JEDDAH: The Hajj is an annual religious pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca undertaken each year by millions of Muslims around the world. It occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, called Dhul Hijjah, between the eighth and 13th day of the month.
This year, the Hajj takes place from approximately July 7 to 12. Participating in the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime is a major obligation for all able-bodied Muslims with financial means, and between 2 and 3 million people take part in the six-day ritual each year.
This year, 1 million pilgrims will flock to the holy city, 85% of them traveling from abroad for the first time after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that kept them from traveling. perform the ritual.
To ensure a smooth and safe journey for pilgrims, the Saudi government has announced a series of entry requirements.
Pilgrims wishing to perform Hajj must be under the age of 65 and fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a booster. They must also present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure for the Kingdom, and priority will go to those who have not performed the ritual before.
After Prophet Muhammad, for 14 centuries, pilgrims began their journey in a spiritual state of purity and devotion, also known as Ihram, which is the combined sacred act of Niyyah and Talbiyah required to perform Hajj . It is the innate intention to perform an act of worship, while Talbiyah is a special prayer said in supplication to attain Ihram.
After entering Makkah, pilgrims perform the welcome tawaf, circling the Kaaba seven times counter-clockwise, starting with the Black Stone. They then proceed to the hills of Safa and Marwa, where they perform the saee, which is the act of going back and forth seven times between the two hills.
Pilgrims then travel to Mina, a 20 square kilometer area nearly five kilometers from the Grand Mosque in Mecca, on the eighth day of Dhul Hijjah, also known as Yom Al-Tarwiyah, where they will stay and fulfill their day and evening of prayers and supplications, rest and drinking water before their long and perilous journey.
On the second day of Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mount Arafat, 20 kilometers away. The day is spent in prayer and supplication as they observe the duhr (noon) combined with the asr (afternoon) prayers until sunset.
Arafat Day is considered the most critical day for pilgrims and non-performing millions. It is the day that “atones for the sins of the previous and coming (Muslim) year” and is the best day for worship and supplication for the whole year.
After sunset, pilgrims descend from Mount Arafat and proceed to Muzdalifah for isha (night) prayers, pick up pebbles no larger than the size of a finger before the stoning ritual the next day, and rest until at midnight or dawn, when they will make the long journey back to Mina for the final stages of Hajj, the ritual stoning at Jamarat Al-Aqabah.
On the third day of Hajj, Eid Al-Adha, pilgrims stone the Jamarat Al-Aqabah, or the Great Pillar, a place where Prophet Ibrahim threw seven pebbles at the devil. After that, the pilgrims change their Ihram; sacrificial animals are slaughtered and men cut off or shave their heads while women cut off the length of a finger to commemorate the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.
For three days, known as Ayyam Al-Tashreeq, the pilgrims stay in Mina and perform the stoning of the other two pillars, Al-Jamarah Al-Wusta and Al-Jamarah Al-Sughra.
With years of preparations ahead of the mass gathering, Saudi authorities carry out major planning to control crowds every year, dividing large numbers of pilgrims into groups and designating specific times and routes to reach the bridge where the pilgrims are located. pillars.
Thousands of volunteers, military, law enforcement and health care personnel will be on the ground assisting pilgrims in what many believe is their sacred duty to serve God’s guests in the holiest and most sacred trips for a muslim.
Using the power of technology, the Saudi Hajj authorities are again this year including the Smart Pilgrim ID Card to facilitate the transportation of “Visitors of Allah” and ensure their timely arrival at their locations and tents, whether at Mina or Arafat, with robots with touch screens available to explain the rituals explained in 11 languages.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with the General Authority of Awqaf, has launched 13 detailed electronic manuals offering guidance to pilgrims around the world on a variety of topics in 14 languages, including French, Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Russian, and Amharic, which are compatible with all phone operating systems and can be reached by visiting guide.haj.gov.sa.
In a video shared on Twitter, the ministry said, “These electronic guidance manuals are interactive and include Shariah and Islamic law, procedural, organizational and health guidelines that pilgrims will need during their journey to Hajj.”