‘Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik’: Over 1.5 million pilgrims arrive in Saudi as Hajj begins

‘Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik’: Over 1.5 million pilgrims arrive in Saudi as Hajj begins

Riyadh: Hundreds of thousands of Mulisms pilgrims filled the air with the call: “Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik!” as this year’s Hajj began in Saudi Arabia.
The simple, poetic yet powerful call or Talbiyah – “Here I am, O God, here I am” – is invoked by the pilgrims as a conviction that they intend to perform the hajj only for the glory of Allah and it really sums up the spirit of hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars.
The annual pilgrimage began on Friday with crowds of robed worshippers circling the Kaaba, the black cubic structure at Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
This year’s Hajj has also brought Syrian pilgrims to Mecca on direct flights from Damascus for the first time in more than a decade, part of an ongoing thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and conflict-stricken Syria.
Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims attending Hajj to exceed two million this year.
One of the world’s largest religious gatherings, it involves a series of rituals in Mecca and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia that take several days to complete.
One of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj must be performed at least once by all Muslims who have the means to do so.
Some have waited for years for the chance to make the trip, with permits allocated by Saudi authorities on a quota basis for each country.
Nonaartina Hajipaoli, 50, told the AFP news agency she felt privileged to be among the 1,000 pilgrims who came this year from Brunei in Southeast Asia.
“I’m speechless, I can’t describe what I feel,” she said.
The pilgrims will first perform the tawaf – circling seven times around the Kaaba.
They will then head towards Mina, a valley surrounded by craggy mountains several kilometres outside Mecca, where they will spend the night in air-conditioned tents.
The climax will come on Saturday with daylong prayers on Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon.
The pilgrimage is a moving spiritual experience for pilgrims who believe it absolves sins and brings them closer to God, while uniting the world’s more than two billion Muslims.
It is also a chance to pray for peace in many conflict-stricken Arab and Muslim countries, including Yemen and Sudan, where more than a year of war between rival generals has created the world’s largest displacement crisis.
Muslim worshippers walk around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca
Muslim worshippers walk around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage [Fadel Senna/AFP]
Sweltering heat
As has been the case for several years, the gathering is taking place during the sweltering Saudi summer, with officials predicting average highs of 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).
Mohammed al-Abdulali, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Health, told the AFP news agency this week there were more than 10,000 documented cases of heat-related illnesses last year, 10 percent of which were heat stroke.
Mitigation measures this year include misting systems and heat-reflective road coverings.
“The authorities have been asking pilgrims to take precautionary measures amid high temperatures expected throughout the Hajj,” said Al Jazeera’s Ahelbarra.
A text message sent to pilgrims on Thursday instructed them to “drink water regularly, more than 2 litres daily” and to “always carry an umbrella”, warning that temperatures could climb to 48C (118F).

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