Today is 9th Zulhijjah of year 1430 in Islamic Hijri calendar. It’s the Day of Arafat, at this time millions of Hajj pilgrims are doing Wuquf at camps in Arafat. It is one of the earliest stages of Hajj pilgrimage beginning 8th of Zulhijjah, and pilgrims who have been staying in Makkah (for arrival Tawaf, and perhaps optional Umrah sessions) will prepare themselves in Ihram mode – it’s practically how they’re set by wearing Ihram dresscode, which is two-pieces unsewed white clothes for men, and anything properly covered for women – also in white. While in Ihram, pilgrims have to obey certain rules and may not shave, clip their nails, wear perfume, swear or quarrel, have sexual relations, and other prohibitions. But don’t worry yet, it doesn’t take too long. The Ihram will finish as soon as they complete several Hajj stages.
Arafat, located about 18 km from Makkah, is a huge deserted area being preserved ever since as one of the sacred places for Hajj, where thousands of camps were built as shelters for the pilgrims to stay for Wuquf during the this day of 9th of Zulhijjah. Basically, pilgrims are set to leave Makkah for Arafat during night of 8th Zulhijjah, stay in Arafat on 9th Zulhijjah, and after sunset of the same day they will leave for Muzdalifah and proceed to Mina. After completing the task in Mina, the pilgrims can be released from Ihram. Afterwards they will proceed to Makkah. Perhaps I’ll be writing about the stages and tasks during the Hajj step by step, just in case they would be helpful to some random readers who drop by here :) Oh yeah, in fact, I once was thinking I could even write a book about it.. maybe ‘Hajj for Dummies’, LOL yeah, though I bet people who are going for Hajj are no dummies, except myself maybe. So I would be happy if I can help those people who are about to do Hajj but not ready and in need of quickie basic ideas.. just like my situation last year. Hmm.. I didn’t go to this multistage all-year-going Hajj courses like everyone else did because of my last minute registration, but Alhamdulillah I managed to learn within less than one month by books, videos, and my parents guide. Okay, let’s proceed about Arafat for the time being.
Check here for full view on Wikimapia. Yep, this piece of land is home to thousands pilgrim camps from all over the world ever since. The area has been divided to serve different continents/countries, and you have to know that this deserted, dry land is only ‘alive’ during Hajj season. Otherwise in other time of the year it’s left empty.
8th Zulhijjah. People getting ready to leave Makkah for Arafat
I recall the day 8th Zulhijjah last year (1429), when Makkah city was the busiest since we had arrived there several weeks earlier. People were on the street getting preparation to leave Makkah. Buses are main transportation to bring these millions of pilgrims within 24 hours.. so imagine how busy the roadways full of vehicles from Makkah to Arafat back and forth many times to pick up and send people. No wonder it took hours to get there even though the distance is only about 18 km.
Azerbaijani woman in Ihram dress.
And for our group, the departure was scheduled after night and we left the hotel waiting for bus, and it took about 2-3 hours to reach Arafat. On the way to Arafat people were chanting Talbiyah prayers (which you get to watch in video below), and the prayers are in Arabic which translation as follows:
Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am.
Here I am at Thy service, and Thou hast no partner.
Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty,
and Thine alone is The Sovereignty.
Thou hast no partner.
One of the buses to ship pilgrims.
We reached Malaysian camps in Arafat by late night and dozed off in the camps. It was no fun at all: crowds, small place, few toilets. I mean, they’re mere camps, not guesthouses or hotels whatsoever. We’re divided into several camps according to KT (it’s a code number given by Tabung Haji for flight that shipped the pilgrims from Malaysia: 27,000 Malaysian pilgrims, about 400 people each flight/KT, you do the Maths). And inside each camp with hundreds of people, you have a little space for you to lay down your ass only, no more than that. And you CANNOT complain coz here everyone is supposed to be the same, despite your status or your money back home. Breakfast and lunch and bottled water were distributed in packages by Tabung Haji staff, assisted by workers among local Saudi young kids (they do make money during this Hajj season). Food isn’t that great of course, and the cold weather gave some of us some good endless coughing. But anyway, we didn’t come all the way to Makkah and to face this complications in Arafat to whine about things. On this Day of Arafat, people make use of it to pray and pray and recite Quran, and pray again, and recite prayers, and pray again. This is the day that has been said when the religion was perfected, when prayers are granted and sins are forgiven. Obviously, this stage of Wuquf is the highlight of the Hajj.
Okay, we are not done yet. By sunset of 9th Zulhijjah, which is also the eve of Eidul-adha festival, we were off to leave Arafat camps heading to Muzdalifah to pick up small stones. What did we do with the small stones, you ask? I’ll explain more in next chapter :) Until then, enjoy this video of ilyani’s adventure going to Arafat, yay!