Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is the most important spiritual journey in a Muslim's life.
Pilgrims from every corner of the globe marked the second day of Haj on Monday, the high point of the major pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, Islam’s holiest city. It is considered to be the largest annual religious gathering in the world, The Khaleejtimes reports.
According to the latest data from Saudi’s General Authority for Statistics, the number of international and domestic pilgrims who arrived in Makkah by the Zul Hijjah 9, 1439 Hijri – corresponding to August 20, 2018 in the Gregorian calendar — has reached a total of 2,368,873. Out of this number, 237,160 pilgrims are Saudi residents.
The numbers have already surpassed last year’s, when over 2.35 million pilgrims performed Haj.
It was a sea of white at Mount Arafat on Monday. After a night of heavy rains on Sunday, multitudes of pilgrims, donning white special garments for men (Irham), started as on sunrise to move to Arafat to stand there in a great spectacle. Haj officially started on the evening of Zul Hijjah 8 and lasts until the 12th but some pilgrims still perform Haj on the 13th of the same month.
Standing before God
“Haj is Arafat,” is a well-known Hadith of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) signifying that standing in Arafat is an essential part of Haj. Scholars have interpreted the saying as meaning ‘Whoever misses the standing (in Arafat) has missed Haj’.
On the second day, the pilgrims perform the Sa’i – the key rite of walking back and forth seven times between the Safa and Marwah hills near Kaaba in the Haram. The second day is known as Yaum Arafa, as pilgrims leave Mina for Mount Arafat (also known as Arafa), where they must arrive before noon.
Once at Mount Arafat – where Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) delivered his last sermon in 632 CE – the pilgrims stood in contemplation, praying and asking God for forgiveness of their sins and listening to clerics delivering sermons near Jabal Al-Rahmah. Known as “standing before God,” this segment of the second day’s ritual is one of the most solemn of the pilgrimage.
The pilgrims also performed prayers at Masjid Namirah in Arafat which marks the location where Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) camped before delivering his final sermon.
The prayers were attended by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Governor of Makkah Region; and Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh, the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti and President of Council of Senior Scholars and General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta. Imam and Preacher of the Prophet’s Holy Mosque, Dr. Hussein bin Abdulaziz Al Al-Alsheikh delivered Arafat sermon.
After the sun sets, the pilgrims head to another Holy Site, Muzdalifah, where they spend the evening praying and sleeping on the ground under the open sky. They also gather small stones or pebbles to be used in the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil on the third day of Haj.
On the first day of Haj on Sunday, pilgrims recited prayers and asked God for acceptance and forgiveness and flocked from Makkah to Mina to spend the first day of Haj – known as Yaum Al Tarwiyah. Pilgrims perform rituals such as donning the Ihram, declaring their intention to perform the major pilgrimage; walking seven times counterclockwise around the Kaaba, at a rate of 107,000 pilgrims per hour, and most of them leave for Mina and stay overnight.
Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is the most important spiritual journey in a Muslim’s life.
Saudi authorities are expected to announce the final numbers of pilgrims on Monday night. The biggest contingents are from Egypt, Iran, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen, Sudan and Jordan, among others.