Staying safe at Arafat: a guide

Friday, August 9, 2019

JEDDAH: As Hajj pilgrims begin their entry into the vicinity of Mount Arafat on Saturday, Arab News takes a look at the most important information you need to know regarding the day of supplication and prayer.

According to the Prophet (PBUH), “Hajj is Arafah”. Arafah Day is the most fundamental of the rites of Hajj, and without it, the pilgrimage cannot be complete. On the 9th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, pilgrims will leave Mina and head to the area of Mount Arafat for a day of prayer and contemplation, repenting for their sins and asking Allah’s forgiveness before heading to Muzdalifah.

With more than 2 million pilgrims performing Hajj this year, safety is a concern for everyone involved. And with Hajj taking place in the middle of summer, the heat poses a serious problem. Here are some tips on how pilgrims can stay safe during this scorching Hajj season.

Pilgrims are required to enter Arafah any time before sunset, which is when pilgrims will start making their journey to Muzdalifah. Therefore some pilgrims can try to avoid the biggest crowds and journey to Arafah any time during the day, as long as they arrive before Maghrib prayer.

The number one concern of Hajj pilgrims is heat stroke; the Ministry of Hajj reported that heat-related illnesses contributed to 24 percent of hospital admissions in 2015. Various hospitals throughout Makkah have echoed the sentiment.

According to the rules of Ihram (Hajj preparation), men are forbidden from covering their heads with hats, turbans, and anything touching the tops of their heads. A common misconception is that this means that they cannot cover their heads at all, but umbrellas are an excellent way for pilgrims to gain some protection from the sun’s glare. Health experts also highly recommend sunscreen, sunglasses and other means of sun protection.

Pilgrims are also advised to ensure that their footwear is appropriate: male pilgrims are allowed to wear open sandals or flip-flops, and are not advised to try to perform Hajj barefoot. Female pilgrims can wear anything, as long as it is taher (free of decontaminants). The ground can often get dangerously hot and cause severe discomfort. The only time during Hajj a pilgrim is required to be barefoot is within the Masjid Al-Haram and during the tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’abah).

Another important tip is to stay hydrated; the heat can peak at 50 degrees at the worst of times, and combined with the efforts of performing Hajj, the danger of dehydration is very real. There are various points throughout all the major stops of Hajj where pilgrims can get water and zamzam, and having a canteen or a refillable water bottle can be a godsend. For those who prefer their water cold, insulated bottles such as those available from Corkcicle or Thermos can keep your drinks cold for long periods of time.

It’s also important to remember that with so many people from all around the world in such a small place, the potential to get sick rises significantly. It’s important to always have some vitamin C tablets with you, and other immunity boosters. Proper sustenance is also a must; keeping one’s strength up is a vital part of being able to get the most out of one’s Hajj. Healthy foods, healthy snacks, and proper doses of vitamins can help you minimize your chances of getting sick post-Hajj.