Muslim pilgrims braved heavy rains in the Makkah region while performing some of the last rituals of the major Islamic pilgrimage on Monday, the fourth day of Hajj. The faithful also marked the second day of Eid Al-Adha.
According to a statement from the Center for International Communication, Ministry of Media, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, thousands of pilgrims started to prepare to visit the holy city of Madinah after concluding their Hajj while others continue to perform Hajj rituals in Makkah. Hajj officially started on the evening of 8th of Dhul Hijjah, or Friday August 9, and lasts until the 12th of Dhul Hijjah but some pilgrims continue the pilgrimage for a sixth day on the 13th of the same Islamic month, corresponding to Wednesday August 14.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection said the holy site of Arafat received a total of 31 mm of rain on Monday, with the Grand Mosque at the Haram in Makkah receiving 26 mm and the holy site of Mina 12 mm.
The highest wind speed registered was 75 km/h, in Arafat, it added in its bulletin.
The General Directorate of Civil Defense urged pilgrims to take caution, avoid the low places in Makkah and the holy places, and not to touch metal objects that can conduct electric current.
The latest warnings advisory came after heavy rains on the holy sites and were preceded by alerts from the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection, it said in remarks carried by the by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The official spokesman of the Civil Defense at Hajj, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Al-Hammadi, said that “the rains that fell today on the holy sites did not result in disturbing the pilgrims, whether in Mina holy site or the Grand Mosque, thank God.”
“Civil Defense follows the reports of the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection periodically and in the light of these reports preventive measures are taken in the field,” Lt. Col. Al-Hammadi said. “Civil Defense works with the other concerned authorities to take the necessary measures to provide safety and protection for the pilgrims.”
Earlier on Monday, the rain on Makkah and surrounding areas was described as “heavy to moderate.”
Tawaf Under The Rain
The Grand Mosque at the Haram in Makkah saw rain fall as pilgrims were performing the ritual of Tawaf Al-Ifadah, with the faithful lifting their palms to God in prayer, in a touching spiritual scene. One of the key rituals is performing Tawaf, where the pilgrims walk around the Kaaba seven times in counter-clockwise movement.
Pilgrims perform Ṭawaf Al-Ifaḍah after the ritual of casting the stones, and the other Hajj rituals such as shaving the hair and animal sacrificing, which are carried out from the third day onwards.
On the third day of Hajj, Sunday or the 10th of Dhul Hijjah in the Islamic calendar, pilgrims headed from the holy site of Muzdalifah to Jamarat Al-Aqaba in Mina to perform the rituals of the third day of the pilgrimage.
On the third day, they also started to perform the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil, where they throw seven pebbles at the largest of three pillars, known as Jamrat Al-Aqabah. The ritual begins at dawn. The pilgrims also perform prayers throughout the day.
In other third day rituals, men shave their heads or get a haircut and women too cut their hair as part of the rituals. The slaughter of sacrificial animals also started on the third day of Hajj, which also marked the start of Eid Al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), a major holiday for Muslims worldwide. More than one million livestock have been readied for meat sacrifice to meet the demand of pilgrims for this year’s Hajj.
On the fourth day of Hajj on Monday, at noon, pilgrims returned to stone all the three pillars at Jamrat Al-Aqabah and on the fifth day, they throw pebbles at the pillars a third time, and then are free to leave the holy site of Mina for Makkah before sunset.
Tawaf Al Wada, or Farewell Tawaf, is the last rite of Hajj, performed before leaving Makkah.
From Makkah To Medinah
The holy city of Madinah, about 438 km to the north Makkah, will be preparing as of Tuesday evening to receive the first waves of pilgrims who have completed their Hajj this year. There the pilgrims visit the Prophet’s Mosque )Al-Masjid an-Nabawi) and pray in this major Islamic pilgrimage site and burial place of the Prophet (Peace Be Unto Him).
Tens of thousands of pilgrims are expected to arrive in Madinah in the next two days, SPA reported on Monday.
This year’s pilgrim numbers have topped last year’s. According to Saudi authorities, more than 2.48 million international and domestic pilgrims performed Hajj this year, compared with more than 2.37 million in 2018, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics. It said the number of pilgrims from abroad was 1,855,027 pilgrims. The biggest contingent was from Indonesia.
The highest number of non-Saudi pilgrims who came to Makkah from outside and inside the Kingdom were from non-Arab Asian countries (1,157,919), followed by pilgrims from Arab countries outside the GCC (475,831), then from non-Arab African countries (190,764) then pilgrims from Europe (67,932), pilgrims from GCC countries (33,705), and from North & South America and Australia (27,690).
One of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj is the Muslim major pilgrimage to Makkah, Islam’s holiest city. All Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the pilgrimage are required to do so at least once in their lives.
A number of pilgrims this year, including celebrities or influencers, are performing Hajj as guests of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. One of them is former French rapper Mélanie Georgiades, better known by her stage name Diam’s, who had converted to Islam in December 2008 and is on her second Hajj. She travelled to Makkah with her husband to perform Hajj.
“I did my Hajj when I converted to Islam, I came to Makkah, and it was incredible. But this time is very important,” said Georgiades. She said she was impressed by the organisation of the Hajj and the monumental effort put in by Saudi authorities over the years to make Hajj safe and healthy. Georgiades said she was particularly impressed by the ability of Saudi authorities to accommodate the large number of pilgrims in Makkah.
“If you put everybody in the same place, it will be disaster,” she said. “You have to put them to sleep somewhere, to eat somewhere, to pray somewhere. It’s not possible without nice organizing, and me, I went many times in Saudi Arabia and there’s something very sure that they put a lot of money, and programs to protect the pilgrims.”
More than 350,000 employees from various sectors are serving the pilgrims in 2019, the majority of them in public services, followed by transportation, health and communication services, among others. The also include nearly 10,000 volunteers.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said in its latest statistics on Monday that a total of pilgrims 421,852received medical care free of charge in hospitals and health centers in Makkah and Madinah and the holy sites between July 4, when the Hajj season started, and Sunday August 11.
According to the ministry statement, 3,450 pilgrims have so far been admitted to hospitals. A total of 36 open heart operations and 779 cardiac catheterizations were performed in Makkah and Madinah hospitals, along with 1,998 dialysis operations, 103 endoscopic operations and 616 different other surgeries, while 11 births have been recorded to date, it added.
The Ministry of Health said that “its hospitals and health centers in Makkah and Madinah and the holy sites continue to provide specialised and quality services to the pilgrims during the pilgrimage this year 1440 AH (2019 AD).”