264,000 more pilgrims from abroad for this year’s Hajj

Makkah (IINA) � The number of foreign pilgrims performing Hajj this year would be highest in history, according to sources at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Saudi authorities have made flawless and elaborate arrangements to receive the largest number of pilgrims in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and to ensure a hassle-free Hajj. So far nearly one million foreign pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom. The number of foreign pilgrims last year was 13,25,372. However, this year, there will be an increase of about 264,000 pilgrims reaching a total of around 1.6 million. Most of them have started flocking the holy land from all over the world. This was made possible following Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman’s directive to lift the 20 percent cut in the quota of foreign pilgrims and 50 percent cut in the number of domestic pilgrims. The quota cut was enforced in 2012 due to the massive expansion works of mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) and the Grand Mosque.

As of Thursday, a total of 916,562 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom, an increase of 165,013 (22 percent) comparing with the same period last year. According to a statistical report of the General Directorate of Passports, the number of pilgrims who arrived by air reached 878,567, while the number of pilgrims who arrived by land and sea account for 35,023 and 2,972 respectively. Of these pilgrims, 607,715 reached Madinah to visit the Prophet’s Mosque and spend a few days in the holy city before setting out for Makkah.

Meanwhile, more than a million pilgrims and visitors offered Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. In his Friday sermon, Sheikh Faisal Bin Jameel Ghazzawi, imam and khateeb of the Grand Mosque, urged the pilgrims to engage in supplications and spiritual preparations in anticipation of their life-time journey which is around the corner.

The imam specially spoke about the virtues of the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, asking pilgrims to take full advantage of them well before moving to the holy sites to perform the Hajj rituals. Hajj is the greatest of all worships that make the believer much closer to Almighty Allah and there should not be any laxity and delay in utilizing the opportunity of performing this fifth pillar of Islam, he said.

Sheikh Ali Al-Hudaifi, imam and khateeb of the Prophet’s Mosque, cited in his sermon a myriad benefits � both spiritual and material � a Muslim obtains by performing Hajj. Nobody except Almighty Allah can calculate the rewards and benefits of Hajj. In the event of an acceptable Hajj, Allah will safeguard a Muslim from the machinations of Satan during the rest of his life, he said while urging pilgrims to be cautious to win the pleasure of God through respecting the Signs of Allah in the holy city as well as performing the rituals earnestly and not spoiling their rituals with involvement in worldly affairs.

Meanwhile, Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Sheikh Saleh Al-Asheikh launched the ministry’s media programs to educate pilgrims during the current Hajj season. He said the plan included distribution of millions of publications, books, CDs, films and dawa mass media material in 32 international languages. Around 100 satellite channels are taking part in educating pilgrims through the dissemination of films and programs produced by the ministry. The plan also reflects the Kingdom’s efforts in serving the pilgrims, the minister said.

Source: International Islamic News Agency