By Mohamed al-Rayes
MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AA) – More than two million Muslims on Thursday continued throwing stones at a symbolic representation of the devil as part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage now underway in Saudi Arabia.
The final ritual of the Hajj, the “Great Jamara” — in which pilgrims throw seven stones at a wall representing Satan — is intended to remind Muslims of the devil’s persistent efforts to lead the faithful astray.
According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Ibrahim was the first to perform the ritual after the devil tried to incite him to disobey Allah.
According to the Saudi authorities, more than 2.37 million pilgrims are taking part in this year’s pilgrimage, some 1.75 million of whom have come from overseas.
The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia is a religious obligation for Muslims, who must make the journey — if financially feasible — at least once in their lives.
Considered the fifth “pillar” of Islam, the Hajj is intended to demonstrate the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to Allah.
While the Hajj is generally associated with Islam’s final prophet, Muhammad, who lived in the seventh century, Muslims believe that the pilgrimage to Mecca dates back thousands of years to pre-Islamic times.
The pilgrimage takes place every year from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar.
On these five days, Muslim pilgrims converge on Mecca, where they circumambulate the Kaaba seven times; run between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah; drink water from the sacred Well of Zamzam; stand vigil on the plains of Mount Arafat; and, lastly, throw stones at the devil.
Pilgrims then cut their hair and sacrifice an animal — meat from which is traditionally distributed to the poor — before celebrating the Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of the Sacrifice”.
Because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the date of the Hajj changes each year on western calendars.