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Saudi authorities say more than two million pilgrims perform Hajj | Coastweek

MAKKAH Saudi Arabia (CIC) -- Saudi Arabia says the total number of international and domestic pilgrims performing Hajj has now surpassed two million, most of them from abroad. The pilgrims include families of the victims of the mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, performing Hajj as guests of the Kingdom. PHOTOS - C.I.C. SAUDIA ARABIA

Hajj 2019: Rituals Begin with the Multitudes of
Muslim Pilgrims Heading from Makkah to Mina

MAKKAH Saudi Arabia (CIC) -- Multitudes of Muslim pilgrims, many clad in special white garments, started leaving the holy city of Makkah since early Friday to the nearby holy site of Mina, to spend the first day of Hajj 2019.

More than two million pilgrims will perform Hajj this year, according to statistics issued by Saudi authorities.

Chanting "Labbeika Allahumma Labbeik" ("Here I am, O God, here I am"), the pilgrims began arriving on Friday morning at the Mina site to spend Yawm Al Tarwiyah (Day of Quenching Thirst), asking God for acceptance and forgiveness.

Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is the most important spiritual journey in a Muslim’s life time.

All Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the pilgrimage are required to do so at least once in their lives.

Hajj, the major Islamic pilgrimage, starts with Yawm Al Tarwiyah with the performance of the first rituals, with pilgrims donning Ihram garments and heading to stay overnight in Mina, located between Makkah and Muzdalifah holy site, seven kilometers north-east of the Grand Mosque.

The pilgrims stand in Arafat on Saturday in what is seen as the peak of the pilgrimage.

Prior to heading to Mina to embark on their Hajj journey, pilgrims enter the state of Ihram, where they prepare themselves spiritually and don special white garments.

Saudi authorities announced on Friday that the total number of pilgrims performing Hajj this year has now surpassed two million, the majority of them from outside the Kingdom, but said the final numbers may increase with the arrival of more pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia has so far welcomed 1,849,817 pilgrims from abroad for Hajj, according to the latest statistics issued on Thursday by the Saudi General Directorate of Passports.

Meanwhile, the total number of domestic pilgrims coming to Makkah until 9 a.m.

Friday reached 213,455 pilgrims, the General Authority for Statistics said, but noted that these figures do not include pilgrims inside of Makkah, whose number will be announced Saturday morning.

Last year more than 2.37 million pilgrims performed Hajj, about 1.75 million of whom came from outside of the Kingdom.

Hajj officially starts on the evening of the 8th of Dhul Hijjah (Friday August 9th) and pilgrims can conclude the rituals either on the 12th (Tuesday August 13th) or the 13th of the same Islamic month of 1440 Hijri year (2019), corresponding to Wednesday August 14th.

Major General Mansour Al-Turki, the official spokesman of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, told a news conference in Makkah on Friday afternoon that the first stage of the pilgrims’ arrival to Mina has been successfully completed.

The majority of pilgrims are transferred from Makkah to the holy sites by bus but some prefer to walk for part of the distance. He said some pilgrims have started to head to Mount Arafat.

The official transfer of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat begins Saturday morning, he said.

In Mina and Arafat the pilgrims stay in what is the largest tent city in the world, with more than 350,000 tents.

‘A feeling no words can describe’

Thousands are performing the major Islamic pilgrimage as hosts of the Kingdom, under a unique program which was established more than two decades ago.

Some 6,500 pilgrims from 79 countries travelled to Makkah as guests of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah, which is implemented by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance.

The guests include Islamic figures such as preachers, scholars, muftis, and officials, as well as the families of martyrs and the injured.


King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is hosting pilgrim families
of the victims and injured in two New Zealand mosques attack

MAKKAH Saudi Arabia (CIC) -- This year, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has directed hosting under the program 200 pilgrims of the families of the victims and injured of the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed more than 50 people and wounded dozens.

Speaking near the Grand Mosque in Makkah, one of the New Zealand pilgrims, university professor Mohammed Elayyan, who identified himself as Abu Atta, spoke of his feelings during this year’s Hajj, a few months after he lost his son Atta Elayyan in the terrorist attack.

"Makkah is a very special place as you know for all Muslims and this is the most sacred place for the Muslims on Earth.

"Certainly there are very strong emotions.

"And tears come from the eye when you are in the Haram looking at the Kaaba, in the holiest mosque on Earth.

"Definitely, it is such a beautiful feeling.

"I don’t think I have the right words to describe it," Elayyan told CIC.

"Although what has happened .. is a heinous crime but we don’t have hate in the heart for the people but we have hate in our heart for the acts that happened.


Makkah pilgrim Mohammed Elayyan (Abu Atta) of New Zealand | Coastweek

MAKKAH Saudi Arabia (CIC) -- Makkah pilgrim Mohammed Elayyan (Abu Atta) of New Zealand. PHOTO - C.I.C. SAUDIA ARABIA
"So for us as Muslims we always have love for all mankind because this is the message of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

"But justice has also to be done ...

"The blood of 51 martyrs, they need justice for that," Elayyan added, before being overcome by emotion.

"I believe he (Atta) is in paradise."

Elayyan, who has performed the major Muslim pilgrimage three times before, also spoke of the improvements in Hajj services that he has witnessed firsthand over the years.

"There have been certainly significant changes.

"My first Hajj was in 1984 and now we are in 2019, and there have been significant changes and significant improvements no doubt. May God reward those taking care of Hajj."

Asked how he felt when he was informed that he will be performing Hajj as a guest of the Kingdom, Elayyan said:

"I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised ... I love to come here every year but I wasn’t planning for it ... It was such a joy ... for us, we have received very beautiful support from the New Zealand people and from the Muslims but this is the best support, really ... it comes from the heart.

"It was such a beautiful gift. We pray to God to reward [King Salman] the best."

The pilgrims’ hosting program has been providing services for a wide range of Muslims from different parts of the world since its launch in 1417H (1996 AD) during the reign of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, according to the program website.

"This gracious gesture reflects the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ continued interest in the Muslim minorities and his outstanding keenness to give them a chance to perform the Hajj rituals easily and conveniently, especially for those who did not perform this pillar of Islam before," the website said.

Among the New Zealand pilgrims is Superintendent Naila
Hassan - New Zealand’s most senior Muslim police officer

MAKKAH Saudi Arabia (CIC) -- In his address during his meeting earlier this week with senior guests of the program, HE the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh has reiterated that the Kingdom is honored and pleased to receive the guests of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

"Brothers, you are some of the finest figures in the Islamic world, chosen to be guests of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques within a program that aims to, firstly, meet your needs and, secondly, give you due respect and appreciation for representing a large segment of Muslims around the world," he added in the speech carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

International and domestic pilgrims performing Hajj | Coastweek

  The minister, who is also General Supervisor of Program of Guests, said that the Kingdom supports moderation, guided by the Holy Quran and the Prophet’s teachings.

"The great attention given by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to your brothers and sisters who were assaulted in two mosques in New Zealand, including his direction to host 200 of the victims’ families is a testament of the care the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has for all Muslims around the world," the minister has said.

Among the New Zealand group, Superintendent Naila Hassan, New Zealand’s most senior Muslim police officer, is visiting Saudi Arabia with members of the families of victims of Christchurch mosque terrorist attack.

MAKKAH Saudi Arabia (CIC) -- Saudi Arabia says the total number of international and domestic pilgrims performing Hajj has now surpassed two million. PHOTO - C.I.C. SAUDIA ARABIA
"When I saw the Kaaba … I was breathless, I really was breathless," she said in a video thanking Saudi King Salman for hosting the Christchurch pilgrims.

Hassan described the warm welcome she and her fellow pilgrims from New Zealand got.

The pilgrims are received with flowers, coffee, dates, and Zamzam water, amid Islamic chanting.

After the reception ceremony the guests got their hotel room keys, and they were provided with internet-ready mobile phones as well as personal belongings.

"The welcoming .. everything from the welcoming at the airport, I have never experienced anything like it in my life and the turning up at the hotel here and the welcoming and the singing and the petals the gifts the food the drinks, it was just... I have never ever experienced anything like it in my life."

King Salman "has just been unbelievably generous to the people of New Zealand."

Performing Hajj as a guest of the program, is one of the oldest male pilgrims to perform Hajj this year, an Indonesian man in his mid-nineties.

Ohi Aidros Samri, who had recently arrived in Saudi Arabia with some family members.

He has expressed their gratitude to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman for the care and services provided for pilgrims, SPA said.

Thailand’s 103-year-old Noah Lanai is believed to be the oldest woman to perform Hajj this year, according to SPA.

The elderly woman, who came to Saudi Arabia for Hajj with her son, said she has experienced feelings of passion with the tears of joy upon seeing Kaaba for the first time.

Her son prayed to God to bless King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their services to pilgrims.

"Hajj was my mother’s wish for many years. She always talked about her desire to go to the Kingdom to perform Hajj, but our circumstances did not allow this," her son was quoted by SPA as saying.

"I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to achieve this wish, but God has aided us to achieve this beautiful dream."

He said his pre-travel worries were gone once they arrived in the Kingdom, "thanks to the great facilities and the great care we received from the authorities who take care of pilgrims here."

Meanwhile, a healthy baby boy named ‘Mohammed’ was the first baby born in the holy city during this Hajj season.

The mother is a 33-year-old Afghan pilgrim, who gave birth to her son at Makkah Maternity and Children Hospital, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Afghan pilgrim expressed thanks to the Ministry of Health represented by the hospital for the care and high-quality services provided for her and her baby.

Seven births have been recorded to date, the ministry said on Thursday.


The Hajj: Islam's annual pilgrimage draws two million Muslims to Mecca



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