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Haj: Introduction & Important Features

The Haj is incumbent upon all adult Muslims of sound mind with the necessary physical capacity and financial capability. The Haj Section of the Consulate General of India functions as a nodal agency in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to facilitate the pilgrimage of more than 157,000 Indian citizens annually.

Haj House Srinagar - There are approximately 35 verses in the Holy Quran which dwell directly on the Haj as one of the pillars of Islam and its rites and rituals. In 1426H (2006AD) as we prepare to perform the 1418th Islamic Haj, we ought to remember that during the course of 23 years of the revelation of the Holy Quran, including these verses on the Haj, the Prophet (pbuh) of Islam had at no time availed himself of the major pilgrimage of Haj. He is recorded to have performed Umrah though.

 

In the 9th Hijri he deputed his foremost companion Abu Bakr to lead the Haj and ordered Ali Ibn Abi Talib to join the former to announce that the House of Allah would no longer be allowed to be defiled with the abominations of the idolaters and their kind of worship. Ali carried out the order; he was heard at Arafat both by Muslims and Idolaters. Then it happened as prophesied: there were no Unbelievers around when the Prophet of Islam led the Haj himself the following year. The Haj would since be unlike any that had taken place for hundreds of years: the pilgrims would all be worshippers of the one God, and no idolater would desecrate the Holy House with the performance of any heathen rites. Obviously, the Prophet (pbuh) had envisioned it so and it was destined to be so. Another prophetic part of this decision was the revelation that year at Arafah (Yawm-al-Wuquf) of the last passage which completed the Quran:

This day the disbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled my Favour unto you, and it had been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion.

The Farewell Haj was the holy Prophet's final public act and, therefore, it appeared to have been ordained he was to personally teach the newly organized ummat about the finer points of the Islamic rites and rituals associated with the Haj. The Prophet (pbuh) was clear about the conclusion of Allah’s message through him and he himself chose to institute and establishes its practice down to the minute details. The following verses say it all:

Translation - Remember We made the House a place of assembly for people and a place of safety; and take ye the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Ismail, that they should sanctify My House for those who Compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).

And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, makes this a City of Peace, and feed its People with fruits, – such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.”

He said: “(Yea), and such as reject Faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!”

And remember Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer: “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.

“Our Lord! Make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (Will); And show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites: for Thou art the Oft-Relenting Most Merciful. (125-128, Surah Baqarah)

“And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every camel, lean (on account of journeys) through deep and distant mountain highways;

“That they may witness the benefits (provided for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want.

“Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, fulfil their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House.

Such (is the Pilgrimage): whoever honours the sacred rites of Allah, for him it is good in the sight of his Lord. Lawful to you (for food in Pilgrimage) are cattle, except those mentioned to you (as exceptions): so shun the abomination of idols, and shun the word that is false.

Being true in faith to Allah and never assigning partners to Him: if anyone assigns partners to Allah, he is as if he had fallen from heaven and been snatched up by birds, or the wind had swooped (like a bird on its prey) and thrown him into a far-distant place.

Such (is his state): and whoever holds in honour the rites of Allah, (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart.

In them ye have benefits for a term appointed: in the end their place of sacrifice is near the Ancient House.

To every people did we appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food). But your God is One God: submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves,

To those whose hearts, when Allah is mentioned, are filled with fear, who show patient perseverance over their afflictions, keep up regular prayer, and spend (in charity) out of what we have bestowed upon them.

The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the signs from Allah: in them is (much) good for you: then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice). When they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat ye thereof, and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility: thus have we made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful.

It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you that ye may glorify Allah for His guidance to you: and proclaim the Good News to all who do well. (27-37, Surah Al-Hajj)

The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: full of blessing and of guidance for all the worlds.

In it are Signs manifest; the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures. (96-97, Surah Aal-Imran).

They ask thee concerning the New Moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) people. And for Pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back: it is virtue if ye fear Allah, Enter houses through the proper doors: and fear Allah: that ye may prosper. (189, Surah Baqarah)

For Hajj are the months well known? If any one undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good ye do, (be sure) Allah knoweth it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, O ye that are wise.

It is no crime in you if ye seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when ye pour down from (Mount) ‘Arafat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, ye went astray.

Then return from the place whence it is usual for the multitude so to do, and ask for Allah’s forgiveness, Most Merciful.

So when ye have accomplished your rites, celebrate the praises of Allah, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers, Yea, with far more heart and soul. There are men who say: “Our Lord! Give us (Thy bounties) in this world!” But they will have no portion in the Hereafter.

And there are men who say: “Our Lord! Give us Good in this world and Good in the Hereafter. And save us from the torment of the fire!”

To these will be allotted what they have earned; and Allah is quick in account.

Remember Allah during the appointed Days, but if any one hastens to leave in two days, there is no blame on him, and if any one stays on, there is no blame on him, if his aim is to do right. Then fear Allah, and know that ye will surely be gathered unto Him. (197-203, Surah Baqarah)

And complete the Hajj or ‘Umra in the service of Allah, but if ye are prevented (from completing it), send an offering for sacrifice, such as ye may find, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice. And if any of you is ill, or has an ailment in his scalp, (necessitating shaving), (he should) in compensation either fast, or feed the poor, or offer sacrifice; and when ye are in peaceful conditions (again), if any one wishes to continue the ‘Umra on to the Hajj, he must make an offering such as he can afford, but if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the Hajj. And seven days on his return, making ten days in all. This is for those whose household is not in (the precincts of) the Sacred Mosque. And fear Allah. And know that Allah is strict in punishment. (196, Surah Baqarah)

Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeyeth his own impulse to Good,- be sure that Allah is He Who recogniseth and knoweth. (158, Surah Baqarah)

O ye who believe! Kill not game while in the Sacred precincts or in the state of pilgrimage. If any of you doth so intentionally, the compensation is an offering, brought to the Ka’ba, of a domestic animal equivalent to the one he killed. As adjudged by two just men among you; or by way of atonement, the feeding of the indigent; or its equivalent in fasts: that he may taste of the penalty of his deed. Allah forgives what is past: for repetition Allah will punish him for Allah is Exalted and Lord of Retribution.

Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food,-for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel; but forbidden is the pursuit of land-game: - as long as ye are in the Sacred Precincts or in the state of pilgrimage and fear Allah, to Whom ye shall be gathered back.

Allah made the Ka’ba the Sacred House, a means of support for people, as also the Sacred Months, the animals for offerings, and the garlands that mark them: that ye may know that Allah hath knowledge of what is in the heavens and on earth and that Allah is well acquainted with all things. (95-97, Surah Al-Mayedah)

And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger, to the people (Assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage - that Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Pagans. If then, ye repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah, and proclaim a grievous chastisement to those who reject Faith. (3, Surah Al-Taubah)

Do ye consider the giving of drink to pilgrims, or the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque, equal to (the pious service of) those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and strive with might and main in the cause of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah: and Allah guides not those who do wrong. (19, Surah Al-Taubah).

O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (28, Surah Al-Taubah)

O ye who believe! Fulfill (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all beasts of cattle with the exceptions named: but animals of the chase are forbidden while ye are in the Sacred Precincts or in the state of pilgrimage. For Allah doth command according to His will and Plan.

O ye who believe! Violate not the sanctity of the rites of Allah, nor of the Sacred Month, nor of the animals brought for sacrifice, nor the garlands that mark out such animals, nor the people resorting to the Sacred House, seeking of the bounty and good pleasure of their Lord. But when ye are clear of the Sacred Precincts and let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part). Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancour: fear Allah: for Allah is strict in punishment.

Pilgrimage for Purification and Integration - And the Hadith records: Allah has enjoined the Haj on you, so perform Haj. (From Muslim).

The Haj has since become incumbent upon all Muslims provided they are healthy, sane, mature, and un-indebted, endangered neither by war nor epidemic, and have the means both to make the journey and to support any dependents left behind.

As a concentrated expression of Islam, the Haj as defined by the Prophet of Islam has preserved in ritual form not only the profound evocation of the ancient impulse that has given birth to religion but also broadened the context of the Haj ceremonies, linking them and their Makkan sites to the legends of the prophets – Adam, Hawwa, Ibrahim, Hajirah and Ismael. The Yawm-al-Wuquf (the Day of Standing Together before God) which is like a yearly rehearsal for the Day of Judgment assumes both spiritual and physical connotations which defy the fertile human imagination.

Being one of mankind's most enduring pilgrimages, the Haj is a journey is at the centre of its practice and its roots reach back to the distant city of Makkah. The territory of Makkah is barren and rocky. As you enter a prayer for the prosperity of Makkah therefore includes a prayer for the good things of material life.

On the appointed dates of Haj every year over two million Muslims from all parts of the globe come together to constitute the largest single gathering in one place at one time for one purpose on Earth. The point of this journey has always been the same - to detach a representative number of people from their homes and, by bringing them to Islam's birthplace, to emphasize the unity of all human beings before their Creator. The Haj's first requirement is to arrive on time, to keep an appointment with the Creator and the community of believers. Once in Makkah, it is a collective celebration and an intensely personal experience, the religious apex of a Muslim's life.

The foundation of Ka’ba, the House of Allah, goes back to Abraham. Its character was fourfold: (1) it was the centre to which all the Arab tribes resorted for trade; for poetic contests, and for worship (2) it was sacred territory, and was respected by friend and foe alike. At all seasons, all fighting was and is forbidden within its limits, and even arms are not allowed to be carried, and no game or other thing is allowed to be killed. Makkah was recognized by Arab custom as inviolable for the pursuit of revenge; (3) it was the place of prayer; (4) it must be held pure and sacred for all purposes. The root ‘salama’ in the word Islam implies, among other ideas, the idea of Peace and therefore when Makkah is the city of Islam, it is also City of Peace. The same root occurs in the latter part of the name Jerusalem, the Jewish City of Peace. When the day of Jerusalem passed, Makkah became the “New Jerusalem”-or rather the old and original “City of Peace” restored and made universal.

The House is referred to as “My House,” to emphasize the personal relation of Allah, the One True God, to it, and repudiate the Polytheism which defiled the Ka’ba with idols, until it was sanctified again by the purity of Muhammad’s life and teaching. In his supplication upon seeing the Ka’ba, the Prophet prayed: O God, increase this House in the honor and magnification and bounty and reverence and piety that it receiveth from mankind!” The holy Quran enumerates four rites, which have now acquired a technical meaning: (1) Tawaf (2) Itikaf or retiring to the place as a spiritual retreat for contemplation and prayer (3) Ruku and (4) Sujud. The protection of the holy territory is the concern of all, but special cleanliness and purity is required for the sake of the devotees who undertake these rites.

The integrative power of this journey attracts Muslims to the heartland of Islam and Makkah is a principal part of speech in a sacred language. As a reminder of how life ought to be lived, the journey has inspired peasants, princes, mystics and revolutionaries. For these reasons, it represents a literal trip of a lifetime. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that the pilgrimage is not just a matter of traveling to Makkah. "Arrival is", as Michael Wolfe puts it, "only a beginning. The Haj itself is a protean event composed of many stages, each one marked by a collective rite. Changing its shape and purpose day by day, the ceremony does not take place so much as it unfolds, first in a city, then on a desert, becoming by turns a circle dance, a spiritual racecourse, a procession, a camping trip in the dunes, an athletic event, a trade fair and a walking meditation. It is a kind of Muslim United Nations, too, in which people from around the world collaborate and even live together". This General Assembly of Islam takes place at the holy baitu Allah where the code of Ihraam relieves the pilgrim of his worldly burden and restores his human innocence even if that may last the seven rounds around the holy Kaaba, where for a brief spell he dances along with the galaxies – always anticlockwise.

The Haj is the complete pilgrimage, of which the chief rites are performed during the first twelve or thirteen days of the month of Zul Hijja. The intending pilgrim commences by putting on a simple garment of unsewn cloth in two pieces when he is some distance yet from Makkah (Meeqat). The putting on of the ihram is symbolical of his renouncing the vanities of the world. After this and until the end of the pilgrimage he must not wear other clothes or ornaments, anoint his hair, use perfumes, hunt or do other prohibited acts. The completion of the pilgrimage is symbolised by the shaving of the head for men and the cutting off of a few locks of the hair of the head for women, the putting off of the ihram and the resumption of the ordinary dress.

Having once undertaken the pilgrimage, it must be completed; not for worldly ends, but as a symbol of service and worship to Allah. If we are prevented, for any reason, from completing the rites, a sacrifice should be offered where the prevention took place. It any one is taken ill after putting on the ihram, so that he has to put on other clothes, or if he has trouble or skin disease and he has to shave his head before completion, he should fast three days or feed the poor or offer sacrifice.

Hunting and the use of game are forbidden “while ye are hurumun,” i.e., while ye are (1) in the Sacred Precincts, or (2) in the special state of Ihram. The Sacred Precincts are sanctuary both for men and the beast.

Apart from the protection or immunity enjoyed by the pilgrims, the immunity from attack or interference extended to the animals brought as offerings for sacrifice makes them as sacred symbols. The animals are useful in many ways to man. But if they are used for sacrifice, they become symbols by which men show that they are willing to give up some of their own benefits for the sake of satisfying the needs of their poorer brethren. This is the true end of sacrifice, not propitiation of higher powers, for Allah is One, and He does not delight in flesh or blood, but a symbol of thanksgiving to Allah by sharing meat with fellow-men. The solemn pronouncement of Allah’s name over the sacrifice is an essential part of the rite. Allah will accept in us the sacrifice of self for the benefit of our fellow-men.

No one should suppose that meat or blood is acceptable to the One True God. It was a Pagan fancy that Allah could be appeased by blood sacrifice. But Allah does accept the offering of our hearts, and as a symbol of such offer, some visible institution is necessary. He has given us power over the brute creation, and permitted us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life, for without this solemn invocation, we are apt to forget the sacredness of life. By the invocation we are reminded that wanton cruelty is not in our thoughts, but only the need of food. Now if we further deny ourselves the greater part of the food for the sake of our poorer brethren in solemn assembly in the precincts of the Haram, our symbolic act finds practical expression in benevolence, and that is the virtue sought to be taught.

Rites and ceremonies may appear to be an unimportant matter compared with the higher needs of man’s spiritual nature. But they are necessary for social and religious organization, and their effect on the individual himself is not to be despised. In any case, as they are visible external symbols, they give rise to the most heated controversies. Such controversies are to be deprecated. That does not mean that our rites and ceremonies are to be made light of. Those in Islam rest on the highest social and religious needs of man.

The Meaning of Ihram - The pilgrims must seek guidance and learn about all the rituals that are essential for the performance of Haj according to the Maslak they follow. However, it must be known to all, irrespective of their background, that the Ka'ba is a sacred house, so are the people who surround it. Whatever the Haji does here, he must not hurt anyone, not even accidentally. That is what we mean when we refer to Haram (the sanctuary) and the hudood-e-Haram (precincts of Haram). Harming anyone in Haram means the Haj is simply not complete. So do not rush, do not push. Take it easy and should someone act wildly, simply get out of the way. Remember that amidst all this apparently ostentatious public participation in numerous rituals, Haj is immensely and intensely personal. The Haji is always focused on personally performing the ritual perfectly.

Within the territory of Haram, it is the Haram law and Ihraam dress that apply. The conditions of Ihraam and how to wear it ought to be understood.

Even the pilgrim who gets out of the state of Ihraam should remember that a number of conditions still apply to the Haj pilgrim and these conditions entail truthfulness, compassion to fellow beings, good conduct, good thoughts, exemplary behaviour, desisting from anger and angry outburst, desisting from physical violence and so on.

Ka'ba is not sacred due to some of the sanctified spots but, rather, because of its symbolic value as a marker of the Qibla, the direction of prayer. Ka'ba contains no relics and is not itself an object of prayer. It rather provides spiritual focus and symbolizes God's Being at the centre of creation.

Stay at Makkah Al Mukkarramah - General Information/precautions - All the accommodation is hired as per the norms laid down by the Government of India in consultation with the Haj Committee of India and as per regulations of the Government of the Saudi Arabia. The hiring is done through an elaborate 3-tier procedure involving member of the State Haj Committees, Central Haj Committee and the Consulate General of India in Jeddah. The pilgrims should therefore feel reassured that the accommodation is in strict accordance with the norms and procedures. As such every pilgrim get 3.5 sq meter which is actually quite less but this cannot be changed as more that 2 million pilgrims come and stay in limited space of Makkah and thus the Saudi Government has made these norm. Till the year 2005 the space norm was 3.0 sq meters per pilgrim which was increased to 3.5 sq meter last year.

All the pilgrims would have to share the bathroom and kitchen facilities that they should do in the spirit of brotherhood and adjustment. A little patience on part of pilgrims can solve a lot of hassles and problems. It is therefore very important to emphasize this.

All the pilgrims are provided with metal frame beds in the rooms along with mattresses, pillows and bed sheets. Beds are enough to keep some luggage under it; however, hoarding of lot of stuff should be discouraged as the space in the rooms is limited. Each bathroom would have a bucket, a mug and provision for the hot water.

The Saudi Authorities have clarified that the whole of the Makkah region including Azizia is the Hudud Al Haram i.e. falls under the Haram Sharif Area.

Pilgrims who wish to go to Haram Sharif for the prayers should try to go out of the building much before the prayer time as exactly at prayer time they will find a lot of rush for the lift in which case they may even miss prayers. Overcrowding of lifts results in break-downs and can cause accidents. In case a lift breaks down every effort will be made to repair it forthwith. However it may be understood that during peak periods the demand for lift technicians and the traffic conditions in Makkah may lead to some inadvertent delay.

Pilgrims should avoid wasting water or using too much water. During the peak Haj period if water finishes in a building due to excessive use, water tankers cannot bring water due to restrictions on movement. For washing of clothes, utensils, bathing and cooking purposes, economising on the use of water is essential. If there are leaking taps or toilets, pilgrims must immediately bring this to the notice of the caretaker of the building (Haaris) and the building supervisor deputed by the Consulate. Many buildings in Makkah have western style commodes. It is essential that pilgrims are acquainted with their use in advance.

Pilgrims must not allow visitors inside buildings or rooms. They should be met outside the building. Friends, relatives and extra persons are not to be kept in rooms. The rooms should not be cluttered with excess baggage since space is at a premium.

Every day each building will be visited by a building supervisor who will check with the Haaris about any problems that need rectification. Pilgrims can either inform the Haaris about problems they confront or record a complaint in the Complaint Register kept in their own building for this purpose. Complaints can also be lodged with the branch office of the Indian Haj Mission which is overseeing their building. Map of the branch office and the telephone number are available on the ground floor of every building.

As regards food in Makkah, there are many restaurants and eating places which sell cheap food including roti, rice, dal, vegetables and chicken at nominal prices. Roti or bread is very cheap and fruits are also available in plenty. Given the foreign exchange component given to our pilgrims, it is very much affordable and perhaps cheaper if pilgrims make arrangements and eat in groups. The suggestion is that for breakfast they can have fresh fruits, bread, eggs and milk or fruit juices and for lunch and dinner they can have normal meals with rice, roti, vegetables and non-vegetarian dishes.

It is good to drink plenty of water during the course of the day. The Zam Zam water is available free of cost all around the Haram Sharief. At other places water can be bought. Besides, Maktabul Zamazima delivers Zam Zam to pilgrims at the rate of one litre per pilgrim in their buildings after 10th Zul Qada.

The kitchen space in the buildings is limited and adjustments for cooking timings will need to be made. It is not possible for all pilgrims to cook their food as they do back home in India. Electric cookers cannot be used in the rooms for fear of fire. Kerosene stoves as well as gas stoves can be used in kitchens. However, pilgrims have to pay for the refill of gas cylinders.

All the pilgrims should also read the various instructions and advices pasted by the Indian Haj Mission or the Moallims. These are usually pasted at the prominent places in the buildings.

At the Haram Sharif in Makkah - First of all while visiting the Holy Haram Sharief all the pilgrims should keep their emotions under control. Sudden outburst of emotions has led to difficulties for the pilgrims in past as it can be mistaken as mental disturbances etc. Saudi officials/ police authorities are spread out in the Harm Sharif area, even in the civil dress, and any unusual act is always noticed. Also when caught by the police or the Saudi Authorities the pilgrims should be advised not to speak anything as it may be interpreted against him . The pilgrims should rather insist for the presence of an official from the Indian Haj Mission before speaking anything to these authorities.

The Haram Sharief at Makkah consists of basement, main floor, first floor and terrace. When the crowd gets bigger even the outside spaces are filled up to a long distance. Pilgrims need to be educated about the use of conveyor belts which are used to carry people to the upper floors and the terrace. By their unfamiliarity with the use of conveyor belts and by holding on to the railings, pilgrims tend to create a stampede like situation and in the process hurt themselves.

In the Haram Sharif, pilgrims should always carry a plastic bag to keep their sandals/shoes. Also they can carry a prayer mat in case there is too much rush and have to offer their prayers in the open or by roadside.

Outside the Haram Sharif there are very good toilets and wudukhanas and it is not necessary to go every time to the room to wash and come back for prayers. However, care needs to be taken that during the wudu valuables are not snatched or stolen. The Arabic word for "thief" is "Haraami". It is preferable to deposit extra cash or valuables with the Moallims against a proper receipt. Several lockers are also available just outside the Haram Sharief to keep valuables or cash for a period of few hours.

Losing the way in the vast Haram Sharief is common with pilgrims. Therefore, while entering the Haram Sharief pilgrims should look around from inside the courtyard. There are five coloured gates leading outside. They must remember the colour, name or number of the gate which leads to their house in Makkah. This is the easiest way to remember. All the gates of the Haram Sharief are numbered for convenience. In any case, pilgrims in difficulty should look for our Task Force officers who, clad in blue INDIA marked jackets, are throughout ready around the Haram for guiding the pilgrims.

Indian Haj Mission Services - There are 11 branch dispensaries and 11 branch offices for the convenience of pilgrims opened by the Consulate in various areas which house Indian pilgrims at Makkah. All Indians are welcome to use these facilities. Additionally there is a main Indian Haj Office and main Hospital at the Ajyad area of Makkah, opposite the Ajyad Makkah Hotel.

Knowing the telephone numbers of branch office, branch dispensary, main Indian Haj office and main Indian dispensary along with the telephone number of Maktab and the contact telephone numbers of friends or relatives in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah will definitely prove useful at times of need. Some loose change (coins) which can be used in case of need to telephone any of these places will come handy. Telephone facilities are available in great abundance in Makkah and Madinah. There are a number of manned telephone booths which accept Riyal notes. There is also a toll free line whereby when the pilgrims call he does not have to pay anything. This line is available for all the pilgrims round the clock. The Pilgrims can use this line to make any enquiry or to lodge any complaint.

Indian Haj office runs computerized data base of all pilgrims and their places of accommodation. A pilgrim can be located with the punching of a key. All it takes is a visit or a call to the Indian branch office. Some but not all branch offices also have free internet facilities for the pilgrims.

There are also the Task Force officials who would be wearing 'India" marked jackets, T-shirts and caps. There only duty is to move around the Haram Sharif area and be available to the pilgrims to help and guide them. So the pilgrims should be advised to locate them and seek their help and guidance freely without hesitation.

Complaints about buildings and medical service and other problems that pilgrims may have such as misplaced or lost-baggage should be immediately reported to the concerned section listed in the organizational chart the Indian Haj Mission above. Theft or loss of cash should be reported to the General Welfare Section which will immediately provide financial relief to the pilgrim.

Some further useful tips - Assistance/help for the pilgrim is available at every step; he/she should seek it, if needed freely without hesitation. The redressal of the pilgrim’s grievances will be ensured preferably there and then provided he/she registers a complaint, if genuine. The pilgrim can easily identify the IHM officers wearing blue jackets with the distinctive tri-colour of the Indian flag printed on the jacket along with BHARAT and AL HIND (in Hindi and Arabic) at the back and INDIA (in English) on the front. The pilgrim will be received at the airport (Jeddah/Madinah) by the officers of Indian Haj Mission (IHM). The pilgrim need not panic for anything; these officers will take care of the pilgrim’s reception/collection of baggage after he/she is cleared by Saudi authorities. The pilgrim should cooperate with the IHM staff members who will take care of his/her baggage and load it on the bus in which the pilgrim will travel from Madinah airport to his building or from Jeddah to Makkah.

If by any chance the pilgrim’s baggage gets lost or misplaced, he/she should inform the Lost Baggage Section for its retrieval. In case of theft or loss of pilgrim’s foreign allowance/currency, he/she should report to the General Welfare Section for immediate monetary relief.

Should the pilgrim require medical treatment on arrival due to any reason there is a dispensary open round the clock at the airport. If the pilgrim is not able to walk to the dispensary, he/she can summon the doctor to his/her room. There is a Dispensary open around the clock in the pilgrim’s own accommodation district along with the branch offices. He/she must feel free to use it.

On arrival at the building, the Moallim will provide loaders to carry the pilgrim’s baggage to his/her room. The Moallim is also expected to offer to the pilgrim a hot meal on arrival. For any accommodation related problem, the pilgrim should register a complaint in the Building Complaint Register which is available at the reception desk of the pilgrim’s building.

In deference to the sanctity of the Haram precincts, the pilgrim should not shout to voice his grievances; on the other hand he/she should use the register in the building or branch office to record his complaint. ours due to traffic movement restrictions. Staff members who look after the Madinah Movement of pilgrims will try their best to ensure with the cooperation of pilgrims a smooth Madinah movement.

Departure Phase - The departure from the Kingdom is either from Jeddah or Madinah. Some pilgrims who came via Jeddah may go back from Madinah. All the pilgrims should make sure of their departure schedule well in advance so as to avoid any last minute surprises.

All the pilgrims should follow the advice of the Moallims and the Indian Mission officials for the departure phase. It is the requirement of the Saudi Government that all the pilgrims should reach the Airport before 8 hours of departure of the Flight. Add to it the travel time from Makkah to Jeddah Airport; so all the buses leaves 12 hours before the flight time from their respective buildings. Working backward all the buses are stationed 15-14 hours before the flight time at the respective buildings. It is essential for all the pilgrims that they are prepared at least by the time the buses arrives at the building for departure. All their baggage should have been packed and brought to the lobby of the building. Any last minute shopping and visit to other places should be avoided.

Pilgrims should remember to carry enough money to buy food and water at the Haj Terminal for the waiting time. Airlines only supply food packets if delays are more than 6 hours beyond scheduled time of departure. Saudi authorities also prohibit the Consulate and other welfare agencies to provide any eatables to the Pilgrims at the terminal. All pilgrims have to buy their own stuff at the terminal. Therefore, it is advisable if pilgrims could carry some snacks, fruits and water along with them from Makkah to the Jeddah Haj terminal.

The Pilgrims should stick to the baggage allowance. Any excess baggage should preferably be sent by cargo beforehand. There have been delays in past because of the excess baggage from the pilgrims. Also if the baggage is more than the allowance it may so happen that baggage of all the pilgrims traveling in a bus may not come in that bus. In such cases the Indian Haj Mission has no role to play and Moallims may decide to transport that baggage in separate vans and it may be difficult for the pilgrims to identify their baggage after reaching the airport. So it is absolutely essential that the pilgrims stick to the baggage allowance and give the excess baggage to the Cargo service in advance. It should also be remembered that giving the excess baggage to the Cargo means less charge than paying for the excess baggage at the check in as accompanying baggage. For example in Madinah if they exceed the prescribed weight, they will have to pay excess baggage charges at the airport at the rate of SR13/- per kilo.

 

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