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Tens of thousands descend on Mount Arafat to perform Haj
Monday October 14, 2013 5:36 PM, News Network

Tens of thousands of pilgrims from 118 countries and the Kingdom donning the Ihram, two white seamless pieces of cloth, chanting the Talabiya, "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik," (I am here, O Lord, I am here!) gathered Monday on the Mount of the Arafat to accomplish their life's mission and fulfilling their dream of performing Haj.

The white sea of humanity surged on the plains of Arafat, some 10 km southeast of Mina, where the pilgrims are engaged since morning in prayer and supplication, marking the high point of the five-day Haj.

Muslims around the globe commemorate on Monday the Day of Arafat, considered the most important day of hajj during which pilgrims gather on the desert planes of Arafat, near Makkah, to pray to their Lord.

This year, officials said they expected around 1.5 million pilgrims have descended on the site of Mount Arafat for the occasion.

The day falls on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, and is an integral part of the pilgrimage of hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.

Hajj officially began on Sunday, on the 8th day of Dhul Hijjah, when pilgrims from all over the world began travelling from the holy city of Makkah to Mina, which is roughly eight kilometers away.

Muslims believe that the Day of Arafat is a day when one's sins can be forgiven. The Prophet Mohammed said: "It expiates the sins of the previous year and that of the following year," Bilal Philips, founder of the Islamic Online University, told Al Arabiya News.

For the entire day, pilgrims are to spend hours in the vicinity of the mountain, praying and repenting.

"Arafat represents the essence of hajj," Philips said.

"If one pilgrim misses Arafat, there is nothing you can do to repair your hajj. Arafat is so vital that missing it invalidates hajj altogether. So, from the perspective of those making hajj, it is the most important pillar," he added.

It is highly recommended to those who are not performing hajj that they observe a fast on this day, according to Philips.

"For those who are not making hajj, it is a day on which [God] has given special rewards to those who fast. [It gives] the ability for those who fast sincerely to purify minor sins of the past year and the coming year.

"This is the most value-loaded day of fasting" throughout the whole Islamic year, Philips stated.

The Civil Defense, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), has completed all arrangements to deal with any emergency situation in the holy sites through the integrated efforts of field teams and emergency units.

"We are ready to deal with any hazardous situation during the grand stand in Arafat until the pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah after sunset," Director of Civil Defense forces in Arafat Brig. Abdul Rahman Bin Hassan Al-Zahrani said.

The official asked pilgrims in Arafat to remain within the capacity of their tents and be careful of exposed electric wires. "There will be survey teams from the Civil Defense to remove any obstacles that might impede our work of providing safety and comfort to the pilgrims," he said.

Brig. Al-Zahrani said Interior Minister and Chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee Prince Muhammad Bin Naif has ordered a ban on the use of liquid gas for cooking in the holy sites and his directives will be strictly observed during the entire Haj season. The ban started on the first of Dhul Hijja (Oct. 6) and will continue until Dhul Hijja 13 (Oct. 18).

Col. Al-Shahrani said special arrangements had been made to ensure the safety and smooth running of the Mashair train in collaboration with the operating company.

On the dangers of rainfall and floods, another Civil Defense official Col. Khaled Mubarak Al-Johani said a comprehensive plan has been formulated to deal immediately with any eventuality. "We are in constant contact with the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment so we can warn pilgrims before a change in weather occurs," he said.

He said about 1,000 motorcycles were impounded for not having proper license plates and for failure to comply with traffic regulations.

Extensive efforts are being made by security forces to prevent pilgrims from sleeping on mattresses in the streets and blocking the roads leading to the Jamarat Bridge, he noted.

Al-Turki said the ministry has chalked out plans to manage crowds during the shortened and combined Dhuhr and Asr prayers at Nimrah Mosque in Arafat.

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