Hajj II

The Tent City

MINA, the tent city

On 16thDecember 07, we changed into Ihram and pronounced a second intention for actual Hajj. Taking only a shoulder bag filled with bare essentials plus a new packed dress, we boarded the bus.

Chanting “Lubaik Allahumma Lubaik” in unison, we moved towards Mina about 5 km away from Mecca. All roads were clogged and our bus moved at a snail pace. The wild hooting was incessant. Transporting two millions on the same day and the same place had to be a logistical nightmare. A large number security forces were deployed and helicopters were put in the sky to monitor and control movement of vehicles, estimated around 22,000.

Some pilgrims preferred to walk from Mecca to Mina through the air-cooled covered walkway.

At long last, the bus reached Mina. Without guide, it was not possible to find our tent though we had maps and identity tags showing our sector and tent number. But there were reportedly 40,000 tents of the same color and dimension, stretching in all directions. These were fire-proof, air-cooled with overhead lights and power outlet. The space per pilgrim in the tents in Mina was only 1.15 sq m and each tent accommodated 50 people. Separate arrangements were made for ladies.

The Mina is long and narrow valley girdled by granite hills and deserts dunes. From a complete emptiness, it had turned out into a bubbling city and was reverberating with verses from the Holy Qur’an.

Initially, we were happy but soon truth dawned at us. There were few food outlets and getting foods was an uphill task. I saluted the salesmen who were robotically taking cash and dispensing cooked rice, gravies, breads, salads, biscuits and “mutabak”, sweet pastry stuffed with cheese, banana or meat. Worst was bringing hot tea in the tent for wife. However, cold water and ice packs was easily available near the tent. I wished they had included hot tea in sealed cups.

Further, there were inadequate prefabricated toilets. The users were required to get in line and hold their bowel movements from 10 to 40 minutes.

The day was spent in prayers and meditation, looking for foods, lining outside the rest rooms. For the sake of convenience, the five-time prayers were performed outside the tent. At night, all slept shoulder-to-shoulder, mostly snorting and kicking thy neighbor while tossing and turning in sleep.

Towards Plains of Arafat

In the evening of 18th Dec 07, our guide asked us to pack up and leave the camp as buses would come on the main road any time after 8 pm. Accordingly, we came out of our camp and waited for buses. When the first bus was sighted, displaying our group flag, all scrambled towards it, trying to get in anyhow. Those who failed attempted on the second or subsequent bus. In the process, many family members were separated. It created a commotion inside each bus as many were shouting names of their dear ones. Having failed to get any response, some started weeping, some wailing and some sobbing. Meanwhile buses moved on as there was a constant honking by the next caravan.

We were slowly moving towards Arafat, about 14.5 km from Mina and it took us about six hours to cover that distance.

Arafat was a vast desert area now studded with a cluster of tents here and there. Unlike Mina, there were no marked directions for our camp. Even our driver got lost and it took him two hours to contact the leader as all mobile communication was chocked up due to heavy load and distortions caused by mass movement of vehicles. Another hour was consumed in reaching the open camp at the edge of the site. Once again, there was gender segregation and all went to sleep where ever they found empty mats.

In the morning, it was a pleasant surprise to find greenery all around us. Previously a sandy place, Arafat had turned into an oasis due to massive landscaping and tree plantation about 15 years ago.

For us, it was the most important day. (There is no Hajj without stay at Arafat. If this stay is missed, the whole Hajj is invalidated.) The boundaries, within which the pilgrims must stay at Arafat, were well defined with multi-language boards raised all along the periphery.

Plains of Arafat

Nimra Mosque

At midday, there was intense heat which coincided with the Hajj sermon, Khutba-e-Hajj, delivered by Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdulla Al-Sheikh. This was followed by combining of two prayers (Zohr and Asr) with only one call. But alas, our camp was way off the place of the sermon, Masjid-e-Nimra, and we heard it only through a radio in our own tents.

The Saudi Government provided a free lunch which included steamed rice, mutton curries, fruits, ice cream, plenty of juices, packs of biscuits, wafers and crackers.

The afternoon was a pious time. We stood in devotion and earnest supplication asking God for mercy and forgiveness. All pilgrims prayed together, their hands raised, their tears flowing, their voices mixing up in a multitude of dialects but saying the same words in the same language. The scene was emotionally charged and left a lasting impression.

Soon after the sunset, we left for our next destination, the plains of Muzdalifah to spend the night. 

Worst traffic jam

MUZDALIFAH

After sun sets, all pilgrims surged forth to Muzdalifah by buses, trucks, cars and on foot. With such a rush, it was one of the most chaotic and stressful exercise. After about 7 km, which took as many hours, the bus stopped. All were asked to get down, spend the night and have a long walk next morning to reach the previously allotted tent in Mina, some 5 km away.

Muzdalifah was just an open barren land with some illumination and a few restrooms. As a ritual, the pilgrims were required to stay for worship and rest. We spread our mats like others and squatted thereupon with a pride. A person on the roadside was selling hot tea. I grabbed two cups and fished out some saved biscuits and cookies. The night at Muzdalifah became an unforgettable event. We prayed, munched biscuit, sipped tea, collected over 49 pebbles, had a chit chat with the next mat-family and dozed off. Sleeping in the open on the rugged ground under the star was a thrilling experience.

Next morning saying early prayer (Fajr), we joined a stream of people going south. We kept on moving with brief rests till we reached a barrier. It was a covered walkway filled to the brim by the worshippers. Since our tent was on the other side, we moved along the steel barrier till we found an opening. Getting in, we continued moving with the flow and gradually shifted towards to the other side with pushes, requests or lucky jolts. Once out the walkway, we sat down on a raised structure and caught our breath. I straightened my back against the wall and went into a reverie. I thought of those things which I have done but shouldn’t have, things which I haven’t done but should have and of the things I would do after forgiveness of the past sins.

After a good rest, we reached our tent and shared stories with others.

Throwing pebbles at Satan

Throwing Pebbles at the devil.

By about 11 am, we formed a group and proceeded towards Jamarat for stoning the devils. The covered and air-cooled walkway was inaccessible due to huge rush. We had to move by the side road. By this time, there was an intense heat. Since men cannot cover their heads with caps or hats, I used an umbrella which of course was inconvenient for anyone behind me.

Prior to 2005, this used to be a dreadful day as with frequent stampedes many were crushed to death. The government had since solved the problem by constructing a multi-tiered Jamarat Bridge in the shape of an “X”. The pillars to be stoned were at the centre of the "X" with inflow and outflow ramps, emergency exits, and subway tunnels directing the flood of supplicants safely through the rocky landscape of Mina.

At the time of our visit, ground and upper levels were complete which eventually would be extended to four levels. The security men directed us to the ground level where pebble throwing was at its height. The din there sounded like waterfalls of Niagara. But there was no water, only the faithful pelting the “devil.” Since it was first ritual, each pelted seven stones on the  pillar in the centre.

There were three oval-shaped pillars or symbols, 40 metres long and 16 metres wide enough for pelting of stones by 100,000 pilgrims per hour. The symbols were coated with rubber so the stones thrown didn't deflect and injure pilgrims. The stones dropped directly to the basement of the bridge and down a ramp where they were being removed pneumatically.

We returned to the tents and waited for a signal of sacrifice delegated to our leader. In order to reduce inconvenience to the devotees, sacrifice of animal, usually a sheep, was done centrally under the supervision of Islamic Bank, Jeddah. A huge abattoir had been constructed to preserve the meat, and distribute it to the poor Muslims in other countries. This day was celebrated not only at Hajj but also throughout the Islamic World where it was joyous time to visit family and friends.

On receipt of the report that sacrifice on our behalf has been done with, we rushed to washing area, had our head shaved followed by a bath and changing into brand new garments. By the time we returned, a bountiful plate of roasted mutton, from own sacrificial sheep, was waiting for us which we enjoyed fully.

Last day of Hajj

Peak attendence in the Grand Mosque

Last rituals

Next day we tried to hire a taxi or any vehicle for going to Mecca but all were fully engaged. We decided to walk which was about 5 km away. With utmost difficulty, we entered the mosque as it was jam-packed. We found some space on the roof top which increased the circumference geomaterically. With God blessing we completed the tawaaf and running between Safa Marwa, had the head shaved once again and completed the Umerah.

On return, we went to Jamarat and stoned the three pillars one after another. We had another round of Jamarat as we stayed for the night on a day after Hajj i.e. 23rd December 07.

We left Mecca on 29th of December 07 but a day before we went to Mecca to perform a farewell Umerah. Travelling by road, we reached Jeddah and had to wait for one day for the flight. Eventually, by 31st December, we flew to Karachi, Pakistan and were back to our sweet home with a lot of pleasant memories.

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Comments 33 comments

Syed Mairaj Ahmad profile image

Syed Mairaj Ahmad 6 years ago

I have heard in peak rush period security personal attitude towards the Haji’s is not so good; they usually behave in an indecent manner like pushing Haji’s etc so how was your observation in this regards? And one thing more I have heard during stoning the devil some over aggressive and hyper people start throwing slippers and other stuff towards the pillar how much reality is in this?

Thanks for sharing your experience.


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Syed Mairaj Ahmed:

There are always some isolated incidents where two million people are watched by 40,000 policemen but I don't think the security personnel misbehave with Hajis. On the contrary, they treated them as Guest of Allah and pay due respect.

Throwing slipprs on the devil is rare and an individual action. A lot of watchmen are always there and may not tolerate it. With a spacious Jamarat Bridge, frustation-level has certainly gone down.


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks Khair Mohammad Sohu. My prayers are with you.


Fahad_Khan profile image

Fahad_Khan 6 years ago from Karachi

MASHALLAH! Thank you Mr. Hafeez for such a crisp and eloquent hub page. I haven't gone through such an elaborate article regarding all the rituals of HAJJ. Since you are a HAJI, I'd like to request you to pray for all of us that may we all visit the HOLY HARAM for the pilgrimage.


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Sure Fahad Khan, my prayers are with you.


Rufi Shahzada profile image

Rufi Shahzada 6 years ago from Karachi

Amazing Sir!

I am really much impressed. You remember each and everything with date, Since its almost two years.

Thanks a Million for sharing such a remarkable experience and giving us a divine knowledge of performing a major obligation of ISLAM...

Best Regards,

RUFI SHAHZADA


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

I made use of spread sheet for counting each day. I knew from air-ticket what date I landed at Jeddah and what I left it. Hajj dates were in papers. So moving backward or forward it was easy to account for each day. More, with me were four persons and their wives. When in doubt, I checked with them and only accepted their version if it fitted into the over timeframe.


michael schmidt 6 years ago

What an amazing and moving story! It's interesting to learn that despite the modern conveniences of air conditioning, public transportation, etc., that making Hajj remains a challenging though beautiful experience. I understand that there has been some concern about the emergence of the H1N1 virus prior to the upcoming Hajj. I can only hope and pray that God will keep all participants safe & well!


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks Michael for your comments. There are plan to operate a railway between Mecca and Mina which would reduce the traffic congestion. But the piligrims are increasing fast every year and some estimate to go upto 10 million by the next 20 years. So any development plan would be soon inadequate.

There are concern for H1N1 and I join you in praying that God will keep all safe.


Rufi Shahzada profile image

Rufi Shahzada 6 years ago from Karachi

Well Sir that is great!

I have learned another great thing from you...

Another thing I want to ask is about the MUSEUM OF MECCA. You went there? And how about Al-Baik (FOOD CHAIN)?

RUFI SHAHZADA


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Albaik Food Chain was great. There was an outlet right before the Jamarat and many in other places. Their food is cheap, crispy and comes with a lot of varities. This company should open its stalls in Pakistan.

I have not been to Museum of Mecca but would certainly keep in mind in my next visit. Thanks for asking this question.


mashood_khan profile image

mashood_khan 6 years ago

Dear Mr.Hafeez:

MASHALLAH! I went last time KSA for performing UMRAH in 2005 and prayed to perform Hajj soon. After Reading your this knowledgeable article my Iman has refreshed and wishing to be there very soon. Please pray for me to perform Hajj very Soon.


Syed Kabeer Ehsan profile image

Syed Kabeer Ehsan 6 years ago

Respected Teacher,

Its an amazing experience, May Allah give me a chance to perform Hajj, Sir did you see inside of Khana Kaba'.. .

but, I must Say.. it is amazing to read your hubb about Hajj.. .

thanque for sharing this informative experience with all of us.


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks Mashood and Kabeer for your nice comments.


Rufi Shahzada profile image

Rufi Shahzada 6 years ago from Karachi

Yes Sir you are right... In fact the Mayo Sauce they provide us is unmatchable!. Al-Baik's CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM is so good...

You are absolutely right, people in PK would love to have AL-BAIK in home. Now people are Fed up of KFC and McDonalds, they need something new...

RUFI SHAHZADA


forlan profile image

forlan 6 years ago

someday i will go to there.


maria arif 6 years ago

dear sir

it was a pleasure to read the article. it was great


aymen 6 years ago

MAY ALLAH bless us all with the honuor of hajj .. sir u said all of the thngs very artitiscally one can feel the joy be in the moment :)

ALLAH bless u agin with the honour of hajj


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks Forlan, Maria Arif and Aymen for your comments.


khalid AKhter profile image

khalid AKhter 6 years ago from KARACHI

This is realy an informative journey ...some of the new facts n knowledge i got ffom ur journey regarding our holy places ....thanx a lot for sharing these info


fatai 6 years ago

Hafeezrm,

Thanks for bringing this vivid information to the public domain. I am a proud '07 pilgrim to the Holly Land.

I enjoyed the peace, tranquility, and the serenity of this wonderful, once in a life time experience. The people are friendly peaceful.

The security and policing is great. The problem is the magnitude of the pilgrim population. ( 4-5mil.) In addition to about (1.7mil) resident of the City. Inspite of minor problems here and there, the residents of the City are very accommodating.

The problem is that a vast segment of the pilgrims came from Third world Countries. Some them lack the social interaction and civil behaviorial norm in the Western Countries of the world.

All God loving believers should experience the last pillar of the Faith.


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thank you Khalid and Fatai for your nice comments.


donna 6 years ago

Your commentary was superb. It was very interesting and informative as well as fascinating. I cannot fathom being part of such a vast sea of humanity. It appears to be a very humbling experience and well worth the discomforts for the ultimate rewards of having completed such an important ritual.


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks Donna for your comments.


Misbah Mansoor 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experience. I would like to ask two things; I heard that thefts and robberies are very common in Macca, even in Haram Sharif ; had you seen any such case there? Secondly have you seen the muktal gah ( head cut) place in Saudia?


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

I have not experience or heard of theft or robbery during my many visits for Ummarah and Haj over the past 15 years. There are reportedly some cases but not at an alarming level. In fact, Mecca and Medina are the safest places on earth. A little caution can ward off a few pick-pocketers and thieves.

Executions in muktal gah are very rare. Only the residents can see it once in a life time.

You must go to the holy land. Seeing is believing.


Khalid Masoud Qasmi 6 years ago

Sir, Thanks for sharing your experience with us, i had a chance to perform Hajj almost 18 yeasr back, by your remarkable memories i recalled my hajj memories.

thanks and keep sharing your great experiences.


stars439 profile image

stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Great Hub


stars439 profile image

stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Great Hub


Quddus Ahmed  5 years ago

Your Informative knowledge is very nice May Allah Chance us to Perform Hajj very soon.


Hajj Packages 2011 5 years ago

Masha-Allah Hafeez Sb. Great information, and the way you have explained every thing is really impressive. Thank you for sharing that value able information. May Allah Almighty give this great opportunity of performing Holy Hajj once in life time.

Thanks Again


naureen 3 years ago

respected sir

Currently I am your student. I liked this post a lot and i gained moe respect for you as i have seen that along with your subject you post religious things as well.Highly appreciated


kanizm profile image

kanizm 22 months ago from Chicago, Illinois

@Syed Mairaj Ahmed: I went to Hajj this year, I have seen a lot of misbehavior with Hajis from the policemen. I think it tends to happen when you see such a huge crowd and are trying to manage them. After a while, it just turns into a job and then maybe they disassociate themselves from the Hajis. I hope Allah shows them the right way.

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