Hajj minister praises men who helped lost pilgrim

‘You only carry the weight of your soul,’ former pilgrims offer advice to those taking part in this year’s Hajj

RIYADH: One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj is a physically strenuous yet spiritually rewarding journey – and completing it is considered a great blessing and honor in the Muslim community.

Previous Hujjaj, or Hajj pilgrims, spoke to Arab News about their experiences and offered advice to those undertaking it this year.

For Hatoon Nabeel, a local from Mecca, the Hajj was a spiritual and unforgettable experience.

The Hajj pilgrimage is among the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the necessary means at least once in their lifetime. (Spa Centre)

“The best part was the services provided to the pilgrims. We weren’t hungry or thirsty,” she said. The most difficult situation she remembered was when they had to leave the area for safety reasons due to sudden rain.

Nabeel recommended comfortable clothes and cool fabrics that allow freer movement in hot weather, and said Hajj gave her a sense of purity and new beginnings.

“Now I have a different awareness that will make my experience deeper (next time). Maybe I would join my pilgrim sisters more and take a lot of photos,” she said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hatoon Nabeel, originally from Mecca, recommends wearing comfortable clothes and cool fabrics that allow freer movement in hot weather.

• She said Hajj gave her a sense of purity and new beginnings.

• Haifa Al-Tuwaijri recommends coming with clear intention, vulnerability, and focusing your awareness and heart on the experience you are about to have.

Born and raised in Mecca, Rabab Abbas Matar was assigned to lead one of the Mutawif Company’s field service centers for pilgrims from non-Arab African countries.

The Hajj pilgrimage is among the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the necessary means at least once in their lifetime. (Spa Centre)

“I inherited the profession of tawaf from my father and grandmother,” he told Arab News. “My father, may God have mercy on him, is a tawaf. He inherited the profession from my grandfather and I am considered the third generation of tawaf”.

Matar has frequented Hajj culture his entire life.

“One of (my) fondest memories is that my father would dig the earth and put water inside the hole to keep it cold and serve it to the pilgrims,” he said.

His advice for pilgrims this year is to stick to instructions, keep honorable places clean, ensure the comfort of others and yourself, and treat people as you would like to be treated.

Muslim pilgrims gather atop the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, in the Arafat Plain, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP archive photo)

He also recommends enriching the experience after completing the Hajj rituals by visiting archaeological and historical sites with expeditions authorized by the Ministry of Tourism.

On a personal level, Matar said that performing the Hajj and assisting other Hujjaj has increased her self-confidence and helped her overcome fears and challenges, such as learning to communicate with people of all ages and nationalities, working under pressure and adapting to unusual circumstances.

Haifa Al-Tuwaijri, a self-proclaimed explorer, said she went to the Hajj out of curiosity and desire together with her extended family and friends. There were challenges with travel and using foreign facilities, but these offered many opportunities for growth outside of her comfort zone.

Muslim pilgrims surround the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque before the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS archive photo)

The woman from Riyadh first experienced the Hajj at the age of 16, but plans to return as an adult.

“I want to be more present and spend more time alone,” she explained. “In the hamla there are many group activities, such as lectures and group prayers… I wanted this (time) to be more intimate between me and God. Maybe I was too young for this, but I would definitely do it in my next Hajj.

Her number one tip is to come with clear intention, vulnerability, and focus your awareness and heart on the experience you are about to have.

Consciously plan your Hajj activities and steps… Be aware of what you wear time-wise, pay attention to rush hours and look out for others in your group.

Haifa Al-TuwaijriLocal Riyadh

“Immerse yourself in this one-of-a-kind activity that was a sacred and ancient practice,” he said. “People with different backgrounds and languages ​​come together and do the same practice, it’s very sacred.”

Even though the main locations will be crowded and hot, there are ways to make it easier.

Al-Tuwaijri said: “Make sure you help yourself. Try to do non-time-based tasks before or after rush hour, so you don’t overexhaust yourself by leaving at the wrong time or (when) the weather is too harsh.

“Plan your Hajj activities and steps consciously. You don’t have to suffer. Be careful what you wear time-wise, be aware of rush hours, and look out for others in your group.

In his many years of Hajj, Abdullah Samarin, a native of Medina, has found commonalities in every experience, observing how people are willing to help in every sector, even the Hujjaj themselves, seeking credit from God and nothing else.

He always enjoyed the happiness, prayers and greetings shared after people helped each other, with some forming lifelong bonds. He dreads the seventh and eighth days of the Hajj, when it is time to say goodbye.

“You just spent a week with people you didn’t know and you were honored to have them in your family life,” he told Arab News. “My advice is to remain calm at all times and half-ask (reward) Allah for whatever you may face… (and) forgive and excuse others for their behavior due to heat or crowds.”

He added: “My advice to be prepared for Hajj is to get a portable fan that will cool your body while walking from one place to another.”

His sister, Ithar Samaren, said his Hajj had nothing to do with her before.

“Your body and brain have no weight, you only carry the weight of your soul,” he said. If she were to go back, she added, “she would retain the feeling of the newborn for a longer time than before.”

The other brother, Israa, said the best part of the Hajj is the sense of unity with people from different countries, ethnicities, origins and languages. The worst thing is the heat, he added, suggesting pilgrims bring an umbrella and wear soft, comfortable cotton clothing. Following the Mutawif rules and instructions also made the experience easy and safe.

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