[QODLink]
Middle East
Hajj Diary: Destination Arafat
Pilgrims complete the Jamaraat rite, and shave their hair - a symbol of being reborn.
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2008 06:15
Pilgrims perform a series of rituals before the Hajj is successfully completed [AFP]

Last night we travelled from Mina to Arafat where what many describe as the climax of the Hajj takes place. After what I have already seen and experienced, it is difficult to comprehend how things could get anymore climactic.

We were up early in the morning to film the pilgrims making their way to the Mount of Mercy. Here is where it is believed the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon before he died almost 1,400 years ago.

As we leave our accommodation, I think to myself: Did the few thousand followers who were present at the time ever expect that one day millions of pilgrims from across the globe would follow in the footsteps of the same prophet?

Again the streets are packed with people. But this time it is much worse: coach after lorry after coach line the streets making it impossible to walk at a decent pace.

Spiritual climax

We get to the Mount of Mercy and, for yet another time on this journey, I am taken aback. People have covered the mountain like ants. If you did not know any better, you would not think there was a mountain below these pilgrims.

At the foot of the mountain where many have camped, I see a grown man crying, his tears drip from his beard as he prays for forgiveness. A group of elderly women sit and supplicate together under the scorching sun.

In depth

Map - Tracking Hajj

Hajj Diary
Day 1: Arriving in Mecca
Day 2: Secure supplication
Day 3: A hard day's work
Day 4: Destination Arafat
Day 5: Eid Reflections
Day 6: Time to head home

Videos
Poor pilgrims face Hajj hardships
Blockade dampens Gazans' spirits
Muslims complete pilgrimage
One man who could barely walk tries to force his legs to continue supporting him as he makes his way towards the mountain. Regardless of what these people believe in, their passion, sincerity and humility is overwhelmingly humbling.

As the sun sets we move to Muzdalifa, just a few kilometres from Arafat, but again it takes us much longer than it should, as we fail to beat the waves upon waves of Hajjis flooding the roads.

At Muzdalifa we are supposed to rest before collecting pebbles for the symbolic stoning of the devil at Mina. Needless to say not much rest is had as we continue our live coverage. I do manage, however, to collect my set of pebbles.

When the clock hits midnight we leave for Mina. Here we follow in the footsteps of Abraham, throwing pebbles at a pillar where it is believed the devil tried to dissuade Abraham from obeying his Lord.

I then shave my head and change out of my two-piece Ihram cloths.

It has been a really long day and were it any other, I probably would not have made it through it all.

But at Arafat I saw a sight which has since remained in my mind. An elderly man who must have been at least 70 years old, with one arm missing and carrying his luggage over his head determined to fulfill his pilgrimage despite his disability, despite the heat, despite the crowds, despite the lack of toilets. And he had the most beautiful smile on his face.

Today I was truly humbled by someone who did not even say a word to me. Today I saw sincerity and dedication in the purest form. Today I was in Arafat.

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.