All ready for the most challenging phase of haj

Sofea Chok Suat Ling

ARAFAH: All Malaysian pilgrims will start moving out of Makkah for Masyair, the most challenging phase of the haj, this Sunday from 7am.

The transfer of 30,200 Malaysian pilgrims will take all day.

There will be three trips involving 22 buses per maktab, with the last bus expected to arrive in Arafah at night.

Overall, there are 12 maktab for pilgrims occupying a total of 18 apartment buildings.

Tabung Haji (TH) head of the Malaysian 1439H haj delegation Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman said the buses will leave Makkah for Arafah earlier in the morning compared to previous years when pilgrims would only start leaving from 11am.

"The TH advance team comprising 150 personnel will also leave earlier by a day, on Saturday. The new, cooler air-conditioned tents in Arafah has made this earlier arrangement possible this year," he told Malaysian media after a yassin recital, solat hajat, and doa selamat here for a smooth Masyair this year.

Though Arafah is only 20km southeast of here, the journey will be challenging as close to three million other pilgrims from around the world will also be travelling there.

Masyair refers to the massive movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Arafah for wukuf, and then onwards to Muzdalifah, and Mina.

In Muzdalifah, pilgrims will collect pebbles for the stoning ritual to be carried out in Mina.

Pilgrims will stay in tents overnight in Arafah and around three nights overall in Mina.

Syed Saleh said wukuf in Arafah represents the pinnacle of haj, a most auspicious day in Islam.

"Great efforts will be made to ensure all, including the ill and elderly, make it for wukuf as failure to be present in Arafah on Aug 20 or the 9th of Zulhijjah will invalidate a pilgrim's haj."

Syed Saleh (in white) at a yassin recital, solat hajat, and doa selamat in Arafah for a smooth Masyair this year. Pic by NSTP/ Sofea Chok Suat Ling

It is said that during wukuf or the Day of Arafah, the skies will open up and Allah will accept sincere prayers and repentance.

Syed Saleh said the Arafah sermon would be delivered by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, at one of the pilgrims' tents here.

He said from Arafah, pilgrims would move on to Muzdalifah on Aug 20 after maghrib prayers and stay there for half a night before moving on to Mina.

"All pilgrims are expected to arrive in Mina by 7am or 8am on Aug 21.

"In Mina, the stoning ritual over four days will involve walking about 7.5km from their tents to the "jamarat" or pillars, and back.

"Malaysian pilgrims are advised to strictly follow the schedule given to prevent overcrowding and untoward incidents.

"The time given to us for the ritual by the Saudi government is from asar prayers onwards till night and this is good as it is not as hot then and does not interfere with prayer and meal times."

He advised pilgrims to move in groups and approach TH medical team members stationed along the way to the 'jamarat' should they encounter difficulties.

On the challenges, Syed Saleh said there were many, among them the cramped conditions, blistering heat, limited number of toilets, heavy traffic, and for the elderly and disabled, getting in and out of buses.

"Temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celcius in the daytime these days so pilgrims need to conserve their energy and not expose themselves to the sun unnecessarily.

"There is also only about 20 toilets to 3,000 pilgrims in Mina. And the conditions in the tents will be cramped. Pilgrims need to be prepared to face these challenges." © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd