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This is a special series of Blogs which describes my time and experiences during Hajj this year.
Aziziya – Mina
Finally, 7th Zilhajj arrived. It was announced that we would depart at midnight from Aziziya.
We had prepared a small bag for Hajj days. We were given cards showing our tent number and the ticket for train which plies between Mina – Arafat – Muzdalifah.
We changed into Ihram and waited outside the building for the bus. Someone started reciting Talbiah loudly and everyone joined in. It was a beautiful sight with deep effect; white Ihram wearing men and resonating sound of Talbiah.
A little after midnight, we started for Mina. The distance from Aziziya to Mina is 7-8km but the buses can take several hours due to extreme congestion. Surprisingly, we reached our tent in Mina in less than an hour. Allah be praised.
The tent for men had steel bunk beds; one below and one above. The size of bed and mattress was almost child size. Ladies’ tents probably had all mattresses on floor.
Many of the pilgrims were overweight and oversized. It was well-nigh impossible for them to fit in this bed. Secondly, those who arrived first, took over the lower beds. Those who reached later had to take the upper beds. It was a serious challenge for the overweight and old age people to climb to upper bed. And mind it, this had to be done many times in a day. Anyway, everyone got adjusted after some hassle.
The first news that service people in the tent broke was that the number of bathrooms is somewhat insufficient. They suggested that caution should be exercised in eating and drinking. This was clearly an understatement. The bathrooms were both insufficient and deficient in design. The wuzu (ablution) place was small and badly designed. This caused quite a bit of inconvenience particularly during prayer time.
The food and its delivery were also improper. The food consisted of pre-cooked, packed curry of some kind and Roti. The food quality was just acceptable and those who distributed food behaved rudely. All these things could have been significantly improved with a little effort by organizers.
The biggest issue in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah is to keep yourself and Ihram clean (Pak). Bathrooms design is such that the water puddles here and there. This is dirty water and one has to try hard to save the body and Ihram from it. When you use hand shower, it causes water to sprinkle and jump. You can even get water sprinkles from the adjacent bathroom cabin also.
We cannot say with surety that we were really able to keep ourselves and our Ihrams clean. Allah may forgive us. Aameen.
We were to spend today’s day in Mina and offer all five prayers here.
Right after Fajr, there was a big commotion. We found that tea was served. A sizeable crowd had attacked the tea thermos. A hard-faced, bearded, middle aged man was holding all paper cups in his armpit and was sticking in front of the thermos. He was shouting that he will not let anyone take tea till he serves it to his entire group. There was noise and fighting everywhere. Wa la Jidaal a fil Hajj (no disputing during Hajj) was lost and forgotten. The commotion finally died down, but few people got tea. Remember, everyone was in Ihram.
After an hour or so, the same scenes were repeated when breakfast was served. It became so bad that the service was stopped. It was decided that everyone would stay on the bed and the food would be served there. No one was allowed to move. After this arrangement, food service improved; however, everyday Jidaal for tea in the morning and afternoon continued unabated.
The other matter of dispute was prayer (namaz). There was no proper space where several people could pray together behind an Imam. Therefore, small groups were holding their prayer here and there and anywhere they could fit. Many jama’ats were even done standing on the upper bunk beds. Every group also insisted on reciting Adhan separately. Someone raised the Fajr adhan 30 minutes before time. When this was pointed out, he became seriously upset. Some groups insisted on Qasr (reduced) prayer; others insisted on full prayer; yet some others reduced Farz but prayed sunnah and nawafil. Everyone did whatever they considered appropriate.
Despite the lower quality of food, the passion for eating did not diminish. People ate whatever they could lay their hands on, and whenever they would. The result was; long queues outside the few bathrooms.
The day in Mina came to end. Next day would be the ‘Day of Arafat’.
Arafat, which is the most important part (Rukn e Azam) of Hajj.