•As activities wind up
Activities for 2017 Hajj rites are beginging to wind up after over two million Muslims gathered at mount Arafat proclaiming the greatness of Almighty Allah and throwing pebbles at the devil, represented by three thick walls at Jamarat, about 18 kilometers away from Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Pilgrims moved from Makkah to Mina: While the assemblage at mount Arafat which took place last Thursday was not only considered as the major rite of hajj, but also a-day activity, the throwing of pebbles, a- three-day rite, was considered more herculean for both pilgrims and Saudi authorities who had to ensure the safety of every pilgrim.
At Mount Arafat: The presence of pilgrims at Mount Arafat cleanses and transforms pilgrims into a spiritual height of self-purity. As usual, pilgrims were soaked in intense prayers, seeking forgiveness of sins, laden with tears in the vast plains of Arafat last Thursday. They left Arafat for Muzdalifah where they passed the night. Early in the morning, they moved in droves to Jamarat for the throwing of pebbles on Friday, which coincided with the beginning of the celebration of Eid Al-Adha by Muslims all over the world.
Muzdalifah: When the pilgrims finished their day at Arafat and began their return journey, they moved to Muzdalifah where they spent the night until they have prayed Fajr. In the meantime, they pick up 49 or 70 pebbles to perform the stoning duty on the next three or four days at Mina.
Glorification of Allah
It is the practice of the Prophet to oberseve this aspect of Hajj rite. In fact spending the night at Muzdalifah is a duty of pilgrimage. If omitted, it can only be compensated for by the slaughter of a sheep and distribute its meat to the poor. The over two million pilgrims convereged at the under bridge, Muzdalifah, observe their Magrib and Ishai prayers and slept on the floor till dawn. They also offered their Fajr prayers and left before sunrise.
Throwing pebbles: From Muzdalifa where they had passed the night after the day of Arafat, Lagos pilgrims moved to their tents from where they immediately left for Jamarat chanting glorification of Allah. As a rule, when approaching the Jamarat Al Aqaba for the stoning rite, pilgrims stopped the glorification and threw seven pebbles at the biggest pillar one after another, saying Allahu-Akbar with each throw.
Under the harsh weather condition about 45 degree celcius, the over two million pilgrims observed the stoning rite. As the air surveillance was being carried out with helicopters hovering around, security agents were on ground ensuring free flow of traffic to avoid another stampede. Some of them were seen at strategic points assisting pilgrims, ensuring they comply with directives. Others were seen sprinkling water at pilgrims to relieve them of the heat. Just as helicopters were seen hovering around, medical and emergency officials were busy attending to pilgrims who collapsed as a result of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
According to a pilgrim from Osun State, Alhaja Samiat, “Two pilgrims fainted in front of me today. They were not Nigerians but I could see how people succumbed to the weather condition. It is very hot, I fear for myself and others.,”
Another Nigerian Pilgrim said: two others also collapsed but were revived by the emergency team. “I have seen about eight persons collapsed at different point, most of them were aged pilgrims, only two Nigerians but they are okay now. It is because of dehydration and exhaustion.
“At the Jamarat bridge, an elderly woman had collapsed as her relatives tried to revive her, splashing her face with water before calling for assistance. Another 35-year-old Lagos Pilgrim said he had collected pebbles for several other elderly pilgrims advising them not to embark on the trip. “ I had to beg some elderly people not to come because of the distance and the weather. You can see how people are exhausted. But we thank Allah, the authorities were prompt to their rescue.
Shaving of head: The act of shaving the head is only done after throwing the first set of pebbles. Men observe a total shave while women are permitted to only cut part of their hair.
By performing this ritual, all that was forbidden to the pilgrim during Ihram now becomes permissible except for sexual relations with wives. This is called the first stage of exiting ihram. Every tent in Mina and environment became the salon were prilgrims shave their heads. Some engaged in self help while other pay as little as 10 Riyal for the service equivalent to more than N1000.
Other rituals: Pilgrims then performed the ritual of slaughtering sacrificial animal at the numerous abattoir established for the purpose in Muaisem area near Mina. Most pilgrims performed this ritual by proxy due to the large number of pilgrims. Essentially, it is to atone for some inadequacies during the hajj rites. After this ritual, the pilgrims took off their ihram dress (the seamless two pieces white garment) and put on any other clothes. Many of the pilgrims who completed the rituals of stoning, sacrificing animals and shaving their head, proceeded to the Grand Mosque where they performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah and sa’i, the remaining two rites of hajj at the Holy Kaaba. After performing these rituals, everything then becomes permissible for pilgrims, including intercourse, and this is called the second stage of tahallul.
Kaaba wears new look: The black apparel (kiswa) covering the Holy Kaaba has been removed. It was gathered that the apparel was folded three meters up off the ground at the early hours of Sunday. According to an Arab official, this was to prevent pilgrims from touching and damaging it during tawaf since more people are expected at Kaaba during the Hajj period. “This is the practice every year before the peak of Hajj.” Before, people tamper with the cloth, so, it must have been done as a precautionary measure,” he said. The area has been covered by a white cloth, which is two meters high and 47 meters wide.
Total number of pilgrims
According to the latest reports by the General Authority for Statistics, as many as 2,352,122 pilgrims performed the Hajj this year consisting of 1,752,014 pilgrims who came from other parts of the world and 600,108 domestic pilgrims.
From Nigeria, 81,200 pilgrims performed the pilgrimage. Out of the number, 75,000 were from various States Pilgrims Board while 16,200 from Independent private tour operators. We pray for the souls of 14 Nigeriaans that passed on during the rites and spare the the lives of other and grant them a safe return back to their various homes.