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#3226 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 16:10
1,98 million pilgrims

participated in the Hajj 2013/1434

Mina, 12 Dhu al-Hijjah 1434 / October 17, 2013

According to Saudi authorities, 1,98 million pilgrims
attended the Hajj, against 3.16 million in 2012.

The pilgrims came from abroad reached 1.38 million,
against 1.75 million last year.


Khaled declares Haj an ‘overwhelming success’

18 October 2013

This year’s Haj was an overwhelming success in terms of healthcare provision, security operations and traffic plans, Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said here Thursday at a press conference.

He was relaxed and cheerful as he described this year’s pilgrimage as a milestone in the history of the Central Haj Committee. He is the chairman of the committee.

His demeanor was in sharp contrast to last year’s press briefing when he had expressed his disappointment at not being able to stop hundreds of thousands of undocumented pilgrims from entering the holy sites.

He joked with journalists at times during the press conference. “Were you able to perform Haj?” he asked them. He smiled when many replied that they could not do so because they did not have Haj permits.

“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.

He said the country’s leadership and its people were determined to improve Haj services.

“It is our quest to build and add to all these achievements, to make Haj better and better every year until we meet the expectations of our people and the entire Muslim world,” he said. “God willing, each year will be better than the previous one,” he said.

Prince Khaled had special praise for the security forces.

“They have done a good job of keeping unregistered pilgrims out,” he said.
“To all those who were involved in the success of this year’s Haj, you have made us proud,” he said.

In response to a question from Arab News about the organizational challenges faced by the government this year, he said he would have to study the reports submitted to the Central Haj Committee. He would then identify the “gray areas” and steps needed to improve services.

He said transport would improve significantly with the introduction of the Haj train from Makkah to Mina, which is currently being completed. He said it would be a “big relief” to have thousands of pilgrims shuttle between Makkah and Mina by train.

He said pilgrims and goods flowed smoothly between the holy sites because of the reduced quota this year and a reduction in illegal pilgrims because of government's security crackdown.

Prince Khaled said he did not want to discuss next year’s Haj quota until he studies the reports of the Central Haj Committee.

He said the government would provide better services if it controlled the number of pilgrims arriving every year.

Departing Hajis to get copies of Qur’an

18 October 2013

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs will distribute copies of the holy Qur’an in Arabic and other translations to departing pilgrims as a gift from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Sheikh Talal bin Ahmad Al-Aqeel, adviser to the Minister of Islamic Affairs and chairman of the committee of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, said a plan had been approved for distributing copies of the holy Qur’an to departing pilgrims.

In a statement on Wednesday, he said there is no greater gift for the guests of God than the holy Qur’an. Around 1,350,000 copies in Arabic and translations of other languages are distributed every year.

The copies include the regular Qur’an, Al-Jwami’ Qur’an for the elderly, a Qur’an for Pakistani nationals, Al-Warsh which targets Al-Maghrib Al-Arabi, and the interpretation of the Qur’an in Urdu, Hosa, English, French, Turkish, Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, Spanish, Milbari, Russian, German and Albanian languages.

Al-Aqeel said an operational team has been deployed at the Kingdom’s various ports to ensure round-the-clock distribution of the “Haj gift.”

The gift which is published by the Publication and Scientific Research Agency includes the holy Qur’an, four books, a CD and a tape that has lectures, which deals with several issues. It publishes religion sciences and explains the rules of Islam and contributes to the spread of Islamic directions, and information that raises the awareness of Islamic culture, and knowledge of Shariah rules.

These gifts are distributed among the Hajis in 55 centers across the Kingdom with 1,000 employees.

Haj MERS-free: Al-Rabeeah

18 October 2013

MINA — While the world was watching with bated breath for any impact of MERS virus on the nearly two million pilgrims this year, the Kingdom declared that the Haj season was absolutely free from any epidemic or contagious disease.

“Not a single case (of MERS) was detected,” Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah told reporters here as pilgrims started leaving the Mina valley Thursday after stoning the devil on the third day of the annual 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.

Al-Rabeeah’s press conference was attended by local and world media representatives, top Ministry of Health officials, senior experts of World Health Organization and the Center of Disease Control in US.

“With all praises and gratitude to Allah, it is a great pleasure to announce that the Haj was free from any epidemic or quarantinable diseases,” Al-Rabeeah said.

He said this announcement was based on a host of measures taken by the Saudi government, reports received from various health committees, statistical data, and information generated from field application of the precautionary instruction and guidelines set forth by his ministry.

Measures cited by the minister, on which the announcement was made, included the policies formulated by the national committee for infectious disease on prevention and dealing with infectious diseases, levels of emergency preparedness to deal with all diseases in particular MERS virus, and application of necessary measures to intensify early epidemiological surveillance.

Al-Rabeeah pledged that the Kingdom would continue to follow the health status of pilgrims and visitors, including the results of laboratories for infectious diseases, until the last pilgrim returns to his home country.

Addressing the media, WHO representatives Ezaddin Muhaisini thanked the Saudi government for the enormous efforts made, and professional measures taken, to ensure safety of the pilgrims.

“With all transparency, we were given the opportunity to see for ourselves the powerful efforts made by the Ministry of Health to offer health care services to the pilgrims from all nationalities,” he said.
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#3227 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 16:35
Aerial view of the Masjid al Haram
with the influx of pilgrims in the House of Allah

إطلالة جوية للحرم المكي مع توافد حجاج بيت الله

13 october 2013


Prophet’s pilgrimage was pinnacle of Islam

18 October 2013

The Messenger of Allah performed his only Haj in the tenth year after Hijrah (the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah in 633 CE). The scholars have three different names for this blessed Haj. It is called Hajjat Al-Wida (Farewell Haj), because the Messenger of Allah said farewell to his followers during it and because he did not perform any other Haj until he died later that year. It is also called Hajjat Al-Islam, for the Messenger of Allah never performed any Haj from Madinah except this one. In addition, it’s called Hajjat Al-Balagh (Delivering the Message), for the Messenger of Allah conveyed to the Muslims the sermons of Haj.

Haj was the last pillar and cornerstone of Islam to be conveyed to Muslims, and it was explained and practiced by the Messenger of Allah himself. When he conveyed and initiated the rituals of Haj for Muslims, Allah sent down to him the following Ayah when he was in the area of Mount Arafat (not the Mount itself), “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3)

Also, while in the area of Arafat, the Messenger of Allah delivered his farewell speech, in which he detailed the major aspects of Islam regarding conduct, righteousness, piety and also stated the rights of mankind upon each other.
The Messenger of Allah said in his farewell speech, “O People! Hear what I am going to say and comprehend it. Know that every Muslim is the brother for other Muslims.

Therefore, since Muslims are brothers, none among them is allowed to acquire that which his brother owns, except what he agrees to give up. By Allah, did I convey?” They said, “By Allah! Yes, indeed.” He said, “O Allah! Be my Witness. Do not become Kuffar after my departure, smiting each others’ necks.”

Indeed, Islam seeks to strengthen brotherly relations between Muslims, by fortifying this brotherhood with the kindness, love and loyalty that they should have for each other. This is why Islam has prescribed certain rights for Muslims on each other, so that their hearts will reconcile and unite around brotherly love. Allah said, what translated means,

The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive Mercy. (Qur’an, 49:10)

One of the major cornerstones of this prescribed brotherhood is that this feeling should be apparent and announced between Muslims.

An-Numan ibn Bashir said that the Messenger of Allah said, “The example of the believers in their kindness, mercy and compassion that they have for each other is the example of the human body: When a part of it feels sick, the rest of the body responds with sleeplessness and fever.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Also, Abu Musa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, “The example of the believers is the example of a building, each of its parts supports the other parts.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmithi & An-Nasaii)

To further emphasize the importance of this brotherly love, Islam calls upon Muslims to announce to each other that they love them.

Al-Miqdad reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “When one of you loves one of his brothers (for the sake of Allah), let him inform him (his brother) that he loves him.” (Ahmad)

Being loyal to other believers is an important aspect of this Islamic brotherly love. The true believer is only loyal to and friends with his believing brothers. Also, the true believer does not follow any path other than the path taken by the community of the believers, as Allah said, “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Awliyaa (helpers, loyalists, supporters, etc.) instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them. And Allah warns you against Himself (His punishment), and to Allah is the Final Return.” (Qur’an, 3:28)

The Messenger of Allah declared during the speech that he gave in Hajjat Al-Wida that people are equal, in that they all descended from one male and one female. He said to the people: “O People! Your Lord is One and your father is one (Adam). You all are from Adam, and Adam was made from dust. Verily, the most honorable amongst you in the Sight of Allah is the one who has piety.

No Arab is better than a non-Arab, except if he has more Taqwa (fear from Allah). Did I convey? O Allah! Be a Witness.” They said, “By Allah, indeed you did (convey the Message).” He said, “Then, let those who are present convey to those who are absent.”

Indeed, Islam proclaimed that all mankind are brothers because their origin is the same.

This has taken place centuries before the present time, providing further proof that Islam is the religion for all mankind. Allah said, “O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is that (believer) who has piety. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All- Aware.” (Qur’an, 49:3)

This is how Islam calls upon people to understand that which they failed to understand. Their Lord is One, their father is one, and their origin is one, from dust. This helps them abandon their prejudice and embrace the brotherhood that Islam seeks for them. The early Muslims implemented this call to the fullest and most complete form, indeed.

This is a tremendous Hadith, indeed. It is one of the most beautiful examples in the justice and equality that Islam was sent with. To the Prophet, all people, whether rich or poor, noble of mediocre, are the same.

This is how Islam destroyed the very essence and foundation of Al-Jahiliyyah and built on its ruins a society full of justice and following the truth.

During the reign of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, Jabalah ibn Al-Ayham, the king of the Ghassani Arabs in Syria, once visited the House of Allah in Makkah. This occurred after he joined the Muslims and split ranks with the Romans with whom he had joined ranks during the early years of Islam. When Islam became victorious, he embraced Islam. While he was circling the Kabaa when performing Haj, a man stepped on his garment and it fell to the ground. Jabalah smacked the man’s face and broke his nose.

The man complained to Caliph Umar, who summoned Jabalah. Umar informed him that the man has the right to avenge his broken nose by striking him on the nose. Or, the man may forfeit his right if he elects to do so.

He also said to Jabalah, “Here is your foe! Try to strike a deal with him, otherwise, he has the right to avenge what you did to him!” Jabalah said, “How can this be, while I am a king and he is nobody!” Umar then explained to him that Islam has made them equals. … Then, he asked for a grace period to think about this matter. Before the morning, Jabalah escaped to his people, converted from Islam and rejoined the Romans. Later on, he became very sorry that he did this, crying at times, although the Romans were very generous with him.

This is the Islamic civilization, where no race is better than other races, and no color is better than other colors. This is the true civilization that all those gifted with sound comprehension seek for themselves and their communities.
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#3228 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 16:38
Final day: Hajis weary but elated

18 October 2013

The fifth and final day of Haj on Thursday drew 2 million pilgrims from nearly 200 countries in what is regarded as one of the most successful seasons ever.

Trains ferried pilgrims to the holy sites with few problems and thousands of volunteers, including 150 Saudi women staffing the trains, made sure that Haj 2013 was trouble-free.

On the last day, pilgrims arrived at the Jamarat complex early to throw their seven pebbles each at the three concrete structures to defy Satan. Military men joined in to help the children perform their rituals.

Many pilgrims returned to their temporary quarters in Makkah and Jeddah before taking flights back to their home countries this week.

Wheelchairs illustrate love and kinship ties
18 October 2013

Compassion and companionship — qualities that define a human being — were witnessed strongly during the present Haj season.

There were many instances of youth carrying elders and aged spouses pushing around their partners on wheelchairs or sons helping their parents, all examples of exemplary human qualities.

Saudi authorities too lent a helping hand, providing top-class facilities to pilgrims like the train services between Arafah, Mina and Muzdalifah. But, even the short journey between the tent accommodations and train stations and Grand Mosque proved to be a major exercise for the physically-challenged and elderly pilgrims, but there was help at hand always.

Wheelchair bound pilgrims were a common sight in the holy cities during Haj. Several Saudis and Burmese and other Arab expats grabbed the opportunity to make a quick buck offering their services to cart around pilgrims in wheelchairs. And at the peak of Haj season, it could drain one’s pocket off SR1,000 for being pushed around in wheelchairs.

However, a vast majority of wheelchair users were being helped by close relatives — sons, nephews or spouse — in an expression of dedication and love. Husbands pushed around their wives and vice versa, in case the partner was elderly or physically not in a condition to walk.

Mohammed Ghiasuddin is one from the thousands of pilgrims who illustrated tradition and family values.

An Indian pilgrim from Andhra Pradesh, Moahmmed Ghiasuddin, who retired district registrar suffering from several ailments, arrived for Haj with his wife Shahnaz Begum, who herself is debilitated and can’t walk. Ghiasuddin, who could hardly push around the wheelchair carrying his wife, managed to do it for a couple of days before he fell ill.

Although temperatures hovered around at moderate levels, dehydration was a major problem for the pilgrims. Faruq El-Shawan from Egypt could barely manage carting around his aged mother in a wheelchair. A businessman, El-Shawan is the only son, and he was determined to fulfill his 80-year-old mother’s desire to perform Haj despite the sweltering heat.

It was also heart-warming to see volunteers, in groups, offering to help the guests of Allah in fulfilling their dream of performing Haj.

Illegal pilgrim numbers down this year by 65%

The department said government agencies were able to cut down the number of
illegal pilgrims with the use of fingerprinting devices at the holy sites.
18 October 2013

There were 65 percent less illegal pilgrims in Makkah and the holy sites this year, according to a study by Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.

The study found that 484,000 pilgrims violated regulations this year, compared to 1.4 million last year.

The illegal pilgrims were able to avoid six checkpoints leading to Makkah and several others on dirt roads to the holy sites.

Meanwhile, the Central Department of Statistics and Information revealed that 1.98 million pilgrims performed the pilgrimage this year — 1.38 million foreign pilgrims and 600,718 domestic pilgrims, mostly expatriates. There were only 117,000 legal domestic pilgrims this year.

Last year, the department said that 3.2 million pilgrims performed the holy rituals. However, the Makkah municipality dismissed this figure and said 4 million pilgrims performed Haj, with 38 percent of this total violating regulations.

The department said there was a 37.4 percent reduction in pilgrims this year compared to last year. It compiled its statistics by counting Saudi and non-Saudi pilgrims arriving in Makkah from inside the Kingdom at six points.

A total of 31.6 percent of pilgrims arrived by Al-Sail Road, 27.4 percent by Madinah Road, 26.8 percent by Jeddah Highway, and 14.2 percent via the South, Taif and Old Jeddah roads.

The data showed that 88.2 percent of domestic pilgrims arrived in Makkah on the first three days of Dhul Hijjah (Oct. 6 to 8).

The department said government agencies were able to cut down the number of illegal pilgrims with the use of fingerprinting devices at the holy sites. The other reason was the reduction in foreign and local pilgrims — 20 percent and 50 percent respectively — because of the expansion works under way in Makkah.

At security centers at the entrances to Makkah, government officials arrested and deported illegal expatriate pilgrims, while Saudis were sent home with warnings they would face prosecution later, the department said.

There were other security checks about three kilometers from these centers.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal recently revealed that 95 illegal Haj firms were closed down, with 120,000 violators arrested and 46,000 vehicles impounded.

‘Some ruin Haj with bad behavior’

UNSEEMLY ACTIONS: Pilgrims sleeping and resting under a water truck
18 October 2013

The poor behavior of some pilgrims is ruining the Haj, according to fellow pilgrims.

This was the case during this year’s Haj when several pilgrims were seen sleeping for hours under water trucks.

“I was quite embarrassed when I had to wake up pilgrims taking shelter under the trucks. They seemed to be very tired. The local authorities should intensify awareness campaigns to curb these negative practices that distort the image of the Haj,” said Omar Al-Ghamdi.

“These wrong practices are seen all over the world because they are broadcast by the television cameras of various media houses. This happens even though the security forces, company owners and pilgrims work hard to prevent these negative practices. But some Hajis simply don’t respond to advice,” he said.

Children forced to work at holy sites
18 October 2013

Some parents are forcing their children to work and beg at the holy sites, local journalists have discovered.

During a press tour of Arafat and Muzdalifah recently, many children were seen standing behind stalls selling cold drinks, cooked meals, mobile phones, mobile recharge cards, phone chargers, shoes, umbrellas and mattresses.

Dr. Mufleh Al-Qahtani, president of the National Society for Human Rights, urged government officials to tackle this problem. Al-Qahtani said child labor is banned under Saudi labor laws and international human rights charters.

Salah Mohammad, an 8-year-old from Burma, complained to journalists about working in the scorching heat among large piles of rubbish. He said his mother told him the Haj was an excellent opportunity to make money for his family.

“During the Haj season I sell rice my mother cooks, which is preferred by pilgrims from Southeast Asia. I also sell sweets and cold drinks,” he said.

Mohammad, who is in grade two in Al-Rusaifah neighborhood in Makkah, said he makes around SR1,500 a day, and as much as SR10,000 at the end of the season. He hands this money to his older brother who transfers it back home to his father who has financial and health problems. He said his father is confined to his home because of the current security situation in Burma.

Fayez Al-Aqil, a human rights activist, said poverty was creating this situation. Often children are also forced to beg under the guise of working.
He said many parents and family members are not educated and unaware of the grave health and psychological dangers faced by these children.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Sibai, a consultant pediatrician, said children are more prone to contract diseases because of their weak immune systems. He said children need different nutrition compared to adults, and over 12 hours of sleep at night. Working among pilgrims was very dangerous because “they can catch many diseases.”
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#3229 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 16:43
(masha) nice to see your posts resumed on the forum sister.
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#3230 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 17:37
A blind pilgrim sees the light

18 October 2013

MINA — His blindness did not prevent him from seeing the light of faith in the holy sites. He said though he was born blind, he could see the Haj rituals clearly in his heart.

Abdul Moneim Naji, a Yemeni from the city of Hudaidah, was given the Haj visa as gratis by the Saudi consul in Yemen. He is performing the pilgrimage for the third time in his life.

"Allah made me blind since I was born to upgrade my level in this life and the life after and to listen to my voice," he said.

Naji said he was completely in harmony with himself, has peace of mind and is at peace with his blindness. He has four other blind siblings. Naji said after graduating from elementary school, he had joined a Qur'an memorization school where he has memorized the entire holy book by heart. "I felt the great difference in the Haj services being provided to the pilgrims this year in the accommodation, transportation and bathrooms," he said.

Naji was thankful to Allah for giving him tranquility and peace of mind in place of his eyes.

‘Fitna’ producer finds peace in the holy sites

Arnoud Van Doorn talks to Okaz/Saudi Gazette reporter in MIna.
18 Oct 2013

MINA — A once strident anti-Islam activist who gained notoriety as the producer of Fitna, a derogatory film wrongly portraying Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), has found peace and tranquility while performing Haj this year.

Arnoud Van Doorn, a former member of the Geert Wilders racist Dutch Party for Freedom, reverted to Islam a year ago after propagating against the divine religion for years.

Van Doorn bitterly regrets having taken part in the production of the hateful film Fitna (Sedition) and said he was in the holy sites to atone for his sins.

“I found myself among these faithful hearts. I hope that my tears of regret will wash out all my sins after my repentance,” Van Doorn said.

He said, as a token of atonement, he will produce a new film that will show the true essence of Islam and the correct personality of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Van Doorn described Fitna as a totally wrong movie which contained a lot of misleading and incorrect information that had nothing to do with the noble divine religion or its great Prophet (pbuh).

He said that since his arrival in this holy land, he has been living the best days of his life and he hoped that he could spend more time in Madinah to which he was determined to return after the completion of his Haj rites.

“I felt ashamed standing in front of the Prophet’s grave. I thought of the grave mistake which I had made by producing that sacrilegious film. I hope that Allah will forgive me and accept my repentance,” he said.

Van Doorn said he read a lot about Islam and regretted his erstwhile hostility to this great religion.

Honor of treating guests of Allah

October 18, 2013

JEDDAH — It is inarguable that one of the noblest professions is medicine as doctors tirelessly treat and serve patients, day in and day out. Now, during the Haj season, doctors fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the Holy City of Makkah have been elevated into the honorable position of serving pilgrims, the guests of Allah.

No better time or place can open up more opportunities for a doctor to gain rewards, to serve, to heal, and to console than during the sacred days of Haj and in the holy sites.

Fully understanding the rewards of serving pilgrims, Abrar Ghulam, 22 years old and fifth year medical student, has volunteered to work in the emergency room of one of the main hospitals in Makkah for ten days straight at the peak of the Haj season.

With over 2 million people gravitating towards Makkah, the hospital needs all the experienced hands it can get.

Abrar Ghulam works 12 to 15 hours a day at Al Noor Hospital and the only stipends she receives are supplications from her patients, a warm squeeze on her hand from an elderly woman she helped, a smile, and a heartfelt thank you. These are sacred days when good deeds are rewarded ten-fold or one hundred-fold, so she feels blessed to serve as a doctor in Makkah.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I want to help people, to save lives, to ease their pain. It has been my parents’ wish to see me as a doctor, and this year I have begun to realize my dream.

These few days have been tiring but they have been the most wonderful days of my life. It is satisfying beyond words to help a pilgrim recover, get well, and then leave the hospital to continue his spiritual journey that he has traveled across continents for,” said Dr. Ghulam.

It would not have been possible for a young Saudi woman to work until such odd hours of the night if she was not hardworking and determined and if she did not have a supportive family.

“I worked for the whole month of Ramadan every day, coming home at late hours of the night and my parents never complained or discouraged me. They encouraged me every step of the way, including my friend and confidant, Ilham Yapah,” said Dr. Ghulam.

As for the cases that the emergency room doctors in Al Noor Hospital have treated, there has been a high incidence of wounds and bone fractures from crowding or other minor accidents. The majority of their patients are among the elderly who are frail and they are also prone to respiratory ailments.

“Many pilgrims due to erratic travel schedules, exhaustion, and becoming emotionally overwhelmed by being in this sacred and dear place may overlook or forget to take their medications. We have seen a number of patients with heart and high blood pressure complications because they have skipped some of their medications, so I strongly recommend all pilgrims to stick to their drug regimen,” said Dr. Ghulam.

“We have also seen a great deal of food poisoning cases that cause uncomfortable symptoms. The problem is that some food vendors sell food that has not been kept in proper conditions or covered well or maintained at the correct temperatures, which results in food poisoning. I advise pilgrims to avoid buying food from places that clearly do not follow proper hygiene regulations,” added Dr. Ghulam.

In the eyes of her patients, this young doctor is a hero. Yet, she considers herself to still be a student and she is learning something new every day. Her supervisors, Dr. Hamza Abu Taleb, Dr. Abdul Alziz Al-Qaissi, and Dr. Mohammad Mirza have been right behind her, teaching her new techniques, supporting her, and giving her the confidence she needs to become a great doctor. She has a promising future and while it is a very rare choice for female doctors in the Kingdom, she wants to become a surgeon.

Digital pen analyzes pilgrims’ data,
detects diseases in 10 minutes
18 October 2013

MINA – Hind Al-Aqeel has been able to carry out her digital pen project in the holy sites’ hospitals. The engineer’s plan claims to reduce the time required for analyses to several minutes in addition to saving a database and precise statistics on the pilgrims, their nationalities and the diseases among them. All information obtained is registered in ten minutes. The first stage of the first project of its kind in the Kingdom has been carried out using 40,000 medical forms with special specifications and 400 digital pens.

83,000 lost pilgrims assisted in one day
18 Oct 2013

HOLY SITES – Scouts working in the service camps of the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association guided 83,045 lost pilgrims of different nationalities since Eid Day until dawn of 11th Dhul Hijja. The scouts took 7,249 pilgrims to the locations of their groups while 76,156 pilgrims were guided using maps issued by the association. The number of trips by the scouts reached 2,338. The association assigned guidance tasks to 3,000 scouts in 11 guidance centers in Mina. The scouts follow a specific mechanism in the guidance process. They begin with registering the information in the pilgrim’s wristband, then registration of information into a computer software. The Tawafa establishment to which the pilgrim belongs is specified and he is then accompanied by a scout to the camp.

45% decline in pick-pocketing cases in holy sites
18 Oct 2013

HOLY SITES – Commander of Police Stations in Mina, Brig. Gen. Mubarak Al-Muwainea, said the number of crimes such as pick-pocketing and stealing in the holy sites was 45 percent lower compared to previous years. He attributed the significant decrease to the success in arresting violators who do not hold Haj permits, tightening control at entry points and barring all violators of Haj regulations from reaching the holy sites. He said that tight organization and use of modern technology like fingerprint scanners has contributed to the decrease in crimes in the holy sites.

Young man carries an elderly from Arafat to Mina
18 Oct 2013

It was a heart-warming gesture that best conveyed the true essence of the Qur’anic verse “All the faithful are brothers.”

Tweeters posted a photo of a non-Arab young man carrying an elderly Haji. The picture revealed that the young man wasn’t relat- ed to the older one. The young man said he carried him because “Islam teaches us to be like brothers to one another.”

The caption in the photo said one of the pilgrims wanted to commend the young man for doing the right thing to his father, but the young man said: “This isn’t my father, I found him alone in Arafat, so I carried him on my back to Muzdalifah and then to Mina,” said the young man. When asked why he did it, he merely said: “All the faithful are brothers.”

American rapper changes songs into supplication
18 October 2013

MADINAH — Famed American rapper George Green, who embraced Islam about two years ago and is called Ibrahim, has replaced his songs with Duaa (supplication) and Tahleel since he has set foot in the Kingdom to perform Haj.

"Unlike singing, I feel the greatness of God every time I do Duaa. I also have the satisfaction from feeling completely submissive to Allah," he said.

Ibrahim has been invited to the Haj by the Canadian Call (Dawah) Society and is being accompanied by the society's Chairman Shahzad Mohammed who prepared a complete program for him to visit a number of places in Makkah and Madinah.

Mohammed said his society was keen to invite famous stars who have embraced Islam to the Haj so as to spread the religion among their fans.

During his stay in Madinah, Ibrahim has met with the imam of the Prophet's Mosque Sheikh Salah Al-Bidair who advised him to make efforts to spread Islam and to convey its true image wherever he may be.
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#3231 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 18:13
Pilgrims keep pebbles as gifts
for their loved ones at home

18 October 2013

MINA — The pilgrims spent Monday night in Muzdalifah where they prayed Maghreb and Isha together. They also collected pebbles to throw at Jamarat early Tuesday. Each pilgrim had at least collected seven small stones each, just little more than the size of a chick pea to throw at the Jamrat Al-Aqaba (the big Jamrah) on Tuesday morning.

Ibn Al-Abbas, the Prophet's cousin, had collected seven small stones for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Muzdalifah on the morning of the Eid day. The Prophet put them in his hand and said: Stones should not be bigger than these. He warned against extremism in religion and said it was the religious extremism which had destroyed the believers before us.

A number of scholars said the Prophet did not collect more than seven stones each a little bigger than the chick pea and a little smaller than the hazelnut.

Some pilgrims collected the stones just from under the mattresses on which they slept while others gathered them from the small mountains surrounding Mina. The pilgrims will need seven pebbles to throw at the Jamarat on the first day and 21 each for the second and third days.

The stone collection has become a trade for some Makkawi children. They collect the stones, clean them and put them in bottles which they sell to the pilgrims at SR5. "This price is negotiable," one of the young boys said.

Some pilgrims would collect large quantities of stones to distribute among other pilgrims free of charge just seeking reward from Allah.

"I spent the Eid night in Muzdalifah collecting stones to give free of charge to the pilgrims," said Thamir Ahmed Al-Barakati, a young man from Makkah.

He said he decided to do this job after seeing some old and sick pilgrims unable to collect their stones.

Ahmed Saeed Al-Assad, a Saudi pilgrim, said he did not like to obtain his stones as a gift from other pilgrims or to buy them. "I like to collect my own stones by myself," he said.

Sheikh Tawfiq Bin Saeed Al-Saiegh, an imam of a mosque, saw nothing wrong in buying the stones. "The children are not charging for the stones but for the efforts they make collecting them," he said.

A number of pilgrims said they would collect more than their needs of stones to keep the rest as gifts to their loved ones back home.

Services are beyond our expectations: Habash

18 Oct 2013

JEDDAH — Mahmoud Habash, Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs in Palestinian Authority, appreciated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah grants for Palestinian martyrs families to perform Haj.

“Our thanks to King Abdullah for all the efforts done for Palestinians in general and pilgrims in particular,” Habash said.

“This is the fifth year that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques grants Haj journeys to families of Palestinian martyrs and prisoners. During the last four years 8,000 Palestinians from prisoners and martyrs families were allowed to perform Haj, 2,000 annually. This year 1.000 from martyrs families was allowed to perform Haj,” Habash added.

Palestine Consul General Emaad Shaath too expressed his gratitude to King Abdullah for all the support and aid always given to Palestinians on political, economic and social and humanitarian levels. “This year 1,000 Palestinians from prisoners and martyrs families came to perform Haj with King Abdullah’s grant. About 500 came from Gaza and 500 from West Bank. The 500 Gazawi pilgrims came through Cairo airport and the other 500 from Amman airport.”

“Our thanks to Ministry of Islamic Affairs and all the organizing procedures done by the Ministry in Kingdom,” Shaath added Hassan Shehadeh, brother of a Palestinian martyr said, “On my own behalf and on behalf of all prisoners and martyrs families who are performing Haj through the grant, we thank Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques for giving us this opportunity to perform Haj. We received all the care, attention and high quality service since we arrived in Jeddah. I can say that the services presented to us are beyond all our expectations.”

“We also present our thanks to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Habash and ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan for facilitating all the required procedures at airports.” Shehadeh said.

Habash and Shaath visited pilgrims in their accommodations in Arafat and ensured that they are all doing well and their health statuses are well. Palestinian prisoners and martyrs families arrived from Cairo and Amman on Dhul Hijja 5 and 6.

Mini-mobile workshops for maintenance

18 Oct 2013

MINA — The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has secured a number of small electric cars to operate as mobile workshops to do the repair and maintenance works in the Jamarat area. Each car has been supplied with the necessary equipment and the qualified technical cadres to repair any fault in the lighting network, the air-conditioning, the electric escalators and the lifts.

Director of operations and maintenance at the central administration for the development projects in the holy sites Wajdi Bin Hassan Tula said the cars look similar to the golf cars in size so as to move smoothly.

The size enables it to move rapidly in all the levels of the Jamarat bridge without impeding the movement of the pilgrims.

He said each car has the equipment needed for the repair and maintenance work of the cooling systems, the water pumps and the fire-extinguishing networks.

Tula said all the drivers were supplied with wireless communication devices to remain in constant contact with the main control room in the Jamarat bridge.

IDB expects new record on number of animals sacrificed
18 Oct 2013

MINA — The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) expects to achieve a record figure this year as an estimated 1.4 million heads of sheep are to be sacrificed at slaughterhouses Kingdomwide. There is an increasing demand from pilgrims to carry out the slaughtering of sacrificial animals through these slaughterhouses in an organized manner as sacrificial meat is distributed to Muslims in different parts of the world.

The slaughterhouses, which belong to the Saudi Project for Utilization of Haj Meat, began receiving pilgrims on Tuesday morning who wanted to complete their rites by slaughtering an animal. The project, which started during the Haj in 1983, has received over 16 million sacrificial animals with direct supervision by IDB, which is overseeing the project.

Last year 961,829 sheep were slaughtered and distributed to the poor in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque and to Al-Birr Society and other charitable societies and institutions in the Kingdom. Sacrificial meat was also distributed to the needy in 19 countries.

The Kingdom has spent over SR2 billion to construct the huge, modern slaughterhouses in Al-Muaissim Area in the holy sites. According to a report by the IDB, the project aims to facilitate pilgrims who want to slaughter sacrificial animals so that they devote their time and efforts to their rituals and worshiping Allah. Also, the meat is distributed on their behalf to those who deserve it within the Kingdom and abroad.

In 1983, during the project’s first year, 63,000 animals were slaughtered and their meat was distributed to the poor in the vicinity of Makkah and a number of charitable societies in the Kingdom and three neighboring countries — Jordan, Sudan and Yemen.

Last year, sacrificial meat was distributed to the poor in Makkah and to over 330 charitable societies within the Kingdom. The poor in 27 countries in different parts of the world benefited from the meat.

Govt monitors departures

19 Oct 2013

Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar said Friday that the ministry is monitoring pilgrims’ departure as per their schedules electronically through a link established between the ministry, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and Saudi Arabian Airlines. He said the system monitors procedures laid down for groups and to transport pilgrims to the airport, which would ensure that pilgrims do not overstay their visas.

The ministry is working with GACA to impose deterrent penalties on airlines failing to fulfill their commitments to pilgrims.

Saudi Arabian Airlines said Friday that it had started implementing its pilgrim-departure plan targeting the highest level of operational utilization of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and Madinah’s Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport.

Nitaqat eats away spice from pilgrims’ food

19 Oct 2013

The new labor laws of Nitaqat appear to have taken a heavy toll in the most unlikely of areas — the human palate — as was evident from the desperation of Asian pilgrims seeking spicy food during Haj.

With catering companies failing to secure temporary seasonal visas for cooks and other workers for Haj kitchens, the food being served in Mina, according to the spice-loving Asian pilgrims, was bland and unpalatable. People with foresight like Saad Jamal Qureshi, a businessman and director of Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had forewarned of a crisis of sorts if visas were not issued in time.

Pilgrims from South Asian countries constituted a significant share in this year’s total of 1.3 million foreign pilgrims, but no move was made to provide pilgrims with their cuisine. Pilgrims were disappointed as they had to contend with Arab Kabsa with steamed chicken.

All these pilgrims had cooking accessories and the raw material required but could not cook in the tents since it was prohibited by civil defense authorities to prevent fire accidents. Many of them were seen running around shops and cafeterias for spicy food but came back empty-handed. Some of them even went to Al-Jawahara and Souk Al Arab in Mina.

Mohammed Fazal, an Indian pilgrim, said: “We are tired of the Arabic food, but we are being forced to eat the same boiled rice. My mother didn’t eat for two days and has fallen sick.” An Indian pilgrim, Mohsina, as her name appears on her bracelet, was in the middle of an argument with a waiter serving food at her tent over the food.

Mohammed Raheem Gul, a Pakistani pilgrim, said: “I am tired of the food, but I will tolerate it. After all, Haj means sacrifice, so what if I didn’t get the food of my choice.” Bangladeshis also had similar complaints.

While returning to Mina after performing Tawaf, most of pilgrims visited Desi hotels in the holy city before moving on to Mina.

Kingdom does not send Haj invitations to presidents
19 Oct 2013

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Saudi Arabia never sends official invitations for Haj, as the pilgrimage is an important pillar of Islam and a religious duty.

He said this in response to a question regarding several Islamic leaders performing Haj this year.

“The Kingdom receives a number of leaders of Islamic countries annually who desire to perform Haj in accordance with their circumstances.

“The Kingdom, within the framework of its services to the pilgrims, provides the facilities which enable pilgrims to perform Haj rituals easily and comfortably,” the official said.

Some media sources had reported earlier that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has invited the Iranian President Hassan Rowhani to perform Haj this year.
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#3232 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 18:42
Sons make it to Mina for Haj with parents

HAJ BLESSINGS: Indian pilgrim Mohammed Abdullah, second from right,
his sons Naveed, left, Nadeem, right, and wife and daughter.
19 Oct 2013

For some parents, the pilgrimage was a blessing in more ways than one. They had the advantage of performing the difficult ritual with the help of their children who are working in the Kingdom.

Mohammed Abdullah and his wife, Rana Parveen, were fortunate to have their two sons Naveed Quadri and Mohammed Nadeem, who are working in Abha and Dammam respectively, join them on their pilgrimage.

“I can’t count my blessings,” said Abdullah, a teacher from Jalna, India. “The first blessing is to be here for Haj and the second blessing is to perform Haj with my sons.”

Nadeem, an engineer, said: “I’m lucky to have been able to perform Haj with my parents. This was our time to serve our parents. They sacrificed all their lives to raise us. There is no way we can repay them for what they’ve done for us. I’m very happy and fortunate that God has given me the opportunity to be with them at the Haj.”

Abdullah’s eldest son Naveed, who teaches at King Khaled University in Abha, was equally ecstatic.

“The highlight of our pilgrimage was to stand shoulder to shoulder with our father and mother on the plains of Arafat. I could not control my tears. These were tears of joy.” Both Naveed and Nadeem had a tough time obtaining Haj permits because of the 50 percent quota reduction for domestic pilgrims this year.

“At one stage both of us had given up hope of obtaining the permits. My Haj agency in Dammam kept reassuring me that the permits would come. In the run-up to the pilgrimage, I kept praying for the permits and we got them just two days before the Haj. I started immediately from Dammam and my brother started from Abha. The two of us met at the meeqat in Taif. Our parents were already in Makkah waiting for us to join them.”

It was a great feeling for the two sons to meet their parents in Makkah.
Abdullah praised the Saudi government for its excellent arrangements.

“At Arafat, I prayed a lot for the well-being of the Saudi leadership. This is a model Islamic state and Allah has endowed this holy land and its selfless leadership with all His bounties.”

Pilgrim fulfills pledge to serve his mother

19 Oct 2013

MINA — A Pakistani pilgrim has set a shining example of how a son can be grateful to his mother. He carried his old mother on his back at a brisk pace under the sun in order to get her to the train station. Other pilgrims admired Muhammad Amin for his service to his mother as he stormed his way through the crowds. Though Okaz reporter tried to talk to him, he did not reply as he was focused on his mission: getting his mother to a safe place from the sun.

The reporter followed Amin till the station, where Amin told him that his mother was sick and he was worried about her. “I have always wanted to serve my mother during Haj. My beloved mother went into coma right after she gave birth to me and almost died. Ever since my father told me that, I made a promise to carry her on my back during Haj, knowing for sure that I’d never be able to pay her for what she did for me.”

Amin came to the Kingdom few years ago and kept saving money in order to pay for his mother’s Haj.

Pakistani man’s wish to die
in holy sites comes true

19 Oct 2013

HOLY SITES — She was waiting for his return from stoning the Jamarat Wednesday evening. She was greatly concerned. She felt that something has taken place. That afternoon Adhra Izra, 60, was joking with her husband about death before he left for the Jamarat Bridge, where he had a heart attack and died after completing the stoning of the Jamarat. He was taken to Mina Al-Jisr Hospital where the doctors confirmed his death.

When his wife was informed of his death she fainted. She was taken to the same hospital. After a few hours she was released from the hospital to her country’s Haj camp where she received condolences on her husband’s death.

The doctor of the Haj group told Okaz/Saudi Gazette not to press her to speak on the incident so that her condition does not deteriorate. He said she was suffering from heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes.

Therefore, her brother narrated what happened. He said his brother-in-law had a wish to die in the holy sites. Allah accepted his supplication, so he died after stoning the three Jamarat on the first Tashreeq Day.

Scouts return lost 100-year-old man
to his family

18 Oct 2013

MINA — Scouts returned an old pilgrim, Muntasir, aged over 100 years, to his family after the poor man got lost in the ritual sites on Oct 15. All volunteers were on alert to search for the man after his family had reported him lost. After a long search, one of the volunteer scout found the old man at the Jamarat Bridge — exhausted and alone.

Muntasir said he had hoped that the scouts would not find him quickly so that he would have more time to walk around in Mina and enjoy the spirituality of the place. This is my first Haj, he added. “I pray to Allah to die in Makkah and get buried in this holy city,” he said, when asked about his last wish.

Mother's ten-hour ordeal
after losing daughter

19 Oct 2013

MINA — A mother lived through the most difficult ten hours of her life when she lost her daughter in Arafat on Oct 14. Neda’s mother and father kept searching for her among the sea of crowds to no avail. Her mother broke down and cried, thinking the unthinkable. They waited and waited for hours but could not find her even after pilgrims left Arafat and Muzdalifah. The next day, the father’s phone rang. He could not believe it when he heard the voice of his six-year-old daughter Neda at the other end telling him she was safe and sound at the center of lost children in Mina. Immediately, the father and mother headed straight to the center. They found Neda laughing and playing with female guides who found her and brought her to the center.

Neda’s father said he prostrated on the floor thanking Allah for returning his daughter. Maha Fetaihi, head of female guides, said all women took a year-long course on how to deal with lost children and serve pilgrims who lost their loved ones during Haj. “There are 16 ladies and a psychologist who deals with kids who get scared and cry because they are away from their parents.”

Passport Department
begins second phase of Haj plan
19 oct 2013

MINA — The head of Haj Passport Department forces, Maj. Gen. Ayedh Al-Harbi said his department has begun implementing the second phase of their Haj plan to serve departing pilgrims. The first phase involved receiving pilgrims.

The Passport Department has mobilized all its capabilities to properly execute this second stage and provide all possible services to departing pilgrims via 17 exit points around the Kingdom. Maj. Gen. Al-Harbi said regulations do not allow pilgrims to remain in the country and asked for pilgrims’ cooperation to return to their home countries according to their flight schedules.

The Passport Department has also intensified its efforts in Makkah to prevent pilgrims from remaining in the Kingdom. Those who employ or provide housing to pilgrims will be penalized.

Human traffickers referred to BIP
19 Oct 2013

MINA — Human traffickers exploiting children during the Haj season will be referred to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP), Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

The secretary general of the permanent committee for human traffickers, Badr Bajaber, said that that there are filed monitors in Mina to document the exploitation of children.

He pointed out that there were no reported cases of human traffickers until Wednesday, and the committee is awaiting reports of the monitors. Such violations are against human rights, whether they are committed by companies or individuals. There have been reports of boys and girls transporting elderly pilgrims to their camps, under harsh conditions.

In 2012, there have been 72 human trafficking cases in courts, representing 0.11 percent of the total criminal cases reviewed in district and general courts in the Kingdom.

The courts have reviewed 65,669 criminal cases, of which 46,751 cases were against, and 18,918 cases were against expatriates.

Riyadh had the highest cases of human trafficking with 48 cases,while Makkah was next with 21 cases. Human trafficking is defined as employing, transporting, housing people for the purpose of exploitation.

It includes threatening to force the victims to conduct illegal activities, such as sexual exploitation, slavery, and other similar acts.

1500 copies of Qur’an in Braille language
available in the Grand Mosque

19 Oct 2013

AL-KHOBAR – The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques’ Affairs has made 1500 copies of the Holy Qur’an in Braille language available in different locations in the Grand Mosque, according to director of Holy Qur’an and religious books department Muhammad Al-Silani. Currently, there are copies of the Holy Qur’an in 17 languages including Urdu, Indonesian, Turkish, Chinese, Thai, Hausa, and Spanish, he said. The total number of copies of the Holy Qur’an inside the Grand Mosque is 1,500,000, he added.

Pilgrims spend SR400m on gifts

19 oct 2013

MAKKAH — Pilgrims are keen to purchase gifts for family and friends from Makkah and Madinah after performing Haj. Gifts bought from Makkah as a token of remembrance for having carried out the Haj this year reached SR400 million. Many pilgrims purchase a shroud (Kafan) so that their last relationship with this world is something from Makkah, Al-Madinah newspaper reported.

All of Makkah’s markets are flourishing as pilgrims purchase gifts before they return to their respective home countries. Popular gifts include rosaries, prayer rugs, accessories and certain products that are manufactured in Makkah. Pilgrims from African countries are keen to purchase clothes, dates and carob. Pilgrims from Asia mostly purchase different types of clothes and textiles while Iranian pilgrims are keen to purchase electrical appliances and clothes.

Salesmen in the Central Area markets in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque said most stores this year did not make any profit due to the reduced number of pilgrims and the existence of illegal sellers in front of pilgrims’ residences in Makkah.

Member of the Board of Directors of Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Jameel Al-Qurashi, said pilgrims will spend about SR400 million on gifts this year. He said pilgrims are inclined to purchase gifts from Makkah whether for family or friends or to remember the holy city.

“Some are purchased voluntarily while others have been requested by family and friends. Some of the pilgrims believe that gifts from Makkah have blessings. Undoubtedly, Makkah is a blessed land and everything in it is blessed,” he said.

“Reports indicate that the clothes markets and stores for rosaries and carpets have thrived this season as pilgrims typically look for goods that are light in weight and cost less. Rosaries with precious and semi-precious stones are favorites,” he added.
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#3233 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 20:13

Madinah ready to receive pilgrims


20 Oct 2013

Madinah is getting ready to receive more than 600,000 pilgrims who performed Haj and are now looking forward to praying in the Prophet’s Mosque and visiting other Islamic sites. About 300 Boy Scouts have begun their field work to assist the pilgrims.

The Boy Scouts Establishment in Madinah has said it has completed the preparations to receive the pilgrims. There are 14 offices, 10 councils and four reception centers in addition to the Boy Scouts headquarters and branches to receive the visitors and delegations.

Chairman of Al-Dilla Private Establishment in Madinah Yousif bin Ahmad Hawalah said the number of visitors to Madinah before the Haj season was around 755,920 and that the establishment has sought, through its various facilities to provide distinctive services to them.

He said field committees, service centers affiliated with the establishment and field teams are intensifying their mission and deploying their entire cadre, from leaders to guides and field coordinators, to implement the operational plan successfully.

The guidance office strove to direct lost pilgrims which numbered around 9,842 before the commencement of the Haj season, while the health care office followed up on patients admitted to hospitals in Madinah.

Hawala said that the establishment had approved 530 contracts registered in the electronic system whereas there were 755,566 approved contracts for pilgrims. The safety and emergency system monitored 1,347 inspections on 241 violations and 183 cases of equipment deficiencies.

The establishment secured 47 cases of shortage of accommodation and deducted the amount from the insurance of buildings.

Scout camp leader Saleh bin Mohammad Saleh said 18 scout leaders and 300 members had started the services for the second period of this Haj season which includes guiding lost pilgrims and transporting the disabled and elderly to and from their accommodation to the Prophet’s Mosque by wheelchairs or golf carts. They also offered services to the Quba and Al-Qiblatain mosques and the Al-Miqat.

The scouts also offer supporting services for certain government and private directorates, such as marshaling traffic in the area, easing pilgrims’ entry/exit besides receiving sick pilgrims in health centers around the Prophet’s Mosque. The scouts distribute cold water and meals to pilgrims and cooperate with the Presidency of the Grand and Prophet’s Mosques and the Haia (Commission for the Promoting of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) to distribute copies of the holy Qur’an and educational booklets about Haj and Umrah.

The scouts participated in the Ministry of Haj’s program to control prices and assisted the Ministry of Haj and the Al-Adilla private establishment.

Saleh said that the voluntary scout project (Care for poor families) launched by the deputy general president for the Saudi Arabian Scout Society, Abdullah Al-Fahad, is ongoing. The program has started with distributing food baskets for needy families in Madinah.

Saleh concluded by saying that on the fringe of the service program there is a package of entertainment and heritage activities to break the routine for the scouts.

Phenomenon of squatting
now in Madinah

20 october 2013

MADINAH — Despite the decrease in squatters in Makkah and the holy sites during this year’s Haj, the phenomena is still present in Madinah with the yards around the Prophet’s Mosque filled with squatters who have not completed three days in the holy sites.

The squatters arrived in Madinah before most other pilgrims and are staying in the yards of the Prophet’s Mosque to rest from the exhaustion of Haj. Many of the pilgrims have crowded areas near electricity plugs to charge their phones and have ignored authorities’ pleas to not crowd public walkways.

The majority of the squatters are domestic pilgrims who have not secured accommodation.

The head of the Ministry of Haj's Madinah branch, Mohammad Al-Beejawi, said dealing with squatters is not the responsibility of the ministry.

“Pilgrims who come from abroad all pay for accommodation so, most of the squatters present in Madinah are domestic pilgrims,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Haj and other concerned bodies need to combine their efforts and find a solution to the problem.

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#3234 [Permalink] Posted on 20th October 2013 20:27
(masha) as always, some beautiful images.
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#3235 [Permalink] Posted on 21st October 2013 15:30
1,000 women to work in Grand Mosque

21 October 2013

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency of the Holy Mosques Affairs, has instructed officials to hire 1,000 female guides to help out women visitors at the Grand Mosque.

The Director of Women Guides Department, Sheikh Adel Al-Hamdan, said the presidency has given its nod for the recruitment of 1,000 women who have the required qualifications, both on permanent and temporary basis.

He said the presidency would also hold training courses to prepare the guides to give advice and guidance to women visitors on various aspects.

Al-Hamdan said the women guides will be working in shifts around the clock, offering advice and instructions including the need to wear Hijab in compliance with the Shariah and avoid wearing make-up and cosmetics while visiting the Grand Mosque. Besides, they will ensure that women visitors are in the right queues to avoid mixing with men during prayers, and guiding them to their designated places for prayers.

A big weight off her chest

13 mutawifs help Egyptian, 286 kgs, perform Haj


20 October 2013

HOLY SITES — As many as 13 staff members from the Tawafa establishment for Arab pilgrims dedicated their time and efforts to serve an obese Egyptian pilgrim and helping her complete her Haj rites.

Hamdiyyah Hamza, who weighs 286 kgs, said she was finally able to perform her first pilgrimage after waiting for a long time. She was accompanied by her son, Essam, and her son-in-law.

Riza Mohammed Jameel Khishaifani, chairman of the establishment's office No. 21, said he was informed by the establishment that an Egyptian woman pilgrim required special services because of her weight.

"I immediately prepared an ambulance car and met her at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. We prepared special accommodation for her in Makkah and secured a special wheelchair for her," he said.

He said mutawifs took her to the Grand Mosque where she performed Tawaf Al-Qidoum (arrival circumambulation) on her wheelchair. "We erected a special tent for her in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah," he added.

Khishaifani said two female mutawifs from the establishment were assigned to serve her during her entire stay in Makkah and the holy sites.

Hamdiyyah was brought to Makkah on Friday and she will be taken to the Holy Mosque so she can perform Tawaf Al-Ifadah after the crowds have thinned out. "We will also take her to Madinah to pay homage to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and pray at his mosque," he said.

Hamdiyyah said her dream of performing the Haj pilgrimage had come true after many years. She thanked the men and women who provided her with services that allowed her to perform her Haj rites in ease and comfort.

Blind Tunisian woman regains eyesight in Arafat

Nafeesa Al-Qurmazi

20 October 2013

HOLY SITES — After 18 months of living in complete darkness, a Tunisian woman pilgrim regained her eyesight while standing on Arafat at the climax of the Haj.

The 70-year-old Nafeesa Al-Qurmazi, mother of two boys and three girls, said she came to the Kingdom for Haj totally blind and is now going back to Tunisia with her full eyesight.

She lost her eyesight after she had a stroke about a year and a half ago. The doctors lost all hope that she would regain eyesight due to the severity of the stoke and her age.

"I have never lost hope in the providence of Allah. I kept praying to Him all the time to give me back my eyesight," she said.

Qurmazi said she decided to increase her Duaa (supplication) in Arafat and was sure that “Allah would not disappoint me. While doing the Duaa in Arafat I suddenly started to see. When the other pilgrims in my tent saw me crying with joy, they all started chanting Allahu Akbar," she said.

Qurmazi said all the way from Tunisia she had been cherishing one dream: To see the holy sites, Makkah and Madinah. "Thank God now I can see and walk anywhere without any assistance from anyone," she said.

She said she was overjoyed to see the pilgrims in Arafat, a scene she never expected to be true to her. "Allah has blessed me with my eyesight in the most sacred place on earth," she said.

770,000 sheep sacrificed during Haj

A HAJ MUST: Sheep and goats await ritual sacrifice at a Mina slaughterhouse.

20 October 2013

A total of 770,000 sheep were sacrificed during this year's Haj, according to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

IDB Chairman Ahmad Mohamed Ali thanked pilgrims for supporting the bank's initiative to oversee the Haj animal sacrifice project, which is aimed at providing charity for needy people in the Kingdom and across the world.

In his remarks on the project’s website,, he said the IDB allows Muslims from all over the world to get blessings from sacrificing animals.

Ali thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and other Saudi leaders for overseeing the project.

He called on Allah to accept the Haj of pilgrims and to protect them on their way home.

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#3236 [Permalink] Posted on 21st October 2013 15:33
Plan to increase Mina capacity
to seven million pilgrims approved

19 October 2013

MINA — A comprehensive 30-year plan to expand the Mina valley so as to accommodate 7 million pilgrims has got the approval of the Board of Senior Ulema, Al-Eqtisadiah Arabic daily reported Friday.

The plan is part of the scheme to develop Makkah and the holy sites which was approved by the Council of Ministers about 18 months ago.

Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also Chairman of Makkah and Masha’er development committees, said the master scheme covers the next 30 years. It takes into consideration the expected increase in population, visitors, the expansion of the Grand Mosque, transportation plans, infrastructure and economic development.

The scheme envisages development of Mina mountainsides and slopes, and the first stage will cost SR100 billion with the total scheme costing SR200 billion. International consultancy companies, in cooperation with local firms, will participate in initial studies which will take into consideration the topographic nature of Mina’s mountains.

Jamal Shuqdar, in-charge of Mina development at the High Commission for the Development of Makkah and Masha’er, said the plan calls for the reconsideration of building regulations, transportation and cleaning services. The first stage of the plan will accommodate 2 million pilgrims while the second stage will add another 5 million pilgrims. The development scheme will be implemented in different stages so as not to interrupt the intervening Haj seasons.

“The central axis will be linked to a tunnel that will include all necessary services such as cleaning, emergency and others. The development scheme will include six areas, each will have its own transportation, safety and cleaning services. These six areas will be linked through separate routes to the levels of Jamarat and to the Grand Mosque. Each area will also be served with its own transportation services including trains, buses and suspended pedestrian bridges,” he said.

The master scheme will provide business opportunities to Makkah residents and create over 100,000 jobs in hospitality, transportation and food sectors. Environment-friendly transportation systems will be used to minimize the pollution of around 25,000 buses.

4,500 new Muslims
from Europe perform pilgrimage

21 October 2013

A total of 16,875 million euro was paid by 4,500 pilgrims of European nationalities who performed Haj as new Muslims. They all have started off on their new journey toward Islam, turning their backs on their previous lives.

The Organization of the Islamic Community in Europe made extensive efforts to contain all European Muslims under its umbrella as much as it could.
The organization fledged out of a Turkish labor syndicate during the eighties of the last century in Germany to embrace the small Islamic groups dispersed throughout European.

Head of the organization Kamal Argon said it organizes a Haj campaign every year for the new Muslims so they perform the pilgrimage and visit the holy sites they heard of or read about.

He said that starting from Sept. 11, 2001, the organization marked a turning point in its formation, where large numbers of people of the European community turned to read about Islam. “In view of the defamation campaigns of Islam, in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster in New York, many people discovered the truth about the religion of Islam, and found out it is not a religion of terrorism,” he said.

He said many of the pilgrims wanted to live in the holy city near the holy sites, and leave their past lives and countries behind them. The state of affairs of Islam seems depressing today, he said, because of mistakes that some Muslims commit and attacks from the Western media.

Still the organization pleads to all Muslims in Europe not to underestimate the charity works being done and calls for accepting the faith.

Pilgrim spending down 31 percent

Beads are seen at a shop frequented by pilgrim in Makkah.
Spending by pilgrims had been down during this year's Haj season.

21 October 2013

Spending by pilgrims fell 31 percent to SR18 billion this year compared to SR26 billion last year, according to a recently published study.

The study by Abid Al-Abdalli, professor of economics at Umm Al-Qura University, for Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, said the drop in spending was a result of the reduced pilgrim quota introduced by the Saudi government because of the expansion work at the Grand Mosque.

The number of foreign pilgrims dropped 21 percent with their spending contracting to SR15.2 billion compared to SR19.3 billion last year, or a decrease of 21.2 percent, the study stated.

Similarly, spending by domestic pilgrims dropped 58 percent to SR2.9 billion compared to SR6.9 billion last year, it said.

The number of domestic pilgrims fell by higher rates than expected by the Haj authorities, which led to the decline in the overall number of pilgrims. However, the effect of pilgrims without permits, especially those performing Haj from inside the city of Makkah, cannot by easily verified statistically, the study said.

Based on field surveys, 20.5 percent of Makkah families perform Haj every year, or 315,000 of the total population. However, other studies linked to the Institute of Haj and Umrah Research puts the figure at 500,000 pilgrims, according to the study.

Despite the importance of the number of Makkah pilgrims, this does not have a major economic impact compared to the spending of other pilgrims because they live in the city and use their own transport, the study said.

The spending of pilgrims depends on a variety of factors including the number of domestic and foreign pilgrims, spending motivations and the financial condition of each person. This is reflected in the income generated by Haj service sectors such as housing, transportation and stores, the study said.

The study said pilgrims spent the most on housing (40.5 percent), followed by gifts (14.6 percent), food (10.7 percent), electrical appliances (8.2 percent), clothes (7.8 percent), and on other items (18.2 percent).

The Haj season has a direct and indirect impact on the macro and micro economy of the Kingdom whether at the level of foreign currency reserves or balance of payments, the study said.

Assuming pilgrims spent on average SR25 billion a year and with the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at SR1.8 trillion, their spending would account for 1.3 percent of GDP, according to the study.

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#3237 [Permalink] Posted on 22nd October 2013 20:50
Mammoth clean-up drive starts in Mina

20 October 2013

MAKKAH — Authorities have launched a mammoth clean-up campaign of Mina Valley as last of the nearly two million pilgrims left the holy site on Friday at the culmination of the five-day annual Haj pilgrimage.

Makkah Mayor Dr. Osama Al-Bar said the amount of garbage in Makkah and the holy sites during the period from the first of Dhul Hijja until the last day of Haj reached 53,565 tons. “There were close to 15,000 plastic and steel garbage containers of different sizes distributed in the holy sites,” he said.

The mayor said Arafat, Muzdalifah and the outskirts of Mina were cleaned as soon as the pilgrims left those places. “Now that all the pilgrims have left, we are concentrating our efforts to clean Mina,” he said.

Al-Bar said a large number of small size garbage containers were geographically distributed in Mina according to the number of pilgrims in each area. The municipality had deployed about 6,000 cleaners who worked in shifts around-the-clock to keep the holy sites clean.

Every year when the pilgrims leave Mina, people raise the eternal question of who is responsible for its cleanliness. It is more of an accusing finger than a simple question requiring a simple answer.

Several citizens said it was the responsibility of the Makkah Municipality to keep Mina clean. Others believed that it was the responsibility of the pilgrims themselves to keep the holy sites clean and a third group attributed Mina’s dirtiness to the presence of a large number of people in it at the same time.

Magdi Al-Maati, an Egyptian pilgrim, said the cleaners provided by the municipality were present in Mina round-the-clock and they were making good efforts to keep the Tent City clean. “It is the squatters who make the place dirty. They stockpile their garbage and obstruct cleaners from doing their work,” he said.

Kazim Saeed, a Saudi pilgrim, believed that the small number of the toilets at the tents was the main cause for the stockpiling of garbage in Mina. “Pilgrims go out of their tents to eat, drink and attend to the call of nature thus making the place dirty,” he said, calling for increasing the number of garbage bins in Mina.

Ziyad Hussain, a Sudanese pilgrim, called for increasing awareness among pilgrims about the importance of cleanliness. “We see many pilgrims dumping garbage outside the bins which are near them,” he said. He said a lack of the culture of cleanliness has adversely affected the efforts of the cleaners.

Bahjat Hussain, an Egyptian pilgrim, said: “If there is a large number of people staying in the same place for several days, there will be large quantities of garbage,” he said.

Makkah buildings have new standards

20 October 2013

MINA — Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour Bin Miteb has approved new building standards for Makkah that will see changes made to existing structures on the city’s ring roads, entrances and main streets.

Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar said the Makkah Municipality is awaiting the approved decision to begin implementation of the new building standards which allow owners to add additional floors to their buildings.

A source in the ministry said the approved decision will be conveyed to Makkah Municipality by the beginning of next month.

Buildings between the second and third ring roads will have a maximum of four floors and three floors for buildings around the fourth ring road. Buildings in Al-Awali and Al-Takhasusi neighborhoods will have a maximum of two floors.

The study, which was prepared by the Makkah Municipality and a consultant office, seeks to unify building heights in the neighborhoods and reduce the population density in the central area.

Buildings to the north and west of the Grand Mosque will have a maximum of five floors near the Holy Haram and a maximum of 20 floors for buildings to the south of the second ring road.

Buildings parallel to the third ring road are allowed between three to 30 floors in certain areas. After the third ring road, buildings heights will vary between two and six floors.

The ministry has taken into consideration the importance of preserving the architectural aspects of the holy city.

Locals seek cap on Haj cost

Local Haj companies charged anything between SR5,000 and SR10,000 per person
depending on the package the pilgrims opt for.
21 October 2013

Local pilgrims, particularly Saudi citizens, have expressed concern over the growing costs of Haj, which has surged threefold in the past few years. Many of them pointed out that Haj has to be performed as per rules and regulations laid down by the government, which has pushed up cost of performing this essential Islamic duty, and there is a growing demand for authorities to put a cap on the charges for Saudis.

This year, Saudis and residents accounted for 600,718 of the total of 1,980,249 pilgrims who performed Haj, according to the latest figure released by Saudi Statistics Bureau.

Many pilgrims who could not afford the high fees charged by local Haj companies went on their own to save money, but they had to be content with spending time or sitting under whatever little shade they could find.

“The government has set up rules for local pilgrims, and getting the Haj permit is easy, but paying the high services has become very difficult,” points out Abdul Wahab, who performed Haj this year. “Just imagine the plight of a family of five who want to perform Haj. They will have to spend between SR25,000 and SR30,000. This is the reason one can see some local pilgrims sleeping on the roads at night,” he said.

Local Haj companies, Abdul Wahab said, charged anything between SR5,000 and SR10,000 per person depending on the package the pilgrims opt for. “In the past, a person could perform Haj for just SR2,000,” he said, adding: “Performing Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, has become difficult and even impossible for some people. The government or Haj Ministry should put a ceiling on it, as many Saudis can’t afford the high charges.”

“The price for the pilgrimage is fixed on the basis of the pilgrim’s preference for area at the holy sites. For example, the area near the Jamrat is more expensive than the ones that are some distance away. It wasn’t like this earlier, and I wish the government does something about it,” he said, adding that the number of people violating rules is a consequence of the high costs. “Those caught are not offenders, but people who are forced to do it because they can’t afford the high costs,” he pointed out.

Mohammed Halabi, a Saudi Haj service provider, said the government earns million of riyals every year from pilgrims coming from abroad. “Under the circumstances, can’t the government provide some facilities to local pilgrims by reducing the charges and allot some area for them to set up their tents like before?” he asked.

“Many local Haj companies get land in prime locations by paying extra money. The Ministry of Finance charges local companies SR250 for each tent and shade at the holy sites, a practice started since the fire accident in Mina 16 years ago. Does it make sense to pay SR5,000 or SR6,000 per person for staying in Mina, Arafat with bad services? This is what drives many to sleep on land or under trucks,” he said.

Hassle-free flight home for pilgrims

HAJIS HONORED: Pilgrims who performed Haj as guests of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King
attend a welcoming ceremony on arrival in Madinah on Sunday.
21 October 2013

King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah are once again abuzz with activity with pilgrims beginning to leave the Kingdom after performing Haj.

Pilgrims’ departure will last a month, and after Nov. 20, when all pilgrims would have left the country, Haj operations will come to an end. Besides Jeddah and Madinah airports, there are 16 other exit points including sea and land routes along the borders of the Kingdom for smooth departure of pilgrims.

All passengers are reaching the airports eight hours ahead of their departure schedule and about 10,000 buses are being used to transport pilgrims to the airport from Makkah. Besides having spare buses as standby along the Jeddah-Makkah route, the general syndicate of transport has also deployed mobile mechanical teams to carry out maintenance in case of breakdown of buses.

All departing pilgrims are being provided with 10 liters of Zam Zam water at the airport. This is the first time that all departing pilgrims get water at the airport. The move is aimed at reducing luggage hassles for pilgrims at the airport.

GCC pilgrims are the first to leave the Kingdom, followed by pilgrims from other countries. In all, 808,000 foreign pilgrims will be exiting from King Abdulaziz International Airport through 50,000 flights to various destinations across the globe.

Mohammed Fakheer, a pilgrim from Delhi, said spending long hours at Jeddah Airport was indeed difficult.

Pilgrims have also begun leaving from Madinah’s airport. In all, about 300,000 pilgrims are scheduled to leave the country from Madinah through 1,240 flights to various parts of the world.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation has introduced penalties for late departures besides fixing responsibility on airlines to take back all passengers flown to the Kingdom for Haj. This year, 1,379,531 pilgrims — 752,424 males and 627,107 females — from foreign countries, mostly Asians, preformed Haj. Last year, 1,752,932 pilgrims from abroad preformed Haj.

Meanwhile, Director of Passport Services for Pilgrims, Maj. Gen. Ayad Al-Harbi has advised all pilgrims to leave the Kingdom according to their schedules and also urged residents not to provide any shelter to pilgrims overstaying their visas.

Elaborate arrangements for outgoing pilgrims

The entrance to the Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.
21 October 2013

A pilgrim traffic management expert expects that the luggage accompanying the pilgrims leaving the Kingdom for home will be around 120,000 tons. They will be traveling to 500 cities within 182 countries, through 16 points of departure.

The Consolidated Agents Bureau (CAB) boosted its presence at the air, land, and sea points of departure from the Kingdom. It launched its “second phase” operational plan, and the staff is working around the clock to facilitate the departure of the pilgrims.

Farouq Abu Zaid, chairman of CAB, said that the second phase starts by receiving and welcoming the pilgrims upon their arrival from Makkah and Madinah. “There is no more crowding, luggage is transported swiftly, and there are wheelchairs for the elderly,” he said.

“We started work from the third day of the Eid, and we wanted to oversee the procedures and best serve the pilgrims,” he said.

Abdulilah Al-Jadaa, a CAB board member in charge of public relations and media, said that “as soon as most Haj institutions are done with the pilgrims, we start receiving them at the points of departure. The peak times of ‘post-Haj activities’ are when the pilgrims start leaving the Kingdom, which is usually during the middle of Dhul Hijjah. Normally we handle 60,000 pilgrims leaving the Kingdom everyday.”

“We receive more than 1,000 buses at King Abdul Aziz International Airport everyday. The airport handles more than 70 percent of the foreign pilgrim traffic.

“These buses transport more than 52,000 pilgrims, who start coming to us on Dhul Hijjah 13. The processing time for each bus is 20 to 30 minutes on average,” he said.

In order to handle the heavy traffic, CAB has deployed 3,000 personnel of various nationalities. They help in loading and moving the luggage. “We deployed more than 58 electric escalators to move the luggage. We expect that the pilgrims will carry home with them luggage that weighs about 120,000 tons,” he said.
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#3238 [Permalink] Posted on 22nd October 2013 20:52
Haj is over, the spirit remains

18 October 2013

Allah the Almighty legislated the acts of worship and obedience for great wisdom and sublime objectives. No wonder, as they strengthen the faith, purify the soul, correct the attitude and refine the morals. If acts of worship did not achieve these objectives, then the Muslim would not benefit from them properly. In such a case, acts of worship might turn into lifeless rituals that one performs without any actual influence on his reality and attitude.

This rule applies to Haj. When the believer performs Haj properly realizing its objectives and feeling its meanings, it will be of great influence upon him in this life and in the Hereafter.

Thus, dear pilgrim, Allah the Almighty honored you with the blessing of visiting His Holy House and enabled you to perform His obligation. Therefore, you have to stop and contemplate your conditions, review the state of your heart and correct the course of your life.

The first thing you have to realize is the greatness of the blessings that Allah the Almighty bestowed upon you when He facilitated your affairs and enabled you to perform this great duty. Certainly, this necessitates you to praise Allah the Exalted for this blessing, of which many people are deprived, despite their longing for it. Praising Allah the Almighty for this blessing entails preserving it, adherence to obedience to Allah the Almighty and compliance with His religion and Shariah.

The most important thing that you should maintain after your Haj is the issue of steadfastness and guarding this great deed (your performance of Haj) against things that could nullify it. You should ask Allah the Almighty ceaselessly to help you adhere firmly to His religion and guide you to obey Him, and make you avoid His disobedience so that you will be "with those to whom Allah has shown favor, of the prophets, and the truthful and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they! Such is the bounty of God, and God suffices as Knower." (Qur'an, 4:69-70)

Allah the Almighty gave people examples illustrating this issue to warn His slaves of invalidating their deeds and losing them when they need them urgently. Allah the Almighty says: "Would any of you like to have a garden of palm trees and vines, with rivers flowing underneath it, with all kinds of fruit for him therein; and old age has stricken him and he has feeble offspring; and a fiery whirlwind strikes it and it is (all) consumed by fire. Thus Allah makes plain His revelations to you, in order that you may give thought." (Qur'an, 2:266)

This example speaks about those who did good deeds and then regressed replacing good deeds with evil ones. We seek refuge with Allah the Exalted from this. In his commentary on this verse, Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "This is an example of a rich man who does good acts out of obedience of Allah and then Allah sends him the devil whereupon he commits sins till all his good deeds are lost.” (Al-Bukhari)

Dear pilgrim, remember that the accepted Haj has signs. The most prominent of these signs is the continuity of uprightness and obedience to Allah the Exalted. Furthermore, your relationship with Allah the Almighty should be better than before. Al-Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy upon him) was told that the accepted Haj is rewarded by Paradise. He said, “The sign of this is to return (from Haj) renouncing this world and aspiring to the Hereafter.”

I wish that you, dear pilgrim, while finishing Haj, you realize that its most important objective is to train the Muslim in worshipping Allah the Almighty alone, to comply with His commandments, avoid His prohibitions and follow the Sunnah of His Prophet (pece be upon him). These objectives are not confined to a certain time; rather, the Muslim should adhere to them as long as he is alive. Allah the Almighty says: "And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (death)." (Qur'an, 15:99)

Your condition after doing good deeds should be like those about whom Allah Almighty says: "And they who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord." (Qur'an, 23:60)

Although they try to get closer to Allah Almighty through various acts of worship, they fear that their deeds may be rejected. That is why Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say, “Be more concerned about the acceptance of your deeds than about the deeds themselves. Have not you read the Qur'anic verse in which Allah Almighty says: "Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him]." (Qur'an, 5:27)

Hence, Allah the Almighty commanded the pilgrims to seek His forgiveness after departing from Arafah and Al-Muzdalifah saying: "Then depart from the place from where [all] the people depart and ask Forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." (Qur'an, 2:199)

Finally, dear pilgrim, you stood at Arafah, you shed tears and you showed remorse over your previous misdeeds. Allah the Almighty emancipated you from Hell, so beware of regressing to sins after being forgiven by Allah or drawing near Hell after being saved from it.

Be determined to make your Haj a turning point in your life, reckon yourself and determine what influence your Haj had upon your heart, attitude, words and deeds.

Keep doing good deeds even if they are little, because regular small deeds are better than interrupted greater ones. You should know that deeds, which Allah the Almighty loves most, are the most regular and constant ones even though they were little.

We ask Allah the Almighty by His names and most beautiful attributes to accept your Haj, Forgive your sins and reward you for your efforts. We also ask Him to accept our good deeds and provide us with steadfastness and uprightness until death.

Woman sells 2 cows to cover Haj expenses

80-year-old Zainab from India.
21 October 2013

HOLY SITES — A woman pilgrim from India had been cherishing her dream to perform Haj for more than 25 years but every year her financial condition was such that she could not join the millions of pilgrims on Arafat.

"I never gave up on my dreams. I have been collecting money during the past quarter of a century but have only succeeded this year," she said.

The 80-year-old Zainab said she had been saving the money she was making from farming, but every year when the Haj came she discovered that what she had been saving was not enough. "This year I sold two cows which I have been using to plow the land and transport the harvest to be able to complete my Haj expenses," she said.

Zainab had no regrets that she sold her cows to be able to make it to Makkah. "I am happy to have fulfilled my dream of more than 25 years. Standing with pilgrims on Arafat is priceless," she said.

Zainab said she was happy to be in Makkah with other pilgrims from all over the world and added that Makkah was different from the city she had conceived in her mind. "Makkah is spectacular city which has a charm of its own. It gives you an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction, tranquility and peace of mind," she said.

Zainab said if she had the choice, she would never leave this country at all. "I am longing for my children but that cannot be compared to my coming here," she said.

For many pilgrims, the best
is a shroud washed in Zamzam

Many pilgrims believe that burial shrouds washed in Zamzam are best gifts to be taken back home.
21 October 2013

MAKKAH — A number of Asian pilgrims would not leave Saudi Arabia for their respective homes without buying burial shrouds from Makkah and washing them in Zamzam water. "This is the best gift I can take from the Haj to my relatives and friends back home," one of them said on condition of anonymity.

Many of the pilgrims believed a shroud bought from Makkah and washed in Zamzam water would be the best cloth to cover them when they die especially after they have fulfilled the fifth pillar of Islam. Haji Noureddin Omar, an Asian pilgrim, said he was finally able to perform Haj after saving for the past few decades. "Since a very early age my countrymen think of two things to do when they reach of age: Get married and perform Haj," he said.

Omar said he had completed his Haj rites and was only left with the duty of buying a number of shrouds and washing them in Zamzam water for distribution among relatives and friends.

"My friends asked me to buy shrouds for them from Makkah and wash them in Zamzam water. This will be the most precious gift for them from the holy sites," he said.

Omar expected a warm welcome when he arrives at home. "I will be put in a special car which will drive through the streets of my city. My compatriots will hold spectacular celebrations for returning pilgrims," he said.

According to Sheikh Saleh Al-Hassawi, member of the Ifta (religious edicts) committee in the Grand Mosque, the washing of the shrouds in Zamzam water is not an Islamic act and will not do the pilgrims any good after death. "Neither the Prophet (peace be upon him) nor his companions who performed Haj more than once had done this," he said.

Expat squatters sell food in open air

Expatriates, who despite the efforts of the municipality and health authorities, resort to
the activity of selling food to pilgrims in open air in Makkah sustaining a trend that is repeated every Haj
22 October 2013

MAKKAH — Expatriates selling food in the open air to their pilgrim compatriots have become a trend that is repeated every Haj season.

Despite efforts by the municipality and health authorities, this practice continues unabated.

Pilgrims are attracted to these food peddlers because they make dishes from their home countries near their accommodation for reasonable prices, even if they are cooked in unhygienic conditions.

Saudi Gazette toured areas where expatriates were selling food to their compatriot pilgrims.

The tour began at Al-Mansour Street where African Haj missions chose to accommodate their pilgrims. The district is also known for being a haven for illegal residents from the African continent.

A number of expatriates spread plastic rugs in a section of the street to set up makeshift restaurants where they cook food to serve to their countrymen.

Cats, mice and insects move freely in the dirty areas where food is being prepared.The expatriates have also turned a parking lot used by local residents into a restaurant to cook and serve food to their compatriots.

In another spot along Al-Mansour Street, a number of men and women brought their cooking utensils including stoves, gas cylinders, cooking oil and dishes to cook in the open air. They only receive a few customers at their restaurant and sell the bulk of their food to pilgrims.

In the Bakhatmah area, near the Kudai District, Indonesian expatriates have also started to prepare national dishes for their compatriot pilgrims.

"Some illegal Indonesian residents have erected small tents, turning them into makeshift restaurants," one Saudi citizen, who did not want to be identified, said.

Dr. Abdulaziz Tabbakh, a chest consultant at a private hospital in Makkah, has warned that restaurants selling unhygienic food in the open air might cause their customers to suffer from diarrhea and food poisoning.

He said harmful microbes from contaminated food could be transmitted from one person to another.
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#3239 [Permalink] Posted on 22nd October 2013 20:53
Thousands visit historical sites

22 October 2013

Thousands of pilgrims are arriving in Madinah to visit the tomb of the Prophet (peace be upon him) after completing their Haj. Mosques and historical places in Madinah witnessed a surge of guests of God who wished to visit Madinah on their way home.

Thousands of pilgrims visited historic landmarks such as Al-Baqi Cemetery and others places close to the Prophet’s Mosque that contains the remains of the Prophet’s wives and children, in addition to the remains of 5,000 Islamic figures.

Many visitors conclude their Madinah visit by going to these historical places. The perfect time for visiting these places is during the early morning hours and late afternoon. Quba, the two dome mosque and the seven mosques are among the top three, and people prefer to visit these places the most.

Tour organizers, supervised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), witnesses increased demand to organize trips to these mosques and historical places, because visitors want to know more about these places.

SCTA granted permits to tour guides and printed a number of guiding instructions that introduces visitors to historical and archaeological sites in the holy city.

Hajj Exhibition in Jeddah

‘Hajj Journey Through the Ages’ Explores the history of Haj

22 October 2013

JEDDAH — A series of 43 original oil paintings by Saudi artist Reem Nazir entitled ‘Hajj Journey Through the Ages’ explores the history of the Haj, a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and including a visit to the holy city of Madinah.

An exhibition of the paintings is to be held at the Jeddah Municipality’s Grand Exhibition Hall on Oct. 22 to Nov. 14.

This series depicts a bygone era, when the long and arduous travel to the Hijaz was mostly undertaken by camel caravan and traditional sailing dhows, before the advent of steamships, trains and air travel.

The series is streamlined in a catalog, which is introduced by the President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan Bin Salman. The catalog carries a preface by Mayor of Jeddah Dr. Hani Ibn Mohamed Abu Ras.

Prince Sultan in his introduction says, “God says in His Holy Book ‘And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) and (his son) Ismail (Ishmael) were raising the foundations of the House (the Kaaba at Makkah), (saying), ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.’” “With this sacred command, the history of Haj originated and with it began the influx of pilgrims arriving from all corners of the earth, to visit His house in Makkah, in compliance with His summons to His Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) ‘And proclaim to mankind the Haj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway (to perform Haj).’”

“After Allah hailed our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as his messenger, Haj became the fifth pillar of Islam: ‘And Haj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence); and whoever disbelieves (i.e. denies Haj, then he is a disbeliever of Allah), then Allah stands not in need of any of the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinns).’”

Since the rise of Islam and throughout all periods of Islamic history, people have been coming to perform Haj on foot, riding on the backs of animals, or braving the seas in traditional boats. Those pilgrims endured numerous hardships and perils. In modern times during the reign of Al Saud and since the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a revolution in transportation and communications has enabled unprecedented numbers of Muslims from around the world to travel to Makkah to perform Haj and ‘Umrah’ (the lesser Haj), a feat which the early historians and visitors of yonder years would not have been able to fathom.

This was only possible due to the efforts of King Abdulaziz (may God bless his soul) who put in place a well-founded policy giving utmost priority to the custodianship of the Two Holy Mosques and other holy places. The Kings, his sons, who came after him, followed in his footsteps, until the current reign of Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah, who dedicated all the resources of the state for developing the infrastructures to be utilized in the service of the pilgrims and the visitors performing the ‘Umrah’.

In addition to development projects in Makkah and the areas surrounding the Grand Mosque, Madinah is undergoing a pioneering developmental process at the helm of which is the great expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque and the development of the central area, as well as connecting Madinah with Makkah by the ‘Two Holy Mosques Railway Project’.

‘Hajj Journey Through the Ages’, an exhibition of paintings by the distinguished Saudi artist Reem Nazir takes us back in memory to bygone times, recorded and described through the eyes of historians and in the journals of travelers, who made the journey to Haj in those days, allowing the artist’s imagination to depict images of instances in the past in the exact locations that hosted the pilgrims.

The exhibition permits us to get a glimpse of some of the hardships and difficulties that the pilgrims had to undergo in order to perform their religious obligations. At the same time, it reminds us of the ecstasy experienced by the worshiper, who shuns worldly garbs and dons the pilgrim’s ‘ihram’ (the seamless cloth worn by pilgrims during Haj rituals), ready to be received by his/her Creator with constant supplication and prayer along with all Muslims performing their Haj rituals and hoping to receive God’s blessings.

It is a scene that truly captures the heart and this creative space allows us to witness this journey of pilgrims travelling from all four corners of the earth.

The mayor writes in the preface, from the inception of Islam and the enlightened message from God, a message emanating from this land that holds in its fold the two holiest spots on the planet, a Muslim can observe how the Haj journey commenced.

Through history Hajis have endured great hardships and difficulties in undertaking this journey. By the grace of God, and by the efforts of the government, through its massive projects in the holy mosques, this journey became a truly rewarding one.

‘Hajj Journey Through the Ages’ is an exhibition of 43 oil paintings by the artist Reem Nazir, that encapsulates the difficulties this journey entailed. It is fitting that this exhibition opens in Jeddah, gateway to the two holy mosques. This exhibit will move to other venues within Saudi Arabia and then to other parts of the world to bear witness to the Muslim’s faith and proof of the development of the Haj journey over the Millennia.

It has been an enormous documentary effort that entailed diligent historical research and will be an important reference to both students and academics in the future.

Alongside the paintings in the catalog are historic reference photographs, mostly taken from the archives of the Barakat Trust and Royal Geographical Society that relate to the scenes depicted in the paintings. In addition, descriptions of each scene are provided by a variety of historical ‘voices.’

Evocative quotations of first hand witnesses, from the earliest Islamic historians and travelers, through to later Eastern and Western travelers, are used in addition to verses from the Holy Qur’an and traditional sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

A 56-page catalog featuring all paintings is available during the exhibition. A forthcoming publication, available in both Arabic and English languages, will reproduce all works from the exhibition alongside a more expansive set of photographs and text of direct quotations giving first hand accounts of the Hajj rituals, as well as the various customs, perils and adventures experienced on this journey to and from the holy cities.

The scenes depicted and their historical references will appeal to millions of pilgrims past, present and future, in addition to others with an interest in the history, geography, archaeology and traditional architecture of the Islamic World.

To be informed about the forthcoming book, please register your interest:

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#3240 [Permalink] Posted on 22nd October 2013 20:55
Haj firms face fines for leaving
holy sites unclean

22 October 2013

The Ministry of Haj has directed Haj service providers and firms to remove all garbage at the holy sites, and hand over the camps and the land surrounding them clean and tidy.

The ministry said noncompliance will result in a fine of SR1,000 for each ton of waste left.

The Makkah Municipality said the total amount of waste and garbage collected from the three holy sites, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, came to 53,000 tons, in addition to another 6,000 tons of waste from various parts of the holy city.

Some 6,000 cleaning workers were allocated to clean the holy sites in the third phase of the cleaning campaign. A program to kill insects in the city was also launched.

Osama Al-Zaytouni, spokesman for the Makkah Municipality, said the operations to clean the holy sites are carried out in three phases. “The first phase is the cleaning of roads around the clock, where garbage is stored in 1,000 containers for safe and healthy disposal later,” he explained.

The second phase involves cleaning Arafat and Muzdalifah once pilgrims left the two holy sites. “The process involved emptying 131 containers which were in use during the Tashreeq days (Oct. 16-18) into underground reservoirs and 1,025 electric pressing boxes,” he said.

He pointed out that the total quantity of the garbage and waste within the containers amounted to 10,000 tons.

“The third phase started on Oct. 18 with the cleaning of roads and certain sites and emptying the garbage containers,” he said.

The Makkah Municipality established central task forces. Each of these included 100 workers equipped with various pieces of equipment for further support, in addition to teams equipped with pumps, suction devices and water tanks to deal with the unexpected heavy rains.

Saudi families assist maids to perform Haj

22 October 2013

RIYADH — Many Saudi families are assisting their house maids to perform Haj, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

Many maids come to the Kingdom not for the sole purpose of working, but also for the opportunity to perform Haj.

Allowing maids to perform Haj is probably one of the most important gifts that a host family can offer housemaids.

Such acts will lift their morale, and create an atmosphere of mutual respect between them and the families.

Amnah, a house help, has been working for a Saudi family for five years, and her sponsor had promised her to help her perform Haj at the end of her work period.

She was very happy when her sponsor told her that all arrangements for her to perform Haj were ready. She thanked her sponsor, and began immediately preparing her personal belongings, and reading books on Haj.

Maryam, another maid, said that she notified her sponsor of her wish to perform Haj last year, but her wish was delayed because the lady of the house was having a baby around Haj time. Maryam had to postpone her wish to the following year, and she has performed Haj this year.

She said that her sponsor has taught her many things about Islam teachings, and has bought her books, and encouraged her to memorize some of the Qur'an.

Um Musaed said that her maid Fatimah has been insisting on performing Haj, ever since she came to the country. she said that Fatimah is like a sister, and she allowed her to perform Haj when her brother came to work in the Kingdom.

Um Musaed added that she and her daughters always assisted Fatimah in her house chores, and that Fatimah was very happy when the family allowed her to perform Haj this year.

She could hardly believe it when her sponsor gave her the tickets and other necessities that she might need. Fatimah was in tears as she thanked God for working with this family, and said that during her five year with the family, she always felt that she was a member.

Khalid Am-Methn, owner of Haj campaign for workers, said that they teach workers on Haj duties and rituals, and make sure that they perform all rituals correctly. He accepts 150 maids during the Haj season, at a cost of SR5,000, and provides them with accommodations, and three meals.

He praised the monitoring of fake Haj companies, which has resulted in a 90 percent decrease in such fake companies. He complained that some sponsors bring their maids very late, which deprives them of any educational lectures they receive.

120,000 to be summoned next
for performing Haj illegally

22 october 2013

ABHA – The Ministry of Interior has sent a strongly-worded circular to all regional governorates asking them to start taking stringent penal action against those Saudis and expatriates who performed Haj without a permit.

The violators will be summoned next Sunday to the nearest police stations across the Kingdom in order to take punitive measures against them.

The governorates have been directed to find 120,000 pilgrims who have been finger-printed while performing Haj without a permit and take them to police stations. The security agencies used fingerprinting devices in Makkah and the Holy Sites of Mina and Arafat this year in order to detect Saudis and expatriates without Haj permits.

According to governorate sources, there won’t be any leniency toward violators of the Haj Ministry’s rules in this regard. Saudis have to take a pledge in front of the security authorities, in addition to paying fines. The expatriate violators will be deported and they won’t be allowed to re-enter the Kingdom for 10 years.

Immediately after the completion of Haj rituals, the General Directorate of Passports started sending text messages to sponsors and employers asking them to terminate work contracts with their expatriate employees who performed Haj illegally.

A number of expatriates have confirmed that their employers had received SMS to fire them for performing Haj illegally.

According to the sources, more than 200,000 Saudis and expatriates performed Haj this year without a permit. Last year, the figure was over 600,000.

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah region and Chairman of the Central Haj Committee, and Minister of Haj Dr. Bandar Hajjar warned earlier that expatriates who perform Haj without a permit will be deported and banned for 10 years.

The warning was instrumental in bringing down considerably the number of illegal pilgrims during this year’s Haj.

Saudi drivers who provided transportation facilities for illegal pilgrims would also face penal action.
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