Muslims complete Haj pilgrimage, head for homes

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Muslims complete Haj pilgrimage
Mecca, Oct 7: Muslims from across the world today concluded Haj, the largest annual gathering, with Saudi authorities describing this year's pilgrimage as the most successful ever and incident-free.

The pilgrimage that started on Wednesday saw participation of 2,085,238 pilgrims, including 1,389,053 foreigners from across 163 countries. A total of 136,020 Indians also took part in the pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam that should be performed at least once in lifetime by every Muslim who is financially and physically capable.

Pilgrims, chanting "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is the Greatest), hurled seven pebbles each at the three walls representing the devil -- Jamarat Al-Sughra, Jamarat Al-Wusta, and Jamarat Al-Aqba -- for three days before turning to Mecca for the last ritual. On Eid-u-Adha only one wall representing the devil is stoned.

After performing stoning ritual, they turned towards Kaaba, raised their hands, praying for Allah's mercy and forgiveness. Stoning ritual is performed to emulate the stoning of Satan at three spots by Prophet Ibrahim where the devil is said to have appeared trying to dissuade him from obeying Allah's order to sacrifice his son, Ismail.

In essence, it is a renunciation of evil in all its forms and a solemn promise never to fall prey to the machinations and intrigues of Satan, the cursed. After reaching Mecca, a sea of people performed the Tawaf Al-Wida (farewell circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba), which is the last ritual of the pilgrimage, before departure.

Most Indians had shifted from their Mina camp to Mecca yesterday while the rest moved today. Those Indian pilgrims who landed in Madina will start returning from Jeddah while those who landed in Jeddah will go to Madina where Masjid al-Nabawi often called the Prophet's Mosque is located.

The process of returning to India will then start with the first flight carrying pilgrims back home slated for October 9 that will fly 235 pilgrims to Kolkata. The last flight back to India is on November 10 when this year's Indian Haj Mission will draw to a close.

Indian Consul General B S Mubarak expressed satisfaction with the efforts and arrangements made by the Indian Haj Mission and said the pilgrimage had been incident-free.

"I am satisfied with all the arrangements. Saudi government’s support has been absolute. Saudi government has put in a lot of efforts in organizing a smooth Haj. However, there is scope for improvement," Mubarak told PTI.

Haj 2014 has been a resounding success in all terms, Saudi authorities announced yesterday.

They described this year's Haj as the most successful ever as more than two million pilgrims performed their religious rites with peace.

PTI

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