•Perform farewell circumbulation

By Ishola Balogun, Reporting from Saudi Arabia

As Hajj pilgrims throng the Grand Mosque to perform the farewell Tawaf in Makkah after completing the stoning ritual on the third day of Tashreeq, the less than one million pilgrims are bid to begin their outbound journey to their various countries.The Tawaf Al-Wida, or farewell Tawaf, is performed before a pilgrim departs from Makkah and is an obligatory Hajj ritual.

A few days ago, the Saudi authorities released a total of 899,353 pilgrims from all over the world performed the rites.  The event was which was described as successful lingers as beautiful memories and strengthened faith for many pilgrims.

Read Also: NAHCON apologises, vows to return Hajj fares of disappointed pilgrims

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health in a quick post-mortem, announced there have been no outbreaks of any disease that could affect public health during this Hajj. It also confirmed that its Hajj plans were operated smoothly and safely.

Some pilgrims who expressed their joy to Facing Kaaba after completing the fifth pillar of Islam said it was a special favour from Allah, giving gratitude to Him.

A pilgrim from Oyo State said: “I am happy that got the call, it is a divine call because many paid but we’re not chosen. I was chosen among the 43,008 from Nigeria and also from the small fraction of it allocated to Oyo State. So, for me, it is a divine call and I give gratitude to Allah.” Sanni Rafiat ’said.

Also a 64 year old man, AbdulAzeez Adeleke Oremeji from Lagos state said: “Apart from the weather which is said to be 43 degree, I am really enjoying myself and glorifying Allah for the opportunity.”

The Arafat gathering

Just last Friday, all the pilgrims gathered at the plains of Arafat, about 20 Kilometers from Makkah for the core Hajj rite.

The exercise was the climax of hajj,  a moment of intense worship, a special day when supplication to Allah is believed to be answered and a day of spiritual renewal, even those at home engage in fasting and other acts of devotion.

As a result, many were seen raising their hands high in solemn requests while several other were move to tears in solemn communication to God at the desert valley of Arafat where Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon, calling for equality and unity among Muslims.

The Muslims who had arrived Saudi Arabia earlier, had passed the night at Mina to ease the their presence at the mount Ararat at dawn on Friday. They remain there until nightfall in deep contemplation and worship.

The men for three to four days will be clad in unstitched sheets of white cloth, more like a shroud, while women are allowed to dress conservatively with hijab showing only their  faces.

Health and safety measures

Saudi authorities mounted a massive operation to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims. The Saudi Health Ministry prepared 23 hospitals and 147 health centres in Makkah and Madinah, the second-holiest city in Islam, to accommodate pilgrims.

Four hospitals and 26 health centers are also ready to treat pilgrims in Mina. This is apart from what each country will provide for its pilgrims. Nigeria has several hundreds of health workers, volunteers and ambulances on ground at Arafat to attend to the medical need of pilgrims.

It was gathered that the Saudi Authorities provided more than 1,000 beds for patients in Makkah and the tented sites requiring intensive care and more than 200 specifically for heatstroke patients, and more than 25,000 health workers are also ready to respond to cases as they arise.

Again, hundreds of trained male and female volunteers focus their efforts on ensuring pilgrims’ safety, with thousands of medical supplies such as oxygen bags and emergency first aid kits on hand.

At each tent in Mina andd Arafat, hundreds of mist fans operate on an automated system to cool the tents and every minute were seen sheltering worshipers from the sun’s rays and the heat which has remained between 43 and 44 degree centigrade throughout the Hajj period.

Saudi security authorities, health workers, and many other government and private sector agencies ensured this Hajj season was a success by providing services to pilgrims and helping them perform their rituals with ease and comfort.

Zamzam water

Unlike the Masjid Al Harram, both in Makkah and Madinah, Zamzam water were everywhere, but hardly seen in the Masha’ir which are Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.

The water is believed in Islam as a holy water which source is in Makkah close to the Kaaba. One of its miracle is that the well has never run dry after several thousands of years it was caused to exist by God to satisfy the thirst of little Ismail and his mother.

Every pilgrim is entitled to five liters of it to take back home.

Stoning the devil

However, after sunset on Friday, the pilgrims were conveyed to the rocky desert of Muzdalifah, about 5.5 kilometres from Arafat.  The pilgrims picked 49 pebbles to carry out the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamarat. 

pebbles will be thrown at the Jamarat Aqabah on the first day while the second and third day will 21 pebbles pelted at each of the three symbolic devils by each pilgrims. Although the act is symbolic, since It is believed that the devil tried to talk Ibrahim out of submitting to God’s will; it also signify overcoming the temptation of the devil.

Before now, the ritual is notorious for surging crowds and stampede.  In 2016, thousands of pilgrims died in a stampede. Saudi authorities in their effort to improve free access, it had changed the arrangement of stoning which comes with permits and time allocation. Also,  pilgrims can now enter through special electronic gates which admit a specific number of pilgrims at a time.

Slaughtering of animal for recompense

On the second day of Arafat after returning from throwing the first seven pebbles at the Jamarat-l-Aqabah,  each pilgrim slaughtered a ram as required. The sacrifice is connected to ihram, and may be made up for by fasting.

It is different from the one slaughtered at home for Eid. It is usually done by proxy as pilgrims are busy doing managing the time of the day to complete the rites.  Pilgrims then moved to shave their heads, while women only need to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal and then exit ihram – change to normal clothings.

Most pilgrims completed their Hajj on Monday after performing the symbolic “stoning of the devil” ritual in Mina and then carrying out the final ritual of Tawaf Al-Wida’ at the Grand Mosque in Makkah

NAHCON visits Mu’assasa, receives BPKH officials

A National Hajj Commission, NAHCON delegation under the leadership of its Chairman, CEO, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan yesterday met members of the Tawafah Company for Pilgrims of African Non-Arab Countries popularly known as the Mu’assasa.

The meeting which held at the instance of NAHCON was aimed at seeking debriefing and resolution of two crucial 2022 Hajj operational matters; first of which was to seek explanation for the Private Tour Operators IBAN account accreditation setback and way forward.

The second was the poor feeding arrangement during the pilgrims’ stay in Mina and Arafat as well as NAHCON’s request for refund on behalf of the pilgrims.

Chairman of the Mu’assasa, Mr. Ahmad Sindi, explained that the issue of IBAN account was affected generally by lateness in this year’s Hajj announcement but specifically to issues relating to mismatch in the Account Numbers and Account Holders’ names on one hand, and on another level inaccurate Account Numbers. However, he assured that the monies are intact and will be returned to NAHCON’s account as soon as the Mu’assasa receives a formal letter of request to that effect.

Vice President of Mu’assasa, Mr Muhammad Burhan Saifuddeen gave a breakdown of the remaining amount yet to be credited to 33 Tour Operator companies.

Roll call at the Meeting with Mu’assasa

Present at the meeting were Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa, Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs; Hon Abubakar Nalaraba, Chairman House Committee on Pilgrimage; representatives of Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators in Nigeria (AHUON); representative of Nigeria’s Diplomatic Corps, representatives of Nigeria’s local and foreign media.

Others are NAHCON’s Commissioner PPMF, Alhaji Nura Hassan Yakassai; Commissioner PRSLS, Sheikh Suleiman Momoh; senior directors and some staff of the Commission essential to the assignment.

On the Mina feeding arrangement, it was disclosed by Mr. Sindi of the Tawafa company that from next year, they will work with only well-established caterers that has adequate manpower and sufficient facilities.

He added that they may even require bank guarantees before accepting any recommended caterer. This will happen because of the disappointment they also witnessed this year from the engaged caterers, though the company initially got the impression that they were satisfactory.

However, since pleasure of the pilgrims is their foremost priority, the Tawafah Chairman explained how, during one of his tours in Mina, he had to order for substitute meal to one of the field offices after complaints by the pilgrims on the food quality and quality they were supplied with. He mentioned that the extra meal was at no cost at all to the pilgrims or the caterer. Mr. Sindi promised to explore NAHCON’s request for refund and revert.

Indonesia Hajj Executive visits NAHCON

In another development, the Chief Executive Office of Indonesia’s Badan Pengelola Keuangan Hajji (BPKH), Mr Anggitto Abbhimanyu was at the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s office in Ummul Juud, Makkah on a familiarization visit. Mr. Abbhimanyu was accompanied in the visit by his special assistant.

The interactive meeting centered around discussions on issues of common interest, technical cooperation, challenges, and solution to numerous issues raised during the visit.

The BPKH is the equivalent of Hajj Savings Scheme in Nigeria and Tabung Hajji in Malaysia.

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