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Hajj visas can only be used to visit Mecca, Medina and Jeddah: Saudi Arabia
Pilgrims gather for Hajj amid sweltering heat
More than a million Muslims from around the world have amassed around the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage. More than 1.5 million people from across the globe gathered amid intense heat in and around the Saudi city of Mecca on Friday for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The event takes place against the backdrop of war in Gaza, which has sparked fears of a wider regional war in the Middle East. What's notable about this year's Hajj? People living in the coastal Gaza Strip were unable to visit Mecca for the Hajj this year because of the closure of the Rafah crossing to Egypt in May. That happened in May when Israel extended its ground offensive to Gaza's southernmost city. Palestinian authorities said some 4,200 pilgrims from the occupied West Bank had arrived in Mecca for the event. Meanwhile, Saudi authorities said 1,000 more family members of Palestinians killed or wounded in the war in Gaza also arrived to take part in the Hajj at the invitation of Saudi Arabia's King Salman. Those guests were understood to have been outside Gaza when the crossing was closed. The gathering this year falls during the hot Saudi summer. Officials have forecast average highs of 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit). Last year, large numbers of heat-related illnesses were reported. This year's Hajj also saw Syrian pilgrims arrive in Mecca with direct flights from Damascus for the first time in over a decade. Flights resumed after a thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria, with Riyadh appointing its first ambassador to Syria since it severed ties in 2012 under the shadow of the Syrian Civil War. More pilgrims already living in Saudi Arabia were also expected to arrive in Mecca. What is the Hajj? The Hajj is one of the world's largest religious gatherings, involving a series of rituals that take days to complete. As one of the "five pillars of Islam,"  all Muslims with the means and health to participate are expected to do so at least once. Initially, the pilgrims perform the "tawaf," circling seven times around the cube-shaped Kaaba of the Grand Mosque — Islam's holiest site. The climax comes on Saturday with prayers on Mount Arafat, where Islam's Prophet Mohammed is said to have delivered his final sermon. Nearly 2.5 million Muslims performed Hajj in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic stopped religious and other gatherings globally. The Hajj last year was the first since 2020 to be held without COVID-19 restrictions.
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Holy Hajj formalities begin
Holy Eid-ul-Azha tomorrow
The holy Eid-ul-Azha, the second biggest religious festival of the Muslims, will be celebrated across the country tomorrow with due solemnity and religious fervor. Eid-ul-Azha is celebrated on the 10th of Zilhajj month of the Hizri calendar as Hazrat Ibrahim (AS), on this day, some 4,500 years ago, offered to sacrifice his beloved son Hazrat Ismail (AS), who willingly submitted to the will of his father to please Allah. But the Almighty in His benign mercy spared Hazrat Ismail (AS) and instead sent a ram to be sacrificed. To commemorate this historic event, the Muslims across the country will offer prayers in congregations and sacrifice animals in the name of Almighty Allah. They will offer munajat seeking divine blessings for peace, progress and prosperity of the country as well as welfare of the Muslim Ummah. President M Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages, greeting the Muslims in Bangladesh and all over the world on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Azha. The main Eid congregation will be held at the National Eidgah near the High Court Bhaban in the capital at 8am, said Islamic Foundation (IF). Eid congregation will be held at the historic Sholakia ground in Kishoreganj this year in a break of 2 years due to Covid-19 pandemic. Kishoreganj Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Shamim Alam told BSS that Islamic scholar Mawlana Farid Uddin Masud will conduct the Eid jamaat at 9 am. A total of five Eid congregations will be held at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque. The first Jamaat will be held at 7am to be conducted by Hafez Mufti Maulana M Mizanur Rahaman, senior pesh Imam of the mosque, said a press release of IF. Hafez Mufti Muhibullah Baki Nadvi will conduct the second Eid Jamaat at 8 am and the third one will be conducted Islamic Foundation's Mufassir Dr Mawlana Abu Saleh Patwari at 9 am.   Baitul Mukarram mosque Pesh Imam Maulana Mahiuddin Kashem will conduct the fourth Jamaat at 10am while the fifth Jamaat will be conducted by IF's Mufti Mawlana Mohammad Abdullah at 10.45am. Organizers said adequate water supply and security arrangements have already been made at the Baitul Mukaram National Mosque to facilitate the Eid-ul-Azha prayers. Eid Jamaat will be held at the South Plaza of the National Parliament at 8am while Chief Whip of Parliament, whips, cabinet members, lawmakers and Jatiya Sangsad Secretariat officials and employees and devotees will join the jamaat there. In the Dhaka University, two Eid Jamaats will be held at university central mosque - Masjidul Jamiya - at 8am and 9am. Senior Imam Dr Syed Muhammad Emdad Uddin will conduct the first Jamaat while second one will be conducted by senior imam Hafez Mawlana Najir Mahmud. Adequate security measures have been taken for peaceful and smooth celebration of the holy Eid-ul-Azha. The law enforcement agencies were also asked to ensure smooth movement of vehicles on highways, waterways and train routes. State-run Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar as well as other TV channels and radio stations would broadcast special programmes on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Azha. On the day, improved diets will be served to inmates of government hospitals, prisons, orphanages, safe homes and shelter centers. On July 7, the government issued a circular with eight instructions, including maintaining the health rules, during the prayers. The guidelines included no illuminating will be allowed on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Azha celebrations, everyone has to perform ablution at respective residences before going to Eidgah or mosque, soap or hand sanitizer must be kept at the place of having ablution (wadukhana) at mosque or Eidgah to prevent the coronavirus infection, a worshiper (musulli) must wear mask and should not use the prayer mat (Jainamaz) and cap earlier kept in mosques. While performing Eid prayers, they must maintain a gap maintaining the health rules and social distancing, Musullis will have to stand keeping one row gap in prayers, Khatibs, imams, mosque management committees and local administration have been requested to offer doa to the Almighty Allah after the holy Eid-ul-Azha prayers to save the country and its people from the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, Khatibs, imams and mosque management committees and local administrations have been requested to ensure the proper execution of these health guidelines, in the case of animal sacrifice (slaughtering the sacrificial animals), the instructions of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock have been asked to follow properly. The local administration, law enforcement agencies, people's representatives, officials and employees of the Islamic Foundation and the management committee of the concerned mosques have also been requested to execute the directives of the government. Source: BSS AH
Saudi Arabia expects a million pilgrims to make the hajj
Pilgrims began converging on the holy city of Mecca for the largest hajj since the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus led organizers to severely curtail access to the site that is considered one of the five pillars of Islam.One million Muslims are visiting Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the first hajj since the coronavirus pandemic led authorities in the conservative nation to restrict access to the holiest site in Islam. Saudi authorities have permitted 850,000 visitors from abroad into the kingdom for the annual pilgrimage which starts on Wednesday, a major step towards normalcy following strict pandemic restrictions. The decision to do so comes after two years during which access to the site was limited to Saudi residents. The one million number of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia and abroad is still considerably fewer than the 2.5 million figure of those who traveled to the holy city in 2019. The hajj is considered one of the world’s largest events in terms of the number of participants. On Wednesday, those arriving carried umbrellas to block the 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) heat. What restrictions are in place on those making the hajj this year? In order to be eligible for the hajj this year, pilgrims must be under 65 years of age and vaccinated against the virus as well as have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel. A lottery system was implemented this year, with millions applying online. Pilgrims to the hajj will not be required to wear masks or adhere to social distancing guidelines as was the case in the last two years. Prohibitions on touching or kissing the Kaaba, the black stone at the center of the holy site in Mecca, will remain, though. During the hajj, Muslims encircle and pray around the large cubic structure draped in golden-embroidered black cloth, in a ritual known as the tawaf. What have Saudi officials done to prepare for the hajj? On Wednesday, officials in Saudi Arabia inspected the holy site and stressed the country’s readiness as well as its goal of maintaining public health. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the Saudi authorities permitted only 1,000 people who were already residents of the kingdom to make the hajj. Last year, authorities restricted the hajj to just 60,000 fully vaccinated Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia. The unprecedented curbs on attendance devastated some Muslims who had spent years saving for the chance to make the pilgrimage to the most significant site in their faith. Officials in Saudi Arabia currently report over 500 new coronavirus infections per day. Over 70% of Saudis have been vaccinated. The Saudi Health Ministry said 23 hospitals and 147 health centers were available in Mecca and Medina for visitors. Saudi Arabia now allows women to attend the hajj unaccompanied by a male relative, after dropping the requirement last year. What does the hajj look like in normal times? Saudi authorities are keen to see the hajj return to the pre-pandemic normal. Pilgrims bring billions of dollars in income to the Arab state, the second highest source of income for Saudi Arabia after oil. According to the Koran, every Muslim of faith who is physically and financially able should make the hajj at least once in their lifetime. Five intense days of prayer and ritual await religious pilgrims in Mecca. The hajj traces the pilgrimage taken by Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago. His path, in turn, is believed to trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are known to Christians and Jews.