MINA - Nearly three million white-clad pilgrims continued on Monday, November 7, the symbolic stoning of the devil, in a safe and smooth ritual this year.
"This ritual gives me moral strength," Mokhtar Khan, a 29-year-old who arrived at the site with dozens of fellow Bangladeshis who chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest), told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Right now I feel as though I'm defeating Satan.
The first day of the three-day stoning ritual began Sunday, November 6, the first day of `Eid Al-Adha, at Jamrat Al-Aqaba.
It began after the pilgrims slaughtered sacrificial animals and performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah.
Massive crowds of pilgrims filed along a giant pedestrian bridge that houses the walls in the Mina valley, pelting Jamrat Al-Aqabah.
Pilgrims hurl seven pebbles from behind a fence or from an overhead bridge every day for three days at each of the three 18-meter (58-foot) high concrete pillars symbolizing the devil.
"[I would] feel better once I've stoned Satan, my biggest enemy," another pilgrim, 25-year-old Egyptian Mohammed Husseinin, said.
Satan appeared on the same site to Prophet Abraham, son Isma`il and wife Hagar, who each threw seven stones at the devil.
After the stoning ceremony, the pilgrims go to Makkah for Tawaf Al-Wadaa.
Muslims from around the world pour to Makkah every year to e perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Muslims who perform hajj properly return to their homes having all their sins washed way as promised by Prophet Muhammad.
Installing a multi-level walkway through the site in a bid to avoid stampedes, the Saudi authorities have not reported any major incidents so far this year.
The stoning site has been "developed... (and) movement is more fluid and the organisation is better," said the Bangladeshi Khan, who is on his eighth pilgrimage in his capacity as a member of the hajj organizing committee.
Stampedes of pilgrims were frequent at the Jamarat area in past years.
In 2006, 346 pilgrims were crushed to death at the site.
But for the past three years, pilgrims reformed the ritual safely at the now-complete five-story Jamrat Bridge.
The design of the new high-tech bridge forces all pilgrims to move in one direction and offering numerous exits.
As they pass through the pedestrian bridge to throw stones at three pillars representing Satan, many pilgrims said that anxiety and overcrowding has become a thing of the past.
The new bridge contains a wider column-free interior space and expanded Jamrat pillars many times wider than their pre-2006 predecessors.
Additional ramps and tunnels have been built for easier access, and bottlenecks were engineered out.
The new developments made it easier for a 100-year-old Bengali pilgrim to perform the hard trip of hajj to Makkah.
"The crowds have tired me and as you can see I can't stand properly because of the huge crowds flooding" into the area, Mukhtar al-Rahman told AFP.
Yet, the life-time hajj journey was a dream that took the elderly a century to fulfill.
This is the dream of my life which took a century to come true," he added.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net