EXPLAINER: Historic, symbolic significance behind ‘stoning the devil’ at Hajj

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The stoning of the devil at the Islamic pilgrimage refers to Prophet Abraham’s attempt to repel the devil from slaughtering his son Ishmael. Abraham threw seven stones in the same place where the pilgrims do nowadays.

The rite became a Hajj ritual due to Prophet Mohammed who when he performed the farewell pilgrimage, he threw seven stones there after the noon prayers. While performing the rites, he said: “Take your rites from me.”

During the ritual, Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls.

The pebbles used in the stoning are traditionally gathered at Muzdalifah, a plain southeast of Mina, on the night before the first throwing.

On Eid al-Adha (the 10th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah), pilgrims must strike only one of the three jamraat; specifically, the larger one; with seven pebbles.

The days of stoning the devil are four. The first day they stone the devil is on the first day of Eid al-Adha. Then for the next three days, they symbolically stone the devil again.

The ritual of stoning the devil has over the decades witnessed some changes to facilitate its performance. The Jamaraat Bridge is linked to the pilgrims’ camp on the foothills of the Mina Mountain, and it has 11 entrances and 12 exits to reduce crowded areas. Its foundation is subject to expansion to 12 floors.

While pilgrims perform the ritual, surveillance cameras monitor the pilgrims’ flow to help the organizers on the ground, detect health issues and provide medical services. In order to deal with emergency cases, the bridge was equipped with a helicopter landing pad. During hot days, the bridge’s cooling system operates via desert air conditioners and channels that spray water on pilgrims.