Pilgrims Perform Symbolic Stoning in Saudi Arabia

On Sunday, masses of pilgrims embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. This ritual marks the final days of the Hajj pilgrimage and the beginning of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims worldwide.

Among the final rites of the Hajj, the stoning ritual is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It took place a day after over 1.8 million pilgrims gathered on a sacred hill at Mount Arafat outside the holy city of Mecca, a key site for the annual five-day rituals of Hajj.

Saturday evening saw the pilgrims leaving Mount Arafat to spend the night at Muzdalifa, a nearby site where they collected pebbles for the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil.

At another sacred place in Mecca called Mina, Muslims believe Ibrahim’s faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son Ismail. Ibrahim was ready to obey, but God spared his son at the last moment. In the Christian and Jewish versions of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill his other son, Isaac.

Over the next three days, pilgrims will stay in Mina, walking long distances on pedestrian-only streets to a multi-story complex housing large pillars. Here, they cast seven pebbles each at three pillars in a ritual meant to symbolize the rejection of evil and sin.

During their stay in Mina, they will visit Mecca to perform “tawaf,” the circumambulation of the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, circling it counterclockwise seven times. Another circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf, will be performed at the end of Hajj as they prepare to leave the holy city.

Coinciding with the four-day Eid al-Adha, which means “Feast of Sacrifice,” Muslims with the financial means commemorate Ibrahim’s test of faith by slaughtering livestock and distributing the meat to the poor.

After the Hajj, men are expected to shave their heads and remove the shroud-like white garments worn during the pilgrimage, while women snip a lock of hair as a sign of renewal and rebirth.

Following the pilgrimage, most pilgrims travel to the city of Medina, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray at Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. This tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Muslims are required to make the Hajj once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so. Many wealthy Muslims undertake the pilgrimage more than once. The rituals largely commemorate the accounts of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail, Ismail’s mother Hajar, and Prophet Muhammad, according to the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

In 2024, over 1.83 million Muslims performed Hajj, according to Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq bin Fawzan al-Rabiah, slightly fewer than the 1.84 million pilgrims the previous year.

Most of the Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little if any shade. Scheduled for the second week of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar, the pilgrimage’s timing varies each year. This year, it coincided with the scorching summer of Saudi Arabia, with temperatures reaching 47 C (116.6 F) at Mount Arafat on Saturday.

Taking place amid the devastating Israel-Hamas war, this year’s Hajj occurs against the backdrop of escalating regional tensions in the Middle East.

Due to the closure of the Rafah crossing in May, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were unable to travel to Mecca for Hajj this year, and they will not be able to celebrate Eid al-Adha as they did in previous years.

Adding to the region’s turmoil, the conflict between rival generals in Sudan has continued unabated for 14 months, killing thousands and creating the world’s largest displacement crisis with over 10 million forced to flee their homes.

Leave a Comment

Related Articles

English News

Facebook Feed

Our YouTube Channel