than willing to talk to Arab News about his experience. “It was a great feeling to be part of this vast multitude of pilgrims,” he said. “All the depression that I found in my home country was washed away the moment I cast my eyes on the Holy Kaaba. I don’t know what I asked of Allah. He knows what I need and what's in my heart.”

On the outskirts of Mina, bus drivers shouted, “Haram! Haram!” the Arabic name for the Grand Mosque as pilgrims piled aboard. Faridi boarded one of them. “Haj Mabrook to all,” he said waving a final goodbye.


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