JEDDAH – Over two million Muslims pilgrims from around the world took part in the symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia on Friday, with tight security measures in place two years after a deadly stampede.
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The ritual at the Jamarat Bridge in Mina near Makkah marks the final major rite of the Haj.
The stampede in Mina in 2015 claimed the lives of 2,300 people ─ the worst disaster in the history of Haj.
Saudi Arabia says it has deployed more than 100,000 security personnel to keep pilgrims safe this year.
Walking on Mina’s winding streets, pilgrims headed to the Jamarat with the help of volunteers and security officials who provided directions to those who got lost in their way and cooling them with water to make their journey more comfortable to the vast multi-storied complex north of the tented city.
Inside the cooled and spacious Jamarat building, pilgrims took part in the ‘stoning of Satan’ ritual, where they threw pebbles at the largest of three pillars called Aqaba, symbolizing the devil. Pilgrims spread across the length of the elliptical-shaped pillar and hurled stones in an orderly manner.
Male pilgrims clad in Ihram, a two-piece seamless white garment, were also seen having their heads shaved, another important rite of the pilgrimage.
For the next three days, pilgrims will be sleeping in Mina to complete their pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reviewed security arrangements from Mina on Thursday evening, while Makkah Governor Khalid Al-Faisal said the Arafat phase of the Hajj was a success.
The stoning ritual marks the first day of Eidul Azha, or the feast of sacrifice, which commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Hujjaj will then sacrifice animals, shave their heads and then leave for Makkah to perform Tawaf Al-Ifada and Sai’, two other pillars of Hajj.
In the remaining days of Hajj, Hujjaj will stay in Mina and the only ritual to perform is stoning at each of the three Jamarat in Mina.
The vast plains of Arafat were soaked with tears of millions of repenting pilgrims and the air reverberated with their prayers at the spiritual climax of Hajj on Thursday.