Haj pilgrims stone the devil as Muslims in parts of world mark Eidul Azha

Published June 16, 2024
Muslim pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual as part of the haj pilgrimage in Mina, near Makkah, on June 16, 2024. — AFP
Muslim pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual as part of the haj pilgrimage in Mina, near Makkah, on June 16, 2024. — AFP
Pilgrims offer Eidul Azha prayers at the Holy Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on June 16. — DawnNewsTV
Pilgrims offer Eidul Azha prayers at the Holy Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on June 16. — DawnNewsTV

Pilgrims perform the last major ritual of the haj, the stoning of the devil, in western Saudi Arabia on Sunday, as Muslims in parts of the world celebrate Eidul Azha.

In Pakistan, Eidul Azha will be observed tomorrow.

Beginning at dawn, the 1.8 million Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage this year will throw seven stones at each of three concrete walls symbolising the devil in the Mina valley, located outside Makkah, the holiest city in Islam.

The ritual commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s stoning of the devil at the three spots where it is said Satan tried to dissuade him from obeying God’s order to sacrifice his son.

The stoning has been witness to multiple stampedes over the years, most recently in 2015 when up to 2,300 worshippers were killed in the worst haj disaster.

The site has been revamped since then to streamline the movement of the large crowds.

 Pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual as part of the haj pilgrimage in Mina, near Makkah, on June 16, 2024. — AFP
Pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual as part of the haj pilgrimage in Mina, near Makkah, on June 16, 2024. — AFP

Roads leading to the concrete walls were nevertheless packed early on Sunday, with some pilgrims visibly struggling under the morning sun. Some sat on the side of the road to rest and drink water, while others stretched out on the ground, apparently exhausted.

On Saturday, temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Arafat, where pilgrims performed hours of outdoor prayers. One treatment centre in the area recorded 225 cases of heat stress and fatigue, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

That figure was not comprehensive. Last year more than 10,000 cases of heat-related illnesses were documented during the haj, 10 per cent of which were heat stroke, a health ministry spokesman told AFP.

On Saturday night, pilgrims collected stones and slept under the stars in the plain of Muzdalifah, located halfway between Mina and Arafat, where they had spent the day praying outside in the heat.

“It was very, very hot,” Rohy Daiseca, a 60-year-old Gambian living in the United States, told AFP on Saturday night as pilgrims collected stones to throw.

“Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), I put a lot of water on my head and it was OK.”

Worshippers have tried to take the gruelling conditions in stride, seizing what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pray at Islam’s holiest shrines.

“I am so happy that I can’t describe my feelings,” said Amal Mahrouss, a 55-year-old woman from Egypt. “This place shows us that we are all equal, that there are no differences between Muslims around the world.”

One of the five pillars of Islam, the haj must be performed at least once by all Muslims with the means. This year’s figure of 1.8m pilgrims is similar to last year’s, and Saudi authorities said on Saturday that 1.6m of them came from abroad.

Feast of the sacrifice

The stoning coincides with Eidul Azha, which honours Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son before Allah offered a sheep instead.

People in various parts of the world celebrated the first day of Eidul Azha today, in accordance with the lunar calendar.

Photos by AFP and Reuters showed worshippers across the Middle East — including in Jerusalem, Gaza, Turkiye, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait — gathering in mosques to perform the morning prayers.

Other countries where the Muslim community was observing Eidul Azha included France, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Netherlands and the Philippines, pictures showed.

This year’s haj and Eidul Azha have been clouded by Israel’s eight-month-long military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza strip.

 Palestinians hold Eid al-Adha prayers by the ruins of the Al-Rahma mosque destroyed by Israeli air strikes, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 16, 2024. — AFP
Palestinians hold Eid al-Adha prayers by the ruins of the Al-Rahma mosque destroyed by Israeli air strikes, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 16, 2024. — AFP

In Jordan, demonstrators gathered at a pro-Palestine protest after the Eid prayers while in Lebanon, youth were seen collecting donations during a campaign organised by Hamas.

 Demonstrators gather during a protest after Eidul Azha prayers in support of Palestinians in Gaza, outside Al Kalouti mosque near the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan on June 16, 2024. — Reuters
Demonstrators gather during a protest after Eidul Azha prayers in support of Palestinians in Gaza, outside Al Kalouti mosque near the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan on June 16, 2024. — Reuters

“We don’t feel the Eid holiday because our brothers in Gaza are oppressed under the (Israeli) occupation,” said Najem Nawwar, a 43-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

“We are very sad for the Palestinians, and we have prayed a lot for them,” said Intissar, a 25-year-old Syrian living in Saudi Arabia, who declined to give her surname.

“We pray for them… and for the liberation of Palestine, so that we have two holidays instead of one,” said Wadih Ali Khalifah, a 32-year-old Saudi pilgrim.

Pictures showed Palestinians in Gaza offering morning Eid prayers amid rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli bombardment. Some Palestinians visited the graves of their relatives killed in the ongoing conflict.

 A Palestinian girl visits the grave of a relative killed in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at a makeshift cemetery in the eastern al-Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza City, on June 16, 2024. — AFP
A Palestinian girl visits the grave of a relative killed in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at a makeshift cemetery in the eastern al-Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza City, on June 16, 2024. — AFP

King Salman invited 2,000 Palestinians to the haj at his own expense, half of whom are family members of victims in Gaza who have sought refuge elsewhere.

But Saudi authorities have warned no political slogans would be tolerated during the pilgrimage. That has not stopped many worshippers from voicing solidarity with Palestinians.

“Pray for our brothers in Palestine, in Gaza… may God give victory to the Muslims,” one pilgrim shouted on Mount Arafat on Saturday.

In a message to haj pilgrims on Saturday, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “the ironclad resistance of Palestine and the patient, oppressed people of Gaza… must be fully supported in every way”.

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