The once-in-a-lifetime journey of faith, endurance and determination for hundreds of thousands of Muslims from nearly 200 countries came to a successful end on Thursday.
Relief was writ large on the faces of pilgrims, many in the autumn of their lives as was evident from the deep furrows on their brows. Here at Mina, they were the personification of sheer determination.
Many pilgrims woke up early on Thursday and straight after sunrise began throwing seven pebbles at each of the three huge concrete structures representing the devil.
Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal described this year’s Haj as an overwhelming success.
“All government institutions, security forces, volunteers, pilgrim establishments and men on the ground worked as one team to ensure the success of this year’s Haj,” he said. “You can call this a turning point,” he said, and praised Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif.
“All the rituals were carried out in a calm atmosphere and free of any political demonstrations, proving that Islam is a religion of peace, civilization and progress,” he said.
Outside the press conference venue, pilgrims echoed his words.
“With God’s help and the Saudi government’s excellent arrangements, we could complete all the rituals,” said 69-year-old Athar Mohiuddin, from Pakistan’s Hyderabad. “The rituals were not really easy for me, especially because I had to push my wife in a wheelchair,” he said. “We know Haj is hardship, but now that we have done it we beseech Allah to accept it.”
Mohiuddin and his wife performed the stoning ritual at 2 p.m. on Thursday before taking the bus out of Mina. “We are now heading to Makkah to our temporary residence before heading to Pakistan next week,” he said. “We want to rest now.”
Other pilgrims, after living in spartan conditions for the past week, traveled to Jeddah to catch flights home or to Madinah. “This is a miracle,” gushed Mohammed Quraishi, from Agra, India. During Haj orientation camps in India, Quraishi was told that this year’s pilgrimage was going to be hard because of the paucity of space at the holy sites.
“We were mentally prepared,” he said. “However, everything went so smoothly, we could hardly have imagined it,” he said.
Quraishi’s acquaintance, Muhammad Farooq, nodded in affirmation. “Yes, we are very happy at having completed the Haj,” said Farooq. “We come from the city of Taj Mahal, but the real crown is here in this holy Kingdom,” he said, playing on the Urdu word “Taj” which means crown.
Zafarullah Khan Faridi from Kabul was delighted at the completion of the Haj. Flashing an infectious smile, he was more than willing to talk to Arab News about his experience. “It was a great feeling to be part of this vast multitude of pilgrims,” he said. “All the depression that I found in my home country was washed away the moment I cast my eyes on the Holy Kaaba. I don’t know what I asked of Allah. He knows what I need and what’s in my heart.”
On the outskirts of Mina, bus drivers shouted, “Haram! Haram!” the Arabic name for the Grand Mosque as pilgrims piled aboard. Faridi boarded one of them. “Haj Mabrook to all,” he said waving a final goodbye.