On Day 3 of Haj, nearly 1.6 million pilgrims returned to the tent city of Mina from Muzdalifah, on the plains a few kilometers from Mount Arafat, where they spent the night praying and collecting pebbles for the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil.
At the break of dawn, pilgrims started walking into the tent city and headed toward the multistoried Jamarat complex. It was here that they threw seven pea-sized pebbles at Jamarat Al-Aqaba, which is one of the three elliptical-shaped walls representing the devil. Assisted by hundreds of security officials, the ritual was conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Special assistance was provided to elderly women pilgrims.
The ritual symbolizes Prophet Ibrahim’s stoning of the devil that appeared three times to him and to his son, Ismaeel, and tried to dissuade them from carrying out God’s command.
The ritual symbolizes the rejection of evil. It will be repeated for the next two days during which pilgrims will hurl seven pebbles everyday at each of the three walls inside the Jamarat complex.
An endless stream of pilgrims, dressed in the ihram, a two-piece seamless white garment, cried “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is the Greatest) as they hurled pebbles at one of the walls representing the Satan.
There was no respite from the harsh weather as daytime temperatures continued to hover between 40 and 45 degrees Celsius. Once inside the Jamarat complex, pilgrims heaved a sigh of relief in the face of cool draft of air from giant humidifying fans.
Helicopters hovered constantly overhead to monitor the huge crowds with the help of more than thousands of high-tech cameras, all connected to a control room run by top security authorities. The ritual of stoning the devil means different things to different pilgrims. “To me, this ritual means I have finally said goodbye to the temptations of this world,” said Lutfullah Tirmizi, from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Syeda Maimunnisa, from Delhi, India, described it as an act of catharsis. “When I was throwing those pebbles, I was basically sending a clear message to Satan that I have seen through his nefarious designs and that I will no longer be swayed by him,” she said.
Sultan Al-Saeed, a Saudi pilgrim from Hafr Al-Batin, said it was simply a symbolic act of saying no to the worldly temptations. “Haj is all about renouncing and repenting for all that we have done wrong in the past … We now begin a new life, a life of piety, prayers and good conduct,” he said.
Some pilgrims saw in the walls a representations of their immediate enemies.
Fayez Abed, a middle-aged Syrian pilgrim, told AFP that when he was carrying out the stoning ritual, he imagined “those who are slaughtering Muslims.”
Sulaiman Al-Shatri, from Kuwait, said: “These walls represent the enemies of Islam and Muslims, and by throwing these pebbles at the walls, we are expressing our displeasure toward them.”
After the stoning, pilgrims offer sacrificial meat, normally by slaughtering a sheep. At present, however, most of the sacrifices are slaughtered at a number of state-of-the-art abattoirs run by the Islamic Development Bank and the meat is sent to poor countries.
On Wednesday, color will return to Mina with pilgrims donning their traditional best in celebration of the completion of what to them was a journey of faith, a journey of a lifetime.