It’s all systems go for the start of this year’s mammoth haj pilgrimage, which gets underway on Saturday, the 8th Dhul-Hijja. More than 1 million pilgrims from all corners of the globe have descended upon the holy cities to take part in the ritual, which will be an intense spiritual and physical test.
Having entered into their ihram, hujjaj will make the exodus to Mina, where they will prepare for the climax of hajj, the Day of Wuquf or the Day of Arafat. On the ninth day, the ritual of wuquf (“standing”) takes place at the small hill of Jabal al-Rahma in Arafat. The pilgrim then returns to Muzdalifa, a small town within the Makkan boundaries, to stay the night.
Speaking to VOC on Friday morning, Dr Salim Parker, known as the ‘Hajj Doctor’, said the reduced number of pilgrims made it easier for haj operations and decreased the number of medical challenges. Right now, his main task is to ensure that hujjaj take precautions against the heat.
“We are urging all hujjaj to stay well hydrated, especially with water, stay out of the direct sun and on the Day of Wuquf, do not stand for too long periods. South Africans are not used to this heat, so we advise them to stay in the shade,” he told VOC from Makkah.
For many Muslims, one of the most meaningful aspects of the pilgrimage is the unifying effect of bringing together believers from all over the world to meet and worship together. Parker believes that due to the strenuous nature of the journey, hujjaj should look after each other.
“Hajj is a time of ‘mahabba’, compassion and love, so hujjaj must look out around them. If they see someone not well in their camp, simply call the medical personnel.”
Al Anwar Express reports that all operations are now in place and hujajj have been orientated on the details of the rituals. There are two camps on Mina and Arafat – Camp A and Camp C – with different levels of comfort. Hujjaj in Camp A will benefit from additional services, which came at an extra cost.
“What we did is to take the groups to their camp so they can get orientated and also for them to see the distance from their bait in Azizia to the Mina camp. Alhamdullilah, most of them were comfortable walking this particular distance. So if they wish to return from Mina to their base in Azizia, then they will have a sense of the distance.”
In preparation for the actual journey, every haj group will have a talk on Friday evening after Esha to discuss the logistical and spiritual readiness for the pilgrimage. The busses arrive after Fajr and pilgrims will be transported to their camps on Mina, while some will choose to do the ‘walking haj’.
“It’s not a long distance …it’s a 30 minute walk. Shortly after Fajr, the sun hasn’t risen yet so the temperatures won’t be as bad,” added Dr Parker.
“On the Day of Arafat, our hujjaj will be informed well in advance that the busses will be coming at a particular time. It’s not always possible to follow the sunnah by leaving immediately after Fajr but if the busses come in the early hours of the morning, we will inform than an hour before. Then the hujjaj will embark for the ultimate journey of their lives.”
Tune into VOC for rolling haj coverage. VOC