MAKKAH: Following Hajj rituals Eidul Azha, the feast of sacrifice, is being celebrated in Saudi Arabia on Thursday (today).
Major Eid congregations were held at Grand Mosque (Masjid-ul-Haram) in Makkah and Masjid-e-Nabvi in Madina.
The Imam of the Grand Mosque stressed on unity among the Muslims in his Eidul Azha sermon at Grand Mosque. Special prayers were offered for the unity and peace in the world.
Eid is also being celebrated in other gulf states.
A sea of Muslim pilgrims moved on Wednesday towards the holy site of Muzdalifah in Saudi Arabia after the Hajj sermon at Arafat. They gathered pebbles at Muzdalifah for the last major rite of this year’s hajj.
Their symbolic stoning of the devil on Thursday coincides with the Eidul Azha, the feast of sacrifice, marked by the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims.
Around two million white-clad faithful spent a day of prayer Wednesday on a vast Saudi plain and its Mount Arafat for the peak of the hajj pilgrimage.
Police sirens pierced the air and helicopters hovered overhead as the faithful later arrived at nearby Muzdalifah, where water sprays cooled them. They placed prayer rugs and mats on the ground where they will remain until dawn. Many laid down to rest but others savoured tea and refreshments offered by fellow pilgrims.
Most were busy choosing the pebbles they planned to use for the next day’s stoning, storing them in empty water bottles.
Unlike in previous years, only a few pilgrims were seen carrying their countries’ flags, in what Saudi media said was a “ban” during the pilgrimage.
The kingdom’s authorities have repeatedly warned against the use of political slogans or banners during hajj.
Saudi Arabia’s civil defence agency reported more than 200 cases of “fainting and fatigue” after doors failed to operate and crowds formed at a station of the Mashair Railway, which moves pilgrims between the holy sites.
The faithful gathered in their hundreds of thousands for noon prayers at Mount Arafat, where Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Shaikh, gave his annual sermon.
After Muzdalifah, some pilgrims head to Mecca to circumambulate the cube-shaped holy Kaaba structure while others go to Mina — a tent city which is the final stop for pilgrims and where the stoning ritual occurs.
It emulates the Prophet Abraham (A.S), who is said to have stoned the devil at three locations when he tried to dissuade Abraham (A.S) from God’s order to sacrifice his son Ismael (A.S).
A sandstorm blew and light rain fell around the vast plain known as Mount Arafat, where over two million pilgrims from across the globe began to arrive on Wednesday ahead of the climax of Hajj.
On Wednesday 9th Zilhajj (today) the pilgrims gathering for Wuquf-e-Arafat the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, to hear the Hajj sermon.
Many reached Arafat by bus but some walked from the holy city of Makkah about 15 kilometres away, after circum-ambulating the holy Kaaba.
Police manned checkpoints along the way to check the permits of pilgrims.
This year’s gathering is about the same size as last year’s, with 1.4 million foreign pilgrims joining hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents of the kingdom.
They are undeterred by a crane collapse at Makkah’s Grand Mosque earlier this month that killed over 100 people and injured nearly 400.
About 100,000 police have been deployed to secure pilgrimage sites and manage the crowds.
Authorities say they are on alert for possible attacks by extremists.
Security forces have taken “measures to prevent terrorist groups from exploiting the Hajj season to carry out acts of sabotage,” interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki said.
The health ministry has mobilised thousands of health workers to help ensure a virus-free pilgrimage and to care for routine ailments.
Ghilaf-e-Kaaba changing ceremony
The annual ceremony to change Ghilaf-e-Kaaba held at the Grand Mosque (Masjid- Al-Haram) in Makkah today.
— ♔ Ahsan-CS ♔ (@CS_Says) September 23, 2015
The covering cloth of the Kaaba, known as Kiswa, is changed on 9th Zilhaj every year after Fajr prayer.
The new cover has been prepared with estimated 150 kilogram of pure gold and 670 kilogram of silk fiber, officials said.
The cover, inscribed with verses from the Holy Quran, is prepared in Dar-ul-Kiswa factory, which was established 78 years ago. Around 200 workers prepared the Ghilaf with eight month’s labour and with the cost of 20 million Saudi riyals.
The old covering that covers four walls and the door of the Kaaba is cut into pieces and gifted to foreign dignitariees after the Ghilaf changing ceremony.
The covering is 14 metres high, 657 square metres in width and breadth and comprises of 47 pieces.
Beginning of Hajj
The hajj begins with Tarwiah Day, when pilgrims traditionally watered their animals and stocked water for their trip to Mount Arafat, about 10 kilometres southeast of Mina.
The Hajj pilgrims spend their time there in prayer and reciting the holly Quran. The Arafat Day, will be the climax of the pilgrimage. The Imam offers the sermon of Hajj at Mount Arafat.
On Arafat Day, on the 9th of Zilhaj, September 23 this year, the pilgrims gather on the hill known as Mount Arafat, and its surrounding plain, where they remain until evening for prayer and Quran recitals. Hazrat Mohammed (P.B.U.H) , the Prophet of God, delivered his final Hajj sermon there.
Stage of Ihram
With the start of hajj, pilgrims enter the stage of ihram — a state of purity in which they must not wear perfume, cut their nails, or trim their hair or beards.
In ihram, men wear a seamless two-piece shroud-like white garment, emphasising unity regardless of social status or nationality. Women must wear loose dresses exposing only their faces and hands.
After sunset on the 9th of Zilhaj, pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah, half-way between Arafat and Mina, where they stay at least until midnight. They gather pebbles to perform ‘Rami’, the symbolic stoning of the devil.
After dawn prayers on the 10th of Zilhaj, or the Eid ul-Azha feast, pilgrims return to Mina. The first of three stoning rites, known as Jamarat al-Aqabah, begins after sunrise. Traditionally, seven pebbles are thrown at a post representing the devil, emulating the actions of Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S).
Since 2004, it has been replaced by walls to accommodate the rising numbers of pilgrims and avoid deadly incidents.
After the first stoning, sheep are slaughtered and the meat distributed to needy Muslims, symbolising Hazrat Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Hazrat Ismail (A.S) on the order of God, who provided a lamb in the boy’s place at the last moment.
The Hajj rites start on the 8th of the Islamic month of Zilhaj and end on the 13th. The hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and every capable Muslim must perform the pilgrimage at least once in their life.