Hajj Pilgrimage: Speaker Gbajabiamila, Aisha Buhari Meet In Mecca


Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and First Lady, Aisha Buhari, have met in Mecca where they are currently performing the hajj pilgrimage.

Photos of the meeting where share on the Twitter page of the Speaker.

His tweet reads:

With the First Lady @aishambuhari in Mecca. May Allah answer our prayers for unity peace and progress for our beloved country.

The First Lady was also in the holy land in May, when she and President Muhammadu Buhari performed the Umrah.

Below are photos from the meeting.

The Hajj

More than two million Muslims began the annual hajj Friday under sweltering conditions, as the Saudi hosts sought to deter politicisation of the pilgrimage against a backdrop of simmering Gulf tensions.

The hajj, one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

It consists of a series of religious rites which are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

“All of the arms of state have been deployed (and) we are proud to serve as ‘God’s hosts’,” said security forces spokesman Bassam Attia.

“We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world. It’s marvellous,” said Mohamed Jaafar, a 40-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

 ‘A golden opportunity’

“It’s an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand it,” said an Algerian in his fifties completing the pilgrimage for the first time.

“It’s a golden opportunity and moment,” said his female companion.

Built in a desert valley, Mecca is home to the Kaaba, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

Muslims around the world pray towards the Kaaba, which is located in the Grand Mosque, and pilgrims walk around it seven times.

Earlier on Friday, worshippers took part in Friday prayers at the mosque.

Pilgrims from around the world then headed on foot or on buses to Mina, a rugged district of Mecca at the base of Mount Arafat, where the faithful will spend Friday night.

A total of “350,000 air-conditioned tents have been pitched” in Mina, a Saudi official said.

Cooling mist sprays were deployed across the area as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Mobile clinics and ambulances were on standby along the route, while Saudi Red Crescent helicopters monitored the pilgrims’ progress from the sky.

“The whole world is here… being here in Mecca is the best feeling,” beamed Mohamed Barry, a pilgrim from Britain.

Saudi officials said that 2.26 million pilgrims had arrived in Mina by late Friday, of which 1.86 million were from abroad, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

On Saturday worshippers will climb Mount Arafat, also known as the “Mount of Mercy”, for hours of prayers and Koran recitals.

After descending, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.

That marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday.

Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final “tawaf” or walk around the Kaaba.

‘Politicising the hajj’

This year’s hajj takes place to a backdrop of Gulf tensions following a series of attacks on tankers, the downing of drones and the seizure of ships.

Riyadh blames regional foe Tehran for the attacks on commercial shipping, accusations Iran vehemently denies.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, some 88,550 Iranian pilgrims are due to take part in the hajj this year according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

As in previous years, Saudi authorities have been at pains to stress that the hajj is a religious event and have sought to prevent its politicisation.

Riyadh insisted its two-year embargo on Doha — which includes restrictions on Qataris travelling to the kingdom — would not affect the pilgrimage.

But hajj official Hassan Qadi acknowledged “very few Qataris have come to Mecca for the pilgrimage”.

Saudi Arabia’s hajj ministry accused Qatar of “politicising the hajj and creating obstacles for Qatari pilgrims,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The scale of the pilgrimage presents vast security and logistical challenges, with tens of thousands of safety officers deployed.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the worst stampede in the gathering’s history.

Man Commits Suicide At Mecca’s Grand Mosque

An aerial view of the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on June 3, 2018. PHOTO: Bandar Al-DANDANI / AFP


A man has committed suicide by throwing himself off the roof of the Grand Mosque in Islam’s holiest city of Mecca, Saudi police said on Saturday.

“A foreigner threw himself from the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca” to the courtyard below, “resulting in his instant death”, state news agency SPA said, quoting police.

The rare act was not the first of its kind to take place in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam — which, like other monotheistic religions, prohibits suicide.

The body was transported to the hospital, with an investigation underway “to determine the victim’s identity, what led to the act and how he was able to commit it despite the existence of a metal fence”, SPA said.

Last year, a Saudi man tried to set himself on fire in front of the Kaaba — the square stone building in the centre of the mosque compound — but was stopped by security forces.

Every year, millions of Muslim pilgrims from across the world travel to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s second holiest site, also in western Saudi Arabia.


Pilgrims Scale Mount Arafat For Peak Of Hajj

Muslim pilgrims walk and pray on Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on the eve of Arafat Day which is the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on August 30, 2017. KARIM SAHIB / AFP

Some two million Muslims from around the world began gathering on Thursday on Mount Arafat for the highlight of the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia dedicated to prayers and reflection.

Helicopters flew around the area as the faithful converged from dawn on the surrounding Mount Arafat plain and the hill known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy.

Dressed in white, the pilgrims could be seen climbing up the sides of the hill and taking up positions to pray on rocks already heated by the morning sun.

On the concrete pathways linking the plain to the hill, they invoked God as they walked with their palms facing the sky.

Others rested in makeshift tents or on sheets along the side of the road amid empty bottles and waste.

The second day of the hajj, a must for all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it is dedicated to prayer and reflection.

Arafat is the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon about 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the pilgrimage.

“I went up last night and prayed, taking pictures and calling my family and friends,” said Maia, 32-year-old from Jakarta.

It was still not even 10:00 am and temperatures were already over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

In a hospital opposite the mountain, an area was set aside for people who suffer in the heat.

“We have deployed 326 ambulances on the pilgrimage route so they can take care of the sick very quickly,” said Meshal Alanazi of the Red Crescent.

In the evening, the pilgrims will travel to Muzdalifa where they will stay the night before taking part in a symbolic stoning of the devil.

The ritual at the Jamarat Bridge was the scene of a stampede in 2015 that claimed the lives of 2,300 pilgrims — the worst disaster in the history of the hajj.

At the foot of Mount Arafat, mobile barriers have been installed to control the movement of the crowds.

“They will be moved to enlarge the passages when there are more pilgrims,” said Ahmed al-Baraka of the Saudi security forces.

The kingdom has deployed more than 100,000 security personnel to keep pilgrims safe at this year’s hajj, according to the interior ministry.


1.4 Million Pilgrims Arrive In Saudi Arabia Before Hajj

File Photo

More than 1.4 million Muslims have so far arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, authorities said on Thursday, with the annual pilgrimage marked by the return of Iranians after Tehran’s boycott last year.

More than two million people are expected to participate in this year’s hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in their lives, which starts next week.

“So far 1,313,946 pilgrims have arrived by air, 79,501 by land, and 12,477 by sea — an increase of 33 percent compared with the same period last year,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, citing passport officials.

That includes more than 400 Qatari pilgrims, local media reported, despite an intensifying row between Doha and Riyadh over arrangements for the religious event.

All Qatari pilgrims arrived through the Salwa border crossing with Qatar.

The hajj has been clouded by the worst political crisis in the Gulf in decades, with Saudi Arabia leading a four-state bloc that suspended all ties with Doha on June 5 over accusations the emirate backed Islamist extremists.

Qatar has denied the charge and said this week it was worried pilgrims from the emirate would be treated badly.

But the Saudi media has repeatedly broadcast images showing officials courteously assisting Qatari pilgrims.

The hajj ministry has said the kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest sites, welcomes all pilgrims from different nationalities.

The ministry added it was equipped to handle the additional crowds after the completion of expansion works at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the most revered site in Islam.
More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year’s hajj.

But Iran’s 64,000 pilgrims stayed away for the first time in three decades after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage.

An agreement was reached earlier this year to allow Iranians to take part in the hajj.

Iran and Saudi Arabia will soon exchange diplomatic visits, Tehran said this week, in a possible sign of tensions easing after the archrivals cut ties last year.


Muslims Gather At Mount Arafat

Mount Arafat, HajjThe annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has reached its climax with 1.5 million Muslims gathering at Mount Arafat to offer day-long prayers and recitations from the Koran.

The pilgrims congregated from sunrise at the site and the vast plain which surrounds it, about 15 kilometres from Mecca.

Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon at this location.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which all Muslims are called upon to perform at least once.

Reports suggest Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, would not deliver the traditional hajj sermon for the first time in 35 years because of health complications.

Iran has boycotted this year’s pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia and Iran do not have diplomatic relations and are at loggerheads over a series of regional issues including the conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

Oil Price Stability: President Buhari To Visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar

VacationPresident Muhammadu Buhari will begin a week-long official visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Monday, February 22, for talks with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and senior officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

High on the agenda of discussions between President Buhari and the Saudi Monarch, is the ongoing efforts by Nigeria and other members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to achieve greater stability in the price of crude oil exports.

In a statement on Sunday the spokesperson for the President said that President Buhari would be accompanied by a high-powered Federal Government delegation. The Minister of State (Petroleum) and Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu will be part of the delegation.

The President will also fly to Riyadyh on Tuesday.

“Crude oil prices and market stability would also be on the front burner when President Buhari goes on to Doha on Saturday for talks with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani,” the statement read.

The President is also scheduled to meet with leading Saudi and Qatari businessmen in Riyadh and Doha, and invite them to support his administration’s efforts to revamp the Nigerian economy by taking advantage of the great investment opportunities currently available in Nigeria’s mining, agriculture, power supply, infrastructure, transportation, communications and other sectors.

President Buhari’s other engagements in Saudi Arabia include meetings with Heads of International Financial Organisations and Multilateral Associations.

Before going on to Doha, the President will also visit Medina and Mecca to pray for greater peace, prosperity and progress in Nigeria.

Hajj Stampede: 99 Nigerians Died, 215 Missing In Mecca – NAHCON

HajjThe National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON has confirmed that 99 Nigerian pilgrims died, 42 were injured and 214 others are missing in the September 24 Hajj stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia.

The agency’s Commissioner, Planning, Research, Statistic Information and Library Service, Dr. Saleh Okenwa, said that the total number of Nigerians affected in the incident is presently 355.

Dr. Okenwa insisted that those missing cannot be declared dead, since identification of those affected were still being collated by the Saudi Arabia health authorities in conjunction with Nigerian and other nations’ health officials.

He went on to give the breakdown of the victims as 73 deaths from the state pilgrims welfare boards, agencies and commissions, while the remaining 26 are from the tour operators.

Hajj Stampede: Iran Death Toll Rises To 464

hajj pilgrims_1Iranian officials have said that the number of its citizens who died in the Hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia last week has reached 464 – nearly double the previous toll.

Authorities also said that there is no longer hope of finding any of the country’s missing pilgrims alive.

According to Saudi officials, 769 people died in the crush in Mina, near Mecca, and 934 were injured.

The Saudis have been criticised over their handling of security and for the slow publication of casualty figures.

Iranian officials alleged that the overall number of deaths is now more than 1,000.

Pakistan, India, and Indonesia have also suggested death toll may be higher than the 769 reported by Saudi Arabia.

The crush occurred as two large groups of pilgrims converged at right angles on the way to taking part in one of the Hajj’s major rites at the Jamarat Pillars.

Iran Calls For Probe Over Hajj Stampede

iran on hajj pilgrimsIran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, has called for an investigation into Thursday’s stampede at the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The incident was the deadliest to hit the Hajj in 25 years, with 769 people dead, more than 130 of them from Iran.

Mr Rouhani described the crush as “heart-rending”. As well as the fatalities, 934 people were injured.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, however, accused the Iranians of playing politics with a tragedy.

Mr Jubeir, who is also in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, said he believes Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that had befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty.

Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric had defended the authorities, saying the stampede was “beyond human control”. King Salman had also ordered a safety review into the disaster.

The crush occurred on Thursday morning as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite.

The pilgrims threw seven stones at pillars called Jamarat, which stood at the place where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.

With temperatures around 46C, two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other at right angles at an intersection close to the five-storey Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a large valley about 5km (3 miles) from Mecca.

It was the second disaster to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.

Sultan Seeks Investigation Of Saudi Stampede

sultan of sokoto on saudi stampedeThe President General of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, has called on the Saudi Arabian Government to investigate the cause of the stampede in which 768 pilgrims died in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the stoning of the devil.

In a statement issued on his behalf by Secretary-General of the JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu, in Kaduna, the Sultan descibed the stampede as ‘one tragedy too many’.

Alhaji Abubakar condoled with the families of the victims of the tragedy, also calling on Muslims never to be deterred by the tragedy, but remain steadfast, despite the challenges confronting them.

While commending the Saudi authorities for the steps they have taken so far to make the Hajj operation a success, the statement maintains that an investigation into the stampede has become necessary to guard against a recurrence.

The incident occurred on Thursday, September 24 on Street 204 of the camp city at Mina, a few kilometers east of Mecca, where pilgrims stay for several days during the climax of the Hajj.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have described the stampede as one that was beyond human control.

Hajj: Gombe Declares Five Pilgrims Missing

PilgrimsFive pilgrims from Gombe State have been declared missing in Saudi Arabia.

The Executive Secretary, Gombe State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Usman Gurama Arabia, said that the pilgrims have not been found since Thursday.

He added that members of the medical team had been checking hospitals and mortuaries with a view to locating them or their remains.

He, however, said that for now, it had not been confirmed whether they were among those who died as a result of Thursday’s incident at the stone throwing venue where over 700 pilgrims died.

Saraki Laments Death Of Hajj Victims

HajjSenate President Dr. Bukola Saraki is saddened over the death of about 717 pilgrims who died, following a stampede at Jamrat in Mina, Saudi Arabia.

Doctor Saraki is asking the Saudi authorities to review the safety rules governing activities around places where the Hajj rites usually take place.

The Senate President says he is pained that such a tragic incident could still occur, despite the safety instructions the Saudi Arabia authorities issued to pilgrims.

In a statement from his media office, the Senate President said, “We are pained. The death of pilgrims who came to worship from different parts of the world is too much for us to bear.

“My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident, and I pray almighty allah to grant aljannah fidaus to souls of all those who lost their lives.

“I also pray for quick recovery for those that sustained injuries during the stampede. May Allah give the families of the victims the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” Saraki stated.

The Senate President also charged the Saudi authorities to organize a comprehensive review and update of the safety rules and security arrangement around the holy places where many pilgrims will always visit at the same time.

He said this was necessary to avoid unnatural disasters like the two that had happened in the last one month.

He also called on the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria to be more proactive in training and orientation of intending pilgrims as, “safety instructions and guide to pilgrims during hajj, particularly in specific areas, will help forestall future occurrence of such human surge and any other form of crises.”

Senator Saraki called on the Saudi authorities to intensify measures to guarantee the overall safety and welfare of pilgrims in future exercises.

“Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it to undertake. Tragic incidents like this may create fear and panic in the minds of prospective pilgrims.”