Stoning of the Devil
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The Stoning of the Devil (Arabic: رمي الجمرات ramī aj-jamarāt, meaning "Stoning of the jamarāt [walls]") is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Muslim pilgrims fling pebbles at three walls, called jamarāt, in the city of Mina just east of Mecca. It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj.
On the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah (Eid al-Adha), pilgrims must strike only one of the large jamrah with seven pebbles. After the stoning is completed on the day of Eid, every pilgrim must cut or shave their hair. On each of the following two days, they must hit each of the three walls with seven pebbles, going in order from east to west. Thus at least 49 pebbles are needed for the ritual, more if some throws miss. Some pilgrims stay at Mina for an additional day, in which case they must again stone each wall seven times makes 70 pebbles. The pebbles used in the stoning are traditionally gathered at Muzdalifah, a plain southeast of Mina, on the night before the first throwing, but can also be collected at Mina.
Replacement of the pillars
Until 2004, the three jamarāt (singular: jamrah) were tall pillars. After the 2004 Hajj, Saudi authorities replaced the pillars with 26 m (85 ft) long walls for safety; many people were accidentally throwing pebbles at people on the other side. To allow easier access to the jamarāt, a single-tiered pedestrian bridge called the Jamaraat Bridge was built around them, allowing pilgrims to throw stones from either ground level or from the bridge.
The jamarāt are named (starting from the east) the first or smallest jamrah (Arabic: aj-jamrah al-'ūlā or aj-jamrah aṣ-ṣughrā), the middle jamrah (aj-jamrah al-wusṭā), and the largest jamrah or Jamrah of Aqaba (aj-jamrah al-kubrā or jamrat al-caqaba). Before 2004، the distance between the small and middle jamarāt was 150 m (490 ft); between the middle and large jamarāt it was 225 m (738 ft).
Historical and spiritual significance
- "When he [Abraham] left Mina and was brought down to (the defile called) al-Aqaba, the Devil appeared to him at Stone-Heap of the Defile. Gabriel said to him: "stone him!" so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Middle Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: "Pelt him!" so he pelted him with seven stones so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Little Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: "Pelt him!" so he pelted him with seven stones like the little stones for throwing with a sling. So the Devil withdrew from him."
All three jamarāt represent the devil: the first and largest represents his temptation of Abraham against sacrificing Ishmael (Ismāʿīl); the second represents the temptation of Abraham's wife Hājar to induce her to stop him; the third represents his temptation of Ishmael to avoid being sacrificed. He was rebuked each time, and the throwing of the stones symbolizes those rebukes.
The stoning of the jamarāt also represents the repudiation of man's self (literally the "internal despot," an-nafs al-'amāra) and the act of casting aside one's low desires and wishes. As one Islamic theologian states:
- "If one is able to crush al‑nafs al‑'amāra during the stoning of Jamrat al‑ʿAqaba (the Jamrah of Aqaba), then one has taken the next step in attaining closeness to Allah, and since between the servant and Allah there is no more than the distance of one step, if one has been able to take this step and make it past one's own low desires and wishes, then that which follows is the level of closeness to Allah.
- "During those two or three days after the Eid that one is in Mina, one must stone the three jamarāt, meaning that one must trample upon his internal despot (an-nafs al-'amāra), the external despot of the Shaitan from the Jinn (Iblīs and those like him), and the Shayṭān from among the Humans (the enemies of religion and of humanity).
- "The stoning of the three jamarāt is, in essence, the trampling upon the despots and waging war against all of them. When one focuses on them and the hatred for them, then one automatically focuses with complete attention upon one's self – and rightfully so – while stoning the jamarāt, one must focus entirely upon one's self.
The Stoning of the Devil ritual is considered the most dangerous part of the pilgrimage, as sudden crowd movements on or near the Jamaraat Bridge can cause people to be crushed. On several occasions, hundreds of participants have suffocated or been trampled to death in stampedes.
An important step in managing crowds is the recent replacement of the jamarāt pillars by walls to ease and speed up the stoning. The bridge has also been widened in recent years to accommodate the ever-growing number of pilgrims who perform the Hajj each year.
Crowd conditions are especially difficult during the final day of Hajj, which is the day pilgrims leave the valley of Mina and return to Mecca for the farewell Tawaf (the final circumambulation of the Kaaba). According to hadith, Muhammad's last stoning was performed just after the noon prayer. Many scholars feel that the ritual can be done any time between noon and sunset on this day; however, many Muslims are taught that it should be done immediately after the noon prayer. This leads to people camping out until noon and rushing out then to do the stoning.
These two factors are felt to be most responsible for the most recent tragedy during the Hajj of 2006, in which a stampede killed at least 346 pilgrims and injured at least 289 more. This was despite several attempts by the authorities to inform pilgrims about the permissibility of staggering their visits to the jamarāt as well as instructing them to leave their luggage at their tents. Adding to the confusion involved in the tragedy is the lack of co-operation on the part of pilgrims who do not leave the jamarāt area by the proper route, and therefore interfere with the movements of others who are arriving.
- Muhammad H. Al-Haboubi, "A New Layout Design for the Jamarat Area (Stoning the Devil)," The Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering, Volume 28, Number 2B (October 2003).
- F.E. Peters, A Reader on Classical Islam, Princeton University Press, 1994 (ISBN 0-691-03394-3)
- Ayatollah al Hajj ash‑Shaikh Husain Mazaheri, Secret of the Hajj.