Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Blessed month of Ramadan in the Holy City of Makkah in 2010

The Blessed month of Ramadan
in the Holy City of Makkah in 2010

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Makkah al-Mukarramah: In Ramadan, the Holy city has taken a different colour. It is learnt that Saudi Arabia has issued for the first time many Umrah visas just in nine months. The Holy site of Makkah and Madina has attracted a record high of more than four million pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia. Authorities have prepared to take a special measure in different areas, such as security, health, cleaning etc. But let us start first with the sighting of the Moon.

With the sighting of the Crescent moon of the holy month of Ramadan, the start of the holy month of Ramadan was marked by Sergeant Mastour Al-Nahari firing seven bullets from the “Ramadan Canon” situated on top of Al-Medf’a Mountain in Makkah. The firing of the canon is an annual event every Ramadan. Muslims all over the country gather together to congratulate each other and share their happiness, and to prepare for the voluntary work that will take place in almost every mosque in Saudi Arabia.

Just a few hours after the announcement of the sighting of the Crescent moon, both the Haramain in Makkah and Madina turned into beehive of activity as hundreds of thousands of visitors started pouring into the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina to attend the first night of Al-Taraweeh prayers.

During the holy month of Ramadan the holy city of Makkah comes alive in a way that does not happen in other places in the country. It is a city that does not sleep during this time. Makkah’s people start preparing for this special time during the last week of Sha’ban.

Iftar and Suhour
The start of Iftar and Suhour is marked by the firing of the canons. The canons all over the country are shot when the sun sets and at breakfast time to coincide with the Adhan. In addition two capsules are shot at 2 A.M. to inform people in Makkah to take their Suhoor and before the dawn Adhan another two capsules are shot marking the end of Suhoor time. Each bullet contains 1.5 kg of ammunition powder.

Makkah’s people prepare food for Ramadan like vegetables, sambosa and sweets. In the old days, soup, beans and sambosa were the main dishes for breaking the fast in Ramadan. Sobia has been the favorite drink of Makkah’s people throughout the years. The sweets are the favorites of Makkah’s people. The Suhoor table was not complete without sweets such as muhallabia, al-almasia, and kuchaf al-zabib. For Iftar, Makkah’s people cooked vegetables or meat in various forms such as kabob.

Multicultural gathering of millions at Iftar
What a wonderful scene! Millions of people, men, women, children, young and old, black and white, of different cultural backgrounds of all the continents, almost of all the countries, are united under one platform, within the precincts of Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, inside and outside, sitting with delicious food in front of them, waiting for the call to break the fast. Not a single person, boys or girls, men or women, did touch the food to eat without the permission of Allah the Almighty. What a wonderful scene of discipline! What a marvelous sight of belief and faith! In Islam there is no distinction, whether you are poor or rich, black or white, because all people are the same in the eyes of God. This is the philosophy reflected when millions of people gathered together inside and outside of Masjid al-Haram in Makkah in the evening of every day of the blessed month of Ramadan to break their fast.

It’s a crowd of disciplined, faithful, God-fearing people, who are united, not to show their strength of power, but to show and demonstrate the humbleness, humility, commitment and dedication to abide by the Orders of the Creator, Allah the Almighty. There is no arrogance, no haughtiness.

Even in the women’s pockets of the gathering, females of different cultural backgrounds of various countries, wearing Hijabs of different shades, colours and styles, but all are showing their modesty in dress and behavour, no vulgarity, no indecency and rudeness.

There are twenty rak’ats prayed in Taraweeh in Haramain. In the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, four Imams, such as Sheikh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais, Sheikh Saud al-Shuraim, Sheikh Maher al-Mu’aqily and Sheikh Abdullah al-Johani led the Taraweeh prayers. The first ten rak’at prayers are led by one imam and the second ten rak’at Taraweeh are led by another Imam.

Qiyam al-Lail
The Qiyam al-Lail prayers (night prayer) of the last ten nights have already started with the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an. The ten rak'ats Qiyam al-Lail prayers led by two Imams, first six rak’ats by Sheikh Saud al-Shuraim and the second four rak’ats by Sheikh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais who also made dua (supplication) after the Bitr prayer.

Friday prayer
Last Friday, on 27 August, 2010, over two million people offered Jumah prayers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina. At the Prophet’s Mosque, more than half a million worshippers performed Friday prayer. Here the authorities are introducing a set of integrated services with the efforts of about 15,000 cadres from security bodies.

There is I’tikaf in the last ten days. 40,000 Mutakifs are expected by the Prophet’s Mosque Affairs, to be sitting in seclusion (I’tikaf) in Haram for the rest of holy month. The authorities said a program for Mutakifs has been completed.

Preparation of Haram for Ramadan
Last Thursday 26th of August 2010 International Airport received 39 international flights carrying tens of thousands of visitors who are being offered round-the-clock medical services through 10 health facilities. The authorities have drawn up integrated plans to provide the highest standard of services to Umrah pilgrims so that they can perform their rituals in ease and comfort. Over 50,000 security officers from various agencies and from the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Makkah Mayoralty and other government bodies have been deployed to ensure safety and security for up to 1.5 million visitors and pilgrims to the holy city during Ramadan.

An intensive healthcare systems plan was in place at the Grand Mosque for the millions of pilgrims coming here during Ramadan. Five dispensaries inside the Grand Mosque have been fully equipped to offer full medical services. Health centres have been established in the Haram. There are five health centers on the second floor of the Holy Haram which provides medical services all day. The centers are located on lower Bab Ajyad, the upper Bab Ajyad, Gate 94 in the new expansion, Gate 64 at King Fahd Expansion and Bab Al-Nadwa. These centers provide first aid and emergency services in addition to 29 permanent health centers in different parts of the holy city including those around the Grand Mosque to offer prompt medical services to pilgrims.

The Makkah Mayoralty has assigned 8,500 cleaners with 810 cleaning machines and equipment for clean-up operations. There are also seven temporary stations for the collection of waste and garbage to keep the holy city clean around the clock.

Women team
For the first time, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the authorities at the Holy Haram has teams of women who will be available to help critically-ill women pilgrims at the Mosque’s health centers.

Women officials
The General Presidency of Two Holy Mosques Affairs has appointed 300 women officials to cope with the increasing number of women pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in Ramadan. They instruct the visitors on how the visitors should conduct themselves in the mosque. They also take the women entering the mosque to the place reserved for women.

151 women guides were working in four shifts at various locations in the mosque including the courtyards. They checked the women visitors at the gates both day and night. While 20 guides supervised the cleaning operations in the women’s area including the toilets in two shifts, 10 guides took care of the copies of the Holy Qur’an kept in the women’s section. Another 20 guides worked in the courtyards to see that women did not pray on passages and walkways, it is reported.

Makkah Clock
"The Makkah Clock started with the order of King Abdullah ... one minute after midnight on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan," the Saudi Press Agency said. A giant clock on a skyscraper in Islam's holiest city Makkah began ticking on Wednesday, 11th of August, 2010, at the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, amid hopes it will become the Muslim world's official timekeeper. The Makkah Clock, which Riyadh says is the world's largest, has four faces measuring 43 meters in diameter. It sits 400 meters up what will be the world's second-tallest skyscraper and largest hotel, overlooking the city's Holy Grand Mosque, which Muslims around the world turn to five times a day for prayer. Over 90 million pieces of colored glass mosaic embellish the sides of the clock, which has four faces each bearing a large inscription of the name "Allah". It is visible from all corners of the city, the state news agency said.

The clock is positioned on a 601-meter tower, which will become the second tallest inhabited building in the world when it is completed in three months' time.

The clock tower is the landmark feature of the seven-tower King Abdulaziz Endowment hotel complex, being built by the Saudi Binladin Group, which will have the largest floor area of any building in the world when it is complete. Local media have said the clock tower project cost $3 billion. Around 2 million Muslims visit the holy city each year for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for able-bodied Muslims, and 3.5 million pilgrims visit Makkah at other times of the year.

Makkah al-Mukarramah
5th September 2010

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