‘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.
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.”