Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik…
Chanting “Labbaik Allahumma labbaik (Here I am, O Lord here I am!) around two million Hajj pilgrims entered the plain of Arafat Thursday morning to cry and supplicate for the atonement of their sins and hoping for the acceptance of their Hajj pilgrimage.
All eyes were watery and all lips parched beseeching Almighty Allah to forgive all their sins, asking favors and bounties from Allah for a disunited and incoherent Ummah.
Standing on Arafat is the climax of Hajj rituals and the pilgrims will now proceed to Muzdalifah after sunset to pray the Maghreb and Isha together, stay the night and move after midnight or early morning to Mina to complete their Hajj rituals including throwing the stones at the Jamarat (the three huge pillars symbolizing the devil), slaughtering their sacrificial animals, shave their heads, change into plain clothes and go to the Grand Mosque for Tawaf Al-Ifadah (Tawaf of Haj) and sa’i, the remaining two pillars of Hajj.
The pilgrims started arriving in Arafat plain on buses, on foot or by Mashaer train from Mina where they stayed Wednesday following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Sheikh Saad Bin Nasser Al-Shithri, member of the Council of Senior Scholars and advisor at the Royal Court, delivered the Arafat sermon. He then led the prayers at the Nimrah Mosque.
Retracting the noble tradition of the Prophet (SAW), who said “Hajj is Arafat”, pilgrims performed noon (Dhuhr) and evening (Asr) prayers, shortened and joined together, at the time of Dhuhr with one adhan and two iqamas, and then immersed in prayers seeking forgiveness and mercy of Almighty Allah as well as praying for the welfare of the Muslim Ummah and for the world peace.
In his sermon, Sheikh Al-Shithri urged the pilgrims to be pious and fear God in all walks of life. “Hold fast to the rope of Allah and stay away from what He has forbidden, and this is essential for winning the pleasure and love of God and thus achieving success in the life of this world and the Hereafter.”
Sheikh Al-Shithri called on the pilgrims to shun all forms of sectarianism and division among members of the Islamic Ummah. He also underscored the need to honor the dignity of all human beings. Those who offered prayer at Nimrah Mosque included Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, emir of Makkah, advisor to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and chairman of the Central Haj Committee, and Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh.
The Arafat sermon resembled the famous farewell sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) when he performed his only Haj. After the sermon, the Prophet (SAW) stationed himself by the side of a hill called Jabal Al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy) and prayed until sunset.
The standing at Arafat, one of the four pillars of Hajj, began after noon prayers. Pilgrims engaged in prayers and supplication until after sunset. The Prophet (pbuh) said about the Arafat day: “There is no day on which Allah frees more people from the Hell than the Day of Arafat.”
Muslims across the world also observe fast on Thursday in a sign of solidarity with the pilgrims. It is a great Sunnah for those who do not perform Hajj to observe fasting on Arafat day.
The pilgrims spent the day in duaa (supplication), praying, and reciting the Qur’an. The pilgrims have been accommodated in fire-resisting tents but some of them preferred to spend the day on the top of Jabal Al-Rahma.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh warned the pilgrims not to leave Arafat before sunset and said those who opt to leave before the sun is down will not have any Hajj. The gates of Arafat are closed and heavily guarded so that no pilgrim may leave for Muzdalifah before the sunset.
The journey from Mina to Arafat went smooth with no untoward incident. The pilgrims made the journey either by shuttle buses, walking or using the Mashaer train which transports about 72,000 pilgrims an hour.
Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Naif and Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal closely followed the ascendance of pilgrims on the plains of Arafat.
Maj. Gen. Khaled Al-Dhabeeb, assistant commander of the Hajj Security Forces for Traffic Affairs, said the pilgrims’ movement started by 8 a.m. and ended by 12 noon. The sky was partly cloudy in Makkah and the holy sites for a few hours on Thursday. The maximum temperature at Arafat reached 41 degree Celsius while it is 39 in Mina and Muzdalifah.
The Ministry of Health has established four hospitals and 46 heath centers in Arafat to extend medical services to the guests of God.
The ministry further said the hospitals and health centers have been provided with about 5,000 beds to admit pilgrims who may need confinement including 500 beds in the intensive care units, 550 in the emergency wards, 72 beds for secluding patients with contagious diseases and 87 morgues where the bodies of the dead pilgrims will be kept in fridges.
The Kingdom has mobilized all its security, economic and service potentials to provide the pilgrims with the best services that will enable them do their Hajj rites in ease, peace and comfort. According to Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, more than 300,000 military and civil personnel are providing the pilgrims with protection during their journey of faith.
This year’s Hajj has seen the return of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran following a diplomatic row and a deadly stampede in 2015.
But thousands who would normally make the journey from neighbouring Qatar are absent apart from a few dozen because of the diplomatic crisis shaking the Gulf.
Helicopters flew around the area as the pilgrims converged from dawn on the Mount Arafat plain and the hill known as Jabal al-Rahma, or Mount of Mercy.
Forming a sea of white, the pilgrims ascended the hill and took up positions to pray on rocks already heated by the morning sun.
On the concrete pathways linking the plain to the hill, hundreds of thousands of devout Muslims invoked God, as others rested in makeshift tents or on sheets along the side of the road amid empty bottles and waste.
Tunisian mother-of-three Fatima Arfawi said she was moved beyond words.
“This is the first time I see anything like this, ever,” she said. “This day is dedicated to prayer for my three children and my family.”
In a hospital opposite the mountain, an area was set aside for people suffering dehydration or heat exhaustion.
Saudi Arabia says it has deployed more than 100,000 security personnel to keep pilgrims safe.
At the foot of Mount Arafat, mobile barriers have been installed to control the movement of the crowds.
“They will be moved to enlarge the passages when there are more pilgrims,” said Ahmed al-Baraka of the Saudi security forces.