Hajj pilgrims to begin journey of faith from today

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world, including over 1.5 lakh Indians, will begin Hajj from Tuesday when they assemble in the valley of Mina as Saudi authorities said preparations have been completed for the world's largest annual gathering.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 22, 2015, 08:56 AM IST
Hajj pilgrims to begin journey of faith from today

Mecca: Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world, including over 1.5 lakh Indians, will begin Hajj from Tuesday when they assemble in the valley of Mina as Saudi authorities said preparations have been completed for the world's largest annual gathering.

Chanting "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik" (O God, here I am answering your call), hundreds of thousands of white-clad Muslims will stream towards Mina on the first leg of the annual pilgrimage.

In the first phase, the pilgrims will spend the night in the tent-city of Mina reciting the Holy Quran or praying.

On Wednesday, pilgrims will move to Mount Arafat where they stand in contemplative vigil, offer supplications, repent and atone for their past sins, seek mercy of God and listen to a sermon.

After offering prayers at Mount Arafat, pilgrims will travel to nearby Muzdalifa to collect stones for the ritual in Mina Valley, an event which has been marred in the past by stampedes.

The next day the pilgrims return to Mina and perform the symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at the three pillars.

After the stoning, the pilgrims will perform the ritual of animal sacrifice to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his only son, Ismail, to God.

The stoning ritual is meant to mirror Ibrahim's stoning of the devil when he appeared to try to dissuade the Prophet from obeying God's order to sacrifice Ismail.

Saudi authorities have made elaborate arrangements for the pilgrims in Mina, where thousands of tents have been set up to host the 'guests of Allah'.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is also Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has directed agencies concerned to provide all services and facilities so that pilgrims perform their rituals with ease and comfort.

According to officials here, nearly 1.5 million pilgrims had arrived from various countries till Sunday.

About 1.5 lakh Indians are among the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who have converged in the Kingdom for the five-day Hajj.

The Saudi authorities have deployed 1,00,000 security personnel for ensuring the safety and well-being of pilgrims.

The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for security, has installed 5,000 CCTV cameras in this city and Medina. The feed from these cameras is monitored round-the-clock.

"We are active, we are awake," Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Al-Turki said, referring to the security forces' readiness to deal with any eventuality.

High winds, 10 days ago, toppled a massive crane that smashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque and killed at least 107 people, including 11 Indians.

Members of an elite counter-terrorism unit, traffic police and emergency civil defence personnel are among those deployed to help with crowd control and safety. They are supported by additional troops from the army and National Guard.

The Kingdom's military and police put on a parade in Mecca last week, with security forces jumping through burning hoops and thwarting a mock terrorist attack.

The show - attended by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef - was aimed at deterring any would-be troublemakers.

More than 3,000 Civil Defence personnel have been deployed in Mina to oversee the safety and security of the pilgrims against any emergency hazards.