By Ajape Sefiu A.

After spending the 9th night of Dhul Hijjah at Muzdalifah, pilgrims performed the last major ritual of hajj, the “stoning of the devil”, in western Saudi Arabia, as Muslims all over the world celebrates Eid al-Adha today, Sunday (10th of Dhul Hijjah).

Though the pebbles (stones) for pelting the Jamarat might be collected from anywhere, they are best collected Muzdalifah.

According to the Sunnah, a pilgrim must collect 49 pebbles (stones) to perform the ritual of Rami or the Stoning of Jamarat. The breakdown for collecting stones is as follows:

  • Seven stones for the 10th of Dhul Hijjah
  • Twenty-One stones for the 11th of Dhul Hijjah
  • Twenty-One stones for the 12th of Dhul Hijjah

Moreover, picking an additional 21 pebbles is recommended as an additional, precautionary measure, as you might miss hitting the target, or some might fall.

Although a pilgrim can collect the stones during any time throughout their stay at Muzdalifah, it is sunnah to collect them in the morning.

Here are some tips regarding the collection of the stones:

  • Use your flashlight.
  • Walk towards the foot of the nearby hills to find the stones.
  • Ideally, the pebbles should be the size of a pea; anything exceeding or beneath the size isn’t desirable. However, there is no compulsion.
  • Collect pebbles from a clean place.
  • Do not opt for pebbles that are lying around the washroom facilities.
  • In case there is no filth on the stones, it means they are clean, and so there is no need to wash them. Otherwise, they need to be washed.
  • Use your pebble bag or an empty water bottle to store the pebbles.

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

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

Roads leading to the concrete walls were nevertheless packed early 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.

Earlier 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 hajj, 10 per cent of which were heat stroke, a health ministry spokesman told AFP.

“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 hajj must be performed at least once by all Muslims with the means.

This year’s figure of 1.8 million pilgrims is similar to last year’s, and Saudi authorities said on Saturday that 1.6 million of them came from abroad.


Feast of the sacrifice 

The stoning ritual coincides with Eid al-Adha, or the feast of the sacrifice, which honours Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son before God offered a sheep instead.

Worshippers typically slaughter a ram and offer part of the meat to the needy.

This year’s hajj and Eid al-Adha holiday have been clouded by the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“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.

King Salman invited 2,000 Palestinians to the hajj at his own expense including relatives of Gazans 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.

“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.

In a message to hajj 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”.