Pilgrims stone the ‘devil’

MINA, Saudi Arabia — A human tide of pilgrims carrying bags of pebbles descended on the Mina valley on Tuesday to symbolically stone Satan on the third day of the Haj, as Muslims worldwide marked the Eid al-Adha festival with animal sacrifices.

By (AFP)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Tue 16 Nov 2010, 6:45 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:03 PM

Small pebbles whizzed above heads as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims rushed to stone Jamarat al-Aqaba, at 30 metres (100 feet) the longest of three walls said to symbolise the devil, also referred to as Ibleess by Muslims.

Some two million pilgrims taking part in this year’s hajj, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage, had overnight arrived at Mina, a tent town in western Saudi Arabia that comes to life five days a year, after returning from rituals marking the peak of the Haj at nearby Mount Arafat on Monday.

“We are expelling the devil from our minds,” said Jordanian Marwan Mashah, after throwing seven pebbles at the stone structure.

Elderly Mohammed Othman, from Egypt, enthusiastically hurled the seven pebbles he had in his pouch, then picked stones from around him and threw them also.

“I missed the wall with some pebbles,” he explained. “I felt I was in an attack on Ibleess.”

Stoning has in the past been marked by deadly stampedes but the Saudi authorities have now revamped the area, expanding the stoning path into a multi-storey bridge.

The structure, which resembles a parking lot sits in the middle of a barren valley surrounded by arid rocky hills, aims to prevent the type of trampling that caused the deaths of 364 people in 2006, 251 in 2004 and 1,426 in 1990.

The endless flood of white-robed pilgrims was directed Tuesday onto various levels by police, who made sure all moved in one direction only and that no one stayed too long at the site. Those taking a seat were hastily moved on.

At the fifth level of the bridge — the highest — the crowded entry point eases onto a wide bridge where pilgrims can more easily carry out the stoning rituals, which mark defiance of the devil.

At the exit of the bridge, men who had finished the stoning sat on the pavement shaving each others heads, or just having a trim. Women cut a finger-tip length of their hair.

After the stoning, pilgrims perform the ritual of sacrificing an animal, usually a lamb, as the third day of hajj also marks the Muslim major feast, Eid al-Adha.

The sacrifice is a prophetic tradition, but not a must according to several schools of Islamic thought.

Many pilgrims perform the sacrifice now through special bodies that take care of slaughtering animals and distributing the meat to needy Muslims worldwide.

The ritual is carried out across the Muslim world with devotees in Bangladesh expected to slaughter a record 15 million animals this Eid.

Those in Pakistan, however, will slaughter far fewer animals this year as cattle and sheep prices have soared in the wake of the country’s deadly floods.

In the impoverished Gaza Strip, Palestinians have been hard hit by an Israeli blockade which has affected employment and plunged many families into dire economic straits, leaving little spare cash for the four-day holiday.

The sacrificial rite honours Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s order before he was forestalled with a lamb, according to Islamic tradition.

After the first stoning rituals, pilgrims head to Mecca, some five kilometres (three miles) west of Mina, to perform Tawaf, or circumambulation of the Kaaba seven times.

The cube-shaped Kaaba stone structure, in whose direction all Muslims worldwide face when they pray, is situated within the site of the sacred Grand Mosque.

After Tawaf, pilgrims return to Mina and end their Ihram, by which they can change into their normal clothes. In Mina, they perform stoning at three spots over two more days.

According to tradition, the devil appeared to Abraham at those three sites trying to dissuade him from obeying God’s orders, to which Abraham responded by stoning Ibleess.

No major incidents have been registered so far. The Haj ends on Friday.

More news from