Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pilgrims Stone Satan at Jamrat Bridge With Ease
Arab News Team
MINA, 31 December 2006 — More than two million pilgrims stoned the Jamrat Al-Aqaba, one of the three walls representing Satan, without incidents yesterday.

The smooth organization was thanks largely to the renovation of the bridge that has been expanded to increase capacity.

Masses of faithful, still clad in the white ihram garb, completed the largest human movement on earth and flocked to Mina. They came from Muzdalifah, a few kilometers from the plains of Arafat, where they spent the night praying and collecting 70 pea-sized pebbles for the stoning of the devil.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan, deputy prime minister and minister of defense and aviation, yesterday wished a happy Eid Al-Adha to the citizens, pilgrims and all Muslims.

The message read out by Minister of Culture and Information Iyad Madani on Saudi radio and television said: “Dear brothers and sisters, we wish all blessings and well-being for all of you, your country and your nation. May Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings descend upon you. We praise Almighty Allah for enabling hundreds of thousand of Muslims to perform Haj this year, gathering here from all corners of the world, surpassing race, color, gender and language and reflecting brotherhood and equality.”

On the roads to Jamrat, hundreds of security officers prevented people from sitting on the sides. They did not allow the pilgrims to carry their baggage with them. In the past this excess baggage turned out to be death traps, hindering the smooth flow of pilgrims.

Arab News journalists observed pilgrims attempting to move in the opposite direction of the pedestrian traffic flow but their attempts were foiled by the security forces.

Ahmad Al-Salank, an Egyptian working in Mina, said he has performed Haj for five consecutive years.

“This year, it is very well-organized. Hats off to the Saudi authorities.” He added: “Last year I was at the same place at the same time, I can tell you truthfully it is much smoother stoning this year.”

Yahyia Abdullah, a Yemeni who has performed Haj a number of times, said: “Shaded pedestrian corridors and passages leading in and out of Jamrat go only one way, while last year it was a two-way traffic lane.”

Hasa Faez, a 47-year-old Kuwaiti performing his second Haj, said organization is much better this year. “They’ve done a good job,” he said. “The whole Ummah needs to applaud them.”

Among the first to stone the devil was Ali Al-Shammary, a Kuwaiti. “Three million people walking in one direction... It was incredible,” he said. “This is the way to follow. If we can choose one direction here we should choose one direction in worldly affairs, too.”

Shazia Rahman from the UK was relieved beyond words. “I am happy that I could complete this important ritual with ease.”

Asked what was she thinking when she was stoning the devil, she said, “This is what our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, has done and this is what he has asked us to do... We are bound by his words. And there is no greater pleasure than following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad.” Mariam Bandung, an Indonesian woman who stoned the devil along with her husband, said: “I was doubtful about accomplishing this particular ritual... I had a choice of letting my husband perform this task for me. But then I mustered enough courage at the last minute and am very happy that I did it... I stoned the Satan with all my might.” She was all praise for the Saudi authorities for the new high-tech bridge. “This is marvelous,” she said. “I prayed for the well-being of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and all citizens of Saudi Arabia. Thank you all.”

Another woman, Shireen Niazi from Karachi, was ecstatic after stoning the devil. “All this is symbolic... In essence it means that we have finally said goodbye to the world of vices... It is a symbolic victory of an individual over the corrupting influence of Satan,” she said.

M. Kushaf from Kampala, Uganda, who is performing the pilgrimage along with a large group, said Haj required mental preparation. “Pilgrims should be encouraged to familiarize themselves with all aspects of Haj, memorizing and learning the meaning of the prayers involved, which are recited in Arabic,” he said.

“The more you know about Haj and its obligations and prohibitions the more comfortable and at peace you will feel during the whole process.”

According to him, overcoming the stresses of Haj is a metaphor for what must be done in life. “The aim is to always seek the peace of Allah,” he said. “It teaches us that all of life is a spiritual quest.”

The stoning of the devil evoked passion among some pilgrims. They were seen throwing rocks, shouting insults or hurling their shoes at the wall.

After the stoning, pilgrims offered sacrifices, usually by slaughtering a sheep. Most sacrifices are done at a number of abattoirs run by the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the meat is sent to poor countries.

— With inputs from Zainy Abbas, Galal Fakkar, Siraj Wahab, Syed Faisal Ali and Samir Al-Saadi

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