Undeterred by heat, millions of pilgrims flock to Mina as Hajj begins

Millions of Hajj pilgrims from across the globe gathered on the plains of Arafat, on the outskirts of Makkah, on Thursday for the high point of this year’s pilgrimage.

Dress all in white, pilgrims began arriving in Arafat on Wednesday night and throughout Thursday, from Mina.

With umbrellas aloft and undeterred by the blistering Makkan heat, exceeding 40 degrees for most of the afternoon, many pilgrims walked to and climbed the famous Jabal Rahma, a small mountain at the heart of the holy site.

In a ritual known in Arabic as the Wuqoof-e-Arafat, 2 million pilgrims are expected to remain in Arafat until dusk, supplicating and asking for forgiveness from their lord.

Volunteers offered free refreshments to pilgrims as they passed as security officials were out in force to facilitate the safety of the ‘Guests of God,’ by using drones and helicopters to spot danger points.

Thousands of security men accompanied the flows of pilgrims along Mina’s wide roads, bridges and tunnels. The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) mission at the holy sites monitored the pilgrims heading from Makkah to Mina.

Their journey went smoothly despite the huge number of vehicles and pedestrians. Traffic patrols were assisted by security forces in their efforts to organize the traffic, guide pilgrims and maintain security.

The Ministry of Health is offering medical and health care services to pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season by providing thousands of doctors, nurses and specialists appointed to serve pilgrims. These members work at hospitals near the holy sites and Makkah. The ministry assists the relevant authorities in carrying out the general emergency plan and dealing with emergencies that might arise during the pilgrims’ stop in Mina and Jamaarat bridge.

Muzdalifah will be the next step for pilgrims, where they will spend the night and collect pebbles that they will use for the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual for the next three days.

Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), delivered his final sermon on the granite hill more than 1,400 years ago.

“We hope that Allah will forgive our sins, and we hope to have a new start with our God,” Khaled Ahmed, a 47-year-old pilgrim from Egypt, said.

In his sermon, the prophet (PBUH), is believed to have called on his followers to repay their debts, beware of Satan, perform five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan and give to charity.

He also called on those with the means to perform the Hajj once in a lifetime and reminded worshippers of the women’s rights.

No ethnic group or race has superiority over another, except in piety and good action; he is quoted in Islamic texts as saying.

During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to wear seamless, white terrycloth garments for the entirety of the pilgrimage.

Women wear loose clothing, cover their hair and forgo makeup and nail polish to achieve a state of humility and spiritual purity.

Noura Sulieman, a pilgrim from the Philippines, said she had been to the Hajj several times before and was praying for her family.

“I came here to Arafat to pray for my family, for my daughter, and my son, and all my family, and all the Philippine Muslims, and all Muslims in all countries,” she said. “God willing, Allah will accept our pilgrimage.”

As Eid approaches, however, hope faded for residents of Qatar who wanted to perform Hajj following the Gulf diplomatic crisis.

“I want[ed] to go on Hajj but I am not allowed,” Mohammed Shafiq, a resident of Doha from Pakistan, told AP news agency

Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam, and is mandatory for Muslims who are able to perform the pilgrimage.

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