MINA: Around two million Muslims from around the world and inside the Kingdom camped in the tent city of Mina on Saturday.
They chanted “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (Here I am, O Allah, answering Your call) and spent the night in the solidly built white tents.
On Sunday, they will stand in prayer in the dry plains of Arafat, which is the climax of five-day Haj. This particular ritual is popularly known as Wuqoof-e-Arafat.
The weather conditions were particularly harsh, but the physically drained and spiritually charged pilgrims seemed undeterred. Most of them remained inside their tents or the massive Al-Khaif Mosque reciting verses from the Holy Qur’an.
Thanks to massive security arrangements, the 8 km trek by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Makkah to Mina was free of incident.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, who is chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on the successful arrival in Saudi Arabia of 1.32 million pilgrims from 164 nations. The exact number of foreign pilgrims was put at 1,325,372.
The number of pilgrims coming from abroad is fewer than last year by 64,889 — a 5 percent decrease.
In a cable addressed to King Salman, the crown prince said: “I am honored on this blessed day to express my warmest greetings and congratulations to you on the successful and safe arrival of pilgrims by air, land and sea for Haj 2016. They have arrived in the holy land in peace and security, thanks to Allah Almighty and your continuing care for all services to them which create the means of comfort and enable them to perform their Haj rituals easily and safely.”
The crown prince prayed to Allah Almighty to preserve King Salman “for this nation as a leader and builder of its renaissance, and for the continuation of the blessings of security and faith for this country.”
Everyone had a word of praise for the excellent arrangements.
Indian Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh said the movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Mina was “absolutely hassle-free.”
“Our pilgrims had no problems whatsoever,” he told Arab News. “The cooling system inside the tents worked fine, and there were no complaints from anyone.”
More than 100,000 Indian pilgrims are performing Haj this year.
Pakistani TV journalist Shaukat Piracha was ecstatic at the massive arrangements.
“The Saudi government has done excellent preparations,” he said. “I am very happy, very excited to experience this exhilarating glimpse of the Muslim Ummah here in this holy land.” He said: “A mere thank you is not enough for what they (the Saudis) have done and are doing. They richly deserve to be the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.”
Professor Talat Ahmad, vice chancellor of India’s Jamia Millia Islamia, was equally thrilled. “This is amazing. I am overwhelmed,” he said. “This is my first Haj. I performed Umrah two years ago.”
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Nasser Benfitah, 54, from Morocco, echoed Piracha’s sentiments. “Everything is well organized,” she told AFP.
Ashraf Zalat, 43, from Egypt, said: “People come from every country of the world, talk every language of the world, and meet here in one place, under one banner.”
“We feel safe,” said Nigerian pilgrim Hafsa Amina, 26.
“It’s marvelous. I feel closer to Allah. It is an indescribable feeling,” an Egyptian pilgrim, who gave her name only as Louza, told AFP.
Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which financially sound adult Muslims must perform at least once, marking the spiritual peak of their lives.