Published: Nov 6, 2011 23:40 Updated: Nov 6, 2011 23:40
MINA: Nearly 3 million pilgrims chanting “Labbaik” stoned the devil in a symbolic rejection of temptation after streaming into the sprawling Jamarat Complex on Sunday.
The first day of the four-day ritual passed off in a very organized and smooth manner.
The Department of General Statistics and Information said on Sunday that there was a 5 percent increase in the number of pilgrims this year compared to last year.
The authorities had reported earlier that the number of foreign pilgrims hit record high this year reaching 1.83 million. The total number of pilgrrims this year reached 2,927,717 compared to 2,789,399 last year.
Tension and anxiety was not seen on the faces of pilgrims who had completed what has been considered the most strenuous of Haj rites. Pilgrims were happy with the spacious new Jamarat Complex. They all said in one voice that after the opening of all floors of the new Jamarat Bridge, crowding has become a thing of the past.
Qatari pilgrim Suleiman Al-Fatih said: “This is my first Haj and I completed all the rituals with ease and without any trouble. This is really unbelievable that 3 million people performed the ritual without any incident whatsoever. The Jamarat Complex is just amazing.”
“It went super-perfect,” said Pakistani businessman Nayab Gohar, a longtime resident of Jeddah.
“The arrangements were excellent,” he told Arab News after completing the stoning ritual. “We were particularly touched by one young Saudi who went out of his way to help us and other pilgrims while we were coming back to Mina from Muzdalifah.”
Shafiqul Islam, senior vice president at Bangladesh's Shahjalal Islamic Bank, was excited after completing the stoning ritual. “This is only symbolic but it carries a huge meaning in our lives,” he told Arab News on the way back to his camp in Mina's Souk Al-Arab Street. “When we are throwing those stones, we are actually taking a vow to start a new life, a life of purity and austerity.”
He called it a cathartic experience. “All our lives we have been led astray by satan, and today we want him to know that we have embarked on the path of virtue and piety, the path shown by our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We have taken a resolve to turn him away at every direction, and we will,” Shafiqul Islam added.
“By the grace of the Almighty the stoning was peaceful and smooth and everybody is safe and sound. What more can we expect?” said Sami Al-Qarni from Oman.
The pilgrims hurled pebbles at the huge pillar known as Jamrat Al-Kubra (big Satan) on Sunday. The ritual will continue for another three days with pilgrims hurling seven pebbles each at all three pillars symbolizing satan. The last day of stoning is voluntary as pilgrims are free to leave Mina before sunset on the third day of stoning.
A large number of vigilant and cooperating security personnel monitored pilgrims during the stoning and guided them into the right direction.
Male pilgrims in the two-piece seamless white robes worn during the Haj and women covered head to foot except for their hands and faces chanted “God is great” while casting the pebbles.
“This ritual gives me moral strength. Right now I feel as though I'm defeating satan,” said Rahimuddin Yar Khan, a Pakistani.
“Hurry up, pilgrims,” security officials called out through loudspeakers, to prevent crowds from building up next to the pillars.
Afterward, pilgrims shaved their heads or trimmed their hair.
Sunday also marked the start of Eid Al-Adha.
“Thank God that we are doing Haj this year. May God protect all Arab and Islamic countries and peace and stability is restored in the region,” said Mona Abu Dawood, a young Saudi.
Another pilgrim, Jordanian Qadir Al-Zarqawi, felt better and satisfied after stoning the satan.
“The Jamarat Complex has been designed and built in such a way that movement is more fluid and the organization is better,” said Asif Ahmad, an Indian.
For another Indian pilgrim, Ayaz Qureshi, the stoning ritual symbolizes the rejection of all enemies of Islam.
“When I was throwing those stones, I had in my mind the modern-day Pharaohs who have created mayhem in the Muslim world,” he said. “Since we Muslims feel helpless, this ritual has a calming effect on us. We may not be able to stop the juggernaut of anti-Islam forces, but we can and we should be able to differentiate between our friends and our enemies. Those I remembered while stoning the devil ritual were our enemies and I need not elaborate.”
Nearly 1.83 million pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom from abroad, marking a 1.5 percent increase from last year, said Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. Several hundred thousand Saudis and foreign residents in the Kingdom were also granted permits to join them, he added.