Mina (Saudi Arabia): Nearly three million
Muslim pilgrims were performing the final rituals of the Hajj
on Tuesday as the world`s largest annual gathering neared its close
without major incident.
The most dangerous rite of the annual Hajj proceeded
peacefully as pilgrims rushed to throw 21 stones at pillars
that symbolise the devil in the village of Mina, the last rite
of the annual pilgrimage.
In previous years, hundreds of people have been trampled
to death in stampedes triggered by crowds trying to get close
to the pillars to take their vengeance on the symbol of the
To complete the ritual, pilgrims must stone the three
pillars said to symbolise the devil, also referred to as
Ibleess by Muslims. The largest of the pillars is Jamrat
al-Aqaba, at 30 metres.
The ritual is an emulation of Ibrahim`s stoning of the
devil at the three spots where he is said to have appeared
trying to dissuade the biblical patriarch from obeying God`s
order to sacrifice his son, Ishmael.
Pilgrims then make their way to Mecca`s Great Mosque for a
"farewell visit" to the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure into
which is set the Black Stone, Islam`s most sacred relic.
Pilgrims who are in a hurry will leave today, after they
finish their stoning rituals and the farewell circumambulation
of the Kaaba. Others stay for a further day.
Saudi authorities have installed a multi-level walkway
through the stone-throwing site in a bid to avoid the
trampling that caused the deaths of 364 people in 2006, 251 in
2004 and 1,426 in 1990.