Hajj Revisited: 9 Zulhijjah in Arafat

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.

Image credit hajinformation.com

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!

People at Hajj 2008

I wish I could get a detailed information about statistic of  the Hajj pilgrims in 2008, the country list with the number of people from each. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appoints the number of pilgrims from each country should not exceed 0.1% of the country population, though I am not too sure if it’s 0.1% of the whole population or 0.1% of Muslims population in each country. But from newspapers I read Malaysia sent 27,000 people so I assume it right to be 0.1% of the country population. Significant major pilgrims groups are from Turkey, China, Iran, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Pakistan.. just to name a few, besides local Arabs in Saudi and nearby countries. It’s real AMAZING to see people from the whole wide world gathering in one place, and they are all around you! I couldn’t help being so excited to identify every single person I met in the mosque, in the streets, in the shops, the yard.. of which country they belong to. Generally they were wearing traditional dress or uniforms, or certain labels on the shirt/scarf/bags written on it the country name, or the country flags as their identification. Since you can never know when you may get lost in the crowd of 5 million people, or lose your group, so it’s important to let people know visually which country you come from.

It was getting more intriguing when I met peeople from countries I really didn’t know where on earth they’re located, like Cote D Ivoire, Togo, Sychelles.. I was like, “Oh, there are people in those coutries!”. LOL.  Same goes for the countries having Muslims as minority, like Italy, USA, Australia and South Africa, Russia.. I have met a number of people from there. If there’s a chance, I would greet them and see if they could speak English. I would take their pictures, a few of which I asked politely, while thre rest are good candid photos haha. I wish my phone camera was 24-7 ready for that purpose so photos of people from EVERY country could be captured. But I wasn’t very lucky and didn’t have much time. Anyways. Below are some of the photos  I’d like to share.

Iran

Malaysia

Russia

Bangladesh

Nigeria

Bosnia & Herzegovina

China

Photos of people from other countries can be seen in this Flickr set.

:)

All about Eve

Jabal Rahmah or “Mount of mercy” in Arafat, about 20km from Makkah, is believed to be the place where the first man created by God, Prophet Adam, met again his spouse, Hawa (or the Westerners refer as Eve) after hundreds years being separated after they were expelled from Heaven and sent to earth as a punishment of eating the forbidden fruit. Adam is believed to have landed in some place which is now India, and Hawa in the Arabian peninsula. Well, at least that’s what I’ve been told, though this wikipedia says (under Islamic tradition) they were sent to Safa and Marwah mountain peaks, respectively. Nevermind that, but for their reunion, everyone seems to agree that it was in Arafat. In Jabal Rahmah to be precise, and maybe that’s why there’s been that white monument on top of the peak as long as I can remember, and millions of people are visiting this peak every year. Plus, they traditionally believe that this is a sacred place where someone’s prayers – specifically with intention to meet a soulmate – will be granted. Or for their marriage to be forever blessed and strong, well, things like that.

Imagine that this rocky hill was the place where Adam and Hawa met after having missed each other so much, most probably continued with kissing and making love on the very mountain afterwards. Heh. I didn’t have time or interest to climb up the hill as others did, though. It’s rather high and rocky and my legs weren’t very strong for this purpose I might finally fell down before I can meet my soulmate LOL.

And the story about Hawa in Saudi Arabia didn’t end in Arafat only. In another trip session, we went to Jeddah, the port city located near the Red Sea. This is where Hawa is believed to have been resting in peace, somewhere in the middle of the city. Jeddah itself is said to be named after her (Jeddah is Arabic word for grandmother). Hawa’s grave is a quite a huge fenced area and it’s one of the proofs that earliest human being used to be really, really huge. It’s just incredible anyway, to have a look at the resting place of the second human being ever existed on earth. No, make it the FIRST woman ever existed :)

Hawa’s grave square entrance.

Hi grandmother, you rock! Yeah.

A note from Medinah

[mobile post]

We arrived in this city of Prophet Muhammad last Thursday. It’s cold here. I sent sms to Reema, my ex-classmate in UIA telling her that I am here in her hometown :) though I was guessing she might still be in KL. But it turns out she’s in Oman now for job, and wishes me to enjoy Medinah. And yes I do. It’s stil crowded here, though the variety of people ain’t as lot as in Makkah. Only significant major pilgrim groups like the Turkish, Iranian, Indonesian and Pakistani. We’re going home this weekend (and we’re still busy shopping..)