As the 2016 Hajj pilgrimage nears its climax, over two million pilgrims from around the globe now in Makkah for the spiritual exercise are set to gather at the peak of the Mountain of Mercy, Mount Arafat, for a day of prayers.
It is at Mount Arafat that Prophet Mohammed gave his final sermon before leading his followers onto Hajj thousand years ago.
The rocky areas of Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah, a few kilometers east of Makka are the main sites of hajj rite.
To ensure a hitch free Arafat Day’s exercise, devoid of last year’s stampede that killed over 2000 people, the Saudi Arabian authorities have rolled out new rules to guide pilgrims in carrying out symbolic devil stonning ritual in Jamarat and warned that any pilgrim who violates the rules would be arrested and prosecuted.
Addressing stakeholders meeting ahead of the exercise, representative of the Saudi Arabia Hajj ministry, Sheikh Mohammed, said arrangements had been concluded to assign guides who would lead a group of 250 pilgrims at a time to the Jamarat and back.
He urged pilgrims to adhere strictly to the time scheduled, saying any pilgrim seen alone in Jamarat would be arrested and prosecuted.
Mohammed also disclosed that each group would not be led by a Saudi guide alone, but states would also nominate one for the groups and state officials responsible for the erring pilgrim would also face sanction.
Mohammed, whose remarks were interpreted by an official of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Aliyu Tanko, said the Saudi government was adopting the kind of schedule used for airlines at the airport. “Take this schedule and timing as serious as the time for prayers,” he advised.
Also speaking at the pre-Arafat meeting held early hours of yesterday in Makkah, NAHCON chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Muhammad Muktar appealed to officials of the state pilgrims welfare board to suspend their performance of hajj for the welfare and safety of the pilgrims and warned them not to compromise the welfare of the pilgrims for personal gain.
He said the 2016 hajj started with a lot of challenges, but the commission was able to overcome the challenges with the support of other stakeholders.
“2016 hajj started with a lot of challenges but I am happy to inform you that with the support of leaders and determination of all stakeholders we have been able to overcome some of the challenges. So, I want to appeal to state officials that are here to reconsider their stand of performing hajj and allow the welfare of their pilgrims to take precedence over their personal desire to perform hajj.
I am not saying we shouldn’t perform hajj but we shouldn’t compromise the welfare and safety of the pilgrims for the hajj we desire to perform. When need be we should suspend hajj as officials and attend to pilgrims to perform their hajj. I assure you on our part we demonstrate that will,” he said.