Many in the sea of white-clad believers were so moved by the occasion that tears streamed down their faces as they set out from Makkah for Mina, retracing the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), reported the daily Arab News.
"All our lives we have been waiting for this moment," said Siti Ayesha, a teary-eyed Indonesian pilgrim. "We can't believe that it has finally come." "To see all these people from around the world responding to the call and speaking in one voice to the Creator gives me unprecedented feelings," said an Egyptian pilgrim who was among the first to arrive in Mina.
The pilgrims will spend the day known as "Yawm at-Tarwiya" in prayers and meditation, sleeping the night in fire-proof tents before heading further south on Monday, January 9, to Mount `Arafat for the climax of the annual spiritual journey. More than 2.5 million pilgrims from over 160 countries are performing hajj this year, seeking repentance, purification and spiritual renewal.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family. Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lifetime.
Many pilgrims performed `Umrah in the holy city of Makkah before heading out to Mina. Makkah's Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Islam's holiest shrine, which has been packed with pilgrims for the last few days, was slowly getting emptied, said the English-language Saudi.
"The `Umrah I just did was dedicated to my late father. `Umrah is a good exercise for hajj," Komari Hussein, a 47-year-old schoolteacher from Malaysia, told Reuters. He, like all male pilgrims, was in ihram (state of consecration), wearing two pieces of seamless white cloth, which symbolize purity and equality.
Most travel agencies who offer hajj trips schedule their arrival dates days ahead of the hajj so that pilgrims can stock up on the extra days at the Ka`bah. "Ninety percent of pilgrims choose to come earlier than the hajj days to perform `Umrah and visit Prophet Mohammad's mosque in Madinah," said Fawzi Al-Ghamdi, a travel agent who organizes hajj trips for Muslims in the United States.
In the sea of white-clad believers, supplications and prayers change accordingly to countries and regions. One pilgrim from Pakistan prayed for the relief and rehabilitation of the October 8 earthquake victims.
"My brother Irfan, who died in the earthquake wanted to perform hajj. I have come to perform hajj on his behalf and pray to Allah that not only my brother but all those who died in the earthquake should be pardoned and given a place in Jannah (paradise)," Nadeem Ahmad Beem told the Arab News.
A Bangladeshi crying in prayers was asking for the wellbeing of her children. "Oh Allah, give me health and strength so I can raise my children and make them stand on their feet. I beg you to give similar strength to my husband and make his trade bloom and make my children good Muslims and obedient."
Ahmad Razzak Tikriti, an Iraqi pilgrim who lost a leg in the US-led invasion, was very emotional. He said that there should be an immediate end to the suffering of the millions of Iraqis.
"I prayed for peace in Iraq and for the emergence of a strong and stable Iraqi nation after this war," Tikriti said. Abdi Berri Youssef, who lost his legs in the Somali civil war and whose son pushed him through the crowd in a wheelchair, raised his hands and called out: "Oh, God of the whole world, I am defenseless, give me strength and endurance, nothing else."
Daouwd Zeinalabidine, a Nigerian lawyer, prayed: "Oh Allah, my Creator and my Benefactor praise is for You. You are the one who deserves to be obeyed till the end. I ask Your forgiveness and seek purity of my soul." He said he had also prayed for "peace for myself, for my country and for the whole world."
Meeting Mount', the Mount Arafat
Candidate pilgrims will climb the "Meeting Mount" of Arafat that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) mentioned as "Hajj is Arafat", they will remember their responsibilities before the judgment day and implore to Allah. They will then collect stones in Muzdalifah and stone the devil in Mina. As we started checking the preparations, we wanted to visit these places, too. First, we come to Arafat. Actually, the Saudi authorities do not want Arafat to be visited outside the hajj time and they already announced this with a gigantic signboard they placed in the outskirt of the mount. There are however some visitors. Visitors, managing to get away from the close pursuit of the peddlers, climb the mount where the Prophet Adam and Eve met and make the rehearsal of the prayers they will perform during the hajj time.
Tents begin to be set up as there are tight security measures. The security nerve center in Mina is like the Alpha space base. There are monitors everywhere. Three helicopters purchased from Japan are ready to fly any moment. Any probable troubles will be immediately interfered in from the air. We also have a chance to look at the residences of the Turkish pilgrims. The tents are ready, roads are completed, and the qiblah places are prepared.
On the way "home," we remember the purpose of our trip...We could not take beautiful pictures of the Kaaba but still we are tranquil. Not only the Saudi authorities but also the Turkish Directorate for Religious Affairs is ready for the hajj obligation. Do not worry, your relatives you sent off from Turkey for hajj are in safe hands here...
Source: IslamOnline.net & News Agencies