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Tears of joy as Haj ends on happy note

Pilgrims perform Tawaf Al-Wida, or the farewell circumambulation, on Tuesday before leaving the holy city(SPA)

Source:By SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS/Nov.9/2011

MINA: The once-in-a-lifetime journey of faith undertaken by nearly 3 million pilgrims reached its end on Tuesday with hundreds of buses and cars taking them out of the tent city of Mina before sunset.

Many pilgrims chose to walk their way to the adjacent holy city of Makkah where they performed Tawaf Al-Wida or the farewell circumambulation.

Makkah was packed with pilgrims and all three floors were filled with the faithful performing the same task.

At the high-tech Jamarat Bridge, defense and military helicopters monitored pilgrim traffic that flowed smoothly throughout the last day. Chanting “God is Greatest,” the pilgrims threw seven small pebbles at each of the three gray stone walls before moving out of Mina.

Watched by alert, friendly and extremely polite security officers, pilgrims were directed to approach the stoning site in orderly waves. The stoning ritual tends to be the most animated, with pilgrims heaving their pebbles along with declarations against the evils they perceive in the world. Many had political overtones with pilgrims shouting out the names of those they perceive to be persecuting Muslims worldwide.

“This is nothing but an act of catharsis,” said one pilgrim. “To me these walls represented those men who either killed or are plotting to kill Muslims,” he said.

One Sudanese pilgrim took a more personal approach to the exercise. “This is an act of self-purification,” he said as he completed his stone throwing.

After living in spartan conditions for the past week, the devout traveled to Jeddah to catch flights back home or to the holy city of Madinah.

There was immense relief among the pilgrims.

“Thank God, I completed the pilgrimage. I hope I live long enough to come back here again,” said Haneef Afzal, from Pakistan. With his head shaved in a tradition dating back to the Prophet Muhammad's pilgrimage 1,422 years ago, he exchanged congratulations with friends and relatives as they left the tent city.

“I feel that I have been totally purified,” said Saudi citizen Sultan Asiri. He said he was happy. “I got the chance to complete all the rituals.”

Shaukat Piracha, senior analyst at a Pakistani television channel, described the Haj as a special blessing of Almighty Allah. “All the pilgrims had ample food, water and other essential facilities. Not one pilgrim among these 3 million faithful goes hungry here. This is unprecedented. I am amazed to see the arrangements made by Saudi Arabia in making such an event a great success. All credit goes to (Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques) King Abdullah and his government for facilitating the guests of Allah,” said Piracha.

Pilgrims were delighted with the impeccable arrangements, and pleased to have completed their religious obligations with relative ease. Every Muslim who has the means should complete the Haj at least once in his or her lifetime.

“I feel very comforted, like a new person, and I hope that God will accept my pilgrimage,” said Mariam Abidi, a Pakistani-born American from Chicago, doing Haj with three family members. “I feel spiritually at peace and everything went perfectly well.”

“No other country in the world could organize such an event, because of the experience the Saudis now have in large crowd-control measures,” she said.

Ridwan Maher, an Egyptian national, said he was doing the pilgrimage with his mother and father but he had to throw their stones for them because they had weak knees and could not face the long walk from the tented encampment.


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