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Pilgrims move to Mina as hajj rites begin today

Over 1.5 million Muslims who made the call to worship Allah during this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia will today leave for Mina in preparation…

Over 1.5 million Muslims who made the call to worship Allah during this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia will today leave for Mina in preparation for the final rites of the exercise.

The movement to Mina marks the first of five days for the procession of one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hajj, which is one of the two pillars that is not obligatory on poor Muslims, for some, marks once in a lifetime experience to undertake a spiritual journey that sees the convergence of millions of Muslims across the globe on Mount Arafah.

With men draped in two sheets of white clothing and women in flowing gowns, the pilgrims are expected to remain at the Mount Arafat from morning till dusk. The remaining days culminate into the stoning of Satan at Jamarat as well as the performance of Tawaf, circumambulation of the Ka’abah.

For the 65,000 Nigerians who paid to partake, it is a sigh of relief and excitement after the uncertainty that characterized the preparation for this year’s hajj.

The economic headwind in the country made the hajj fare, that was initially billed for below N5 million, to shoot up to N8 million with calls for addition to initial payment made twice in what officials blamed on the dwindling strength of the naira to dollar.

The last call for addition of the fare by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) saw intending pilgrims given four days to pay up or lose their seats.

While this might have affected the inability of the country to exhaust the 95,000 slots it was allotted, the early closure of payment was a boon that led to early collection of pilgrim’s visas and avoided the chaotic ferrying of pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that always characterized outbound airlift in previous years.

It took me 6 years to afford hajj

Even though there were some discontent by pilgrims during their stay in Makkah on feeding and accommodation as well as the reduced Basic Travel Allowance from $700 to $400, Moshood Olalekan, a pilgrim from Oyo State could not hide his excitement being one of those to performed this year’s hajj.

Olalekan, who has been saving money since 2018 when the hajj fare was N800,000, said it has been a pleasing experience despite the hot weather and the high cost in engaging in the pilgrimage.

“I can’t stop thanking Allah for this opportunity and it has been interesting for me. The food and the weather have been a bit difficult since I got here but I know coming here is a blessing that millions of people are dreaming of.”

“I paid about N8.5m and it all started with the N250,000 I paid in 2018 when the fare was just N800,000. From that little amount, I was able to meet up after five years. It is all Allah’s favour and I am thankful for it.”

He added that apart from the personal prayer he wants to make on the day of Arafah, he plans to put Nigeria in his prayers to also develop and realise its potentials.

Abdullahi Adamu, who comes from Yobe State, said he sold a couple of cows to afford the fare together with two of his brothers.

Adamu said he almost gave up on paying the last add-up requested by NAHCON but was encouraged by his relatives.

“The preparation was a difficult one for a herder like me due to the uncertainty on what will be paid. At the end, I glorify Allah for finding a way out for us. Living in Saudi Arabia has not been an easy one too due to the harsh weather, we just left one of the clinics operated by NAHCON because my brother fell ill. He was given some drugs and I hope he gets better before the hajj rites start.”

He said he is happy that the days of hajj rites have come and can’t wait to pray on the day of Arafah for Nigeria and increased wealth.

Ibrahim Musa, who came with the FCT pilgrims’ welfare board, also expressed excitement at fulfilling one of the Islamic pillars performed by few of the Ummah.

He said his stay has been filled with spirituality and he doesn’t miss any opportunity to offer his prayers at the mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

“My wife was here last year, so from what I have seen so far, the services have been better except for the case of koko and akara that happened the other day. I did not eat at the hotel during the day but was informed by my roommates. That is the only issue I believe we had.”

He said witnessing the day of Arafah will be a joyous one and he will pour his heart out to seek forgiveness and pray for more blessings.

He however expressed anxiety as he is yet to get his NUSUK ID card.


Innovations introduced by S/Arabia

Nigerians who came to the holy land last year had a bitter taste when they arrived at Muna and could not have a tent to stay. Media reports blamed the situation on lack of adequate tents for the pilgrims and the activities of illegal pilgrims who occupied some of the tents.

To prevent that from happening, the authorities, this year, introduced NUSUK ID cards to be worn by pilgrims at all times to access services in all venues including Masha’ir, in Muna, Muzdalifah and Jamarat.

Also, there has been assurance that there will be buses available to ferry pilgrims from Muna to Arafah, Arafah to Muzdalifah, Muzdalifah to Muna and Muna to Jamarat.


Pilgrims urged to watch for heat, congestion

With Saudi Arabia experiencing soaring high temperature, Nigerian pilgrims have been urged to take precaution during the period as it is expected to peak at between 48 to 50 degrees Celsius and over in areas that will be crowded.

NAHCON’s Commissioner Operations, Inspectorate & Licensing, Prince Anofi Elegushi, during a media briefing emphasized on the need to sensitise pilgrims on the dos and don’ts during the period, especially during the stoning of the devil at Jamarat.

“It has been grouped and no one should go before their group. Proper sensitization of our pilgrims is very key. Pilgrims believe that it is compulsory to climb that mountain (Mount Arafat) on that day (Day of Arafat). Some will even say their Ustaz or whatever told them that on the Day of Arafat, if you are not able to get there, that means you don’t have Hajj.”

On his part, NAHCON’s head of Medical Team, Dr Abubakar Adamu Isma’eel, appealed to relatives of Nigerian pilgrims back home to prevail on their relatives to avoid the scorching sun which could be deadly.

“What is more important is that we prepared the medical team even before we arrived here. We had a workshop and training on heatstroke and heat exhaustion. The medical team came to the holy land prepared.”


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