Notwithstanding the tragic crane crash early this month, another stampede today left 220 pilgrims killed at the “Stoning of the Devil” or “ramī aj-jamarāt” ritual on the last day of Muslim pilgrimage Hajj 2015 on Thursday, which coincided with Eid al-adah festival too.
The “stoning of the Devil” with jamarāt or pebbles is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia that falls on the last day of Hajj and the most dangerous day.
As per the ritual, on Eid al-Adha festival which falls on the last day of Hajj, pilgrims follow a ritual of stone throwing at one of the large ‘jamrah’ (devil pillar) with seven pebbles. After the stoning is completed on the day of Eid, every pilgrim must cut or shave their hair and on each of the following two days, they must repeat the ritual going in order from east to west.
While, 49 pebbles are needed for the ritual, more may be need if some of them miss the target. Some pilgrims stay at Mina for an additional day, in which case they must again stone each wall seven times. Pilgrims gather stones from the plains southeast of Mina, on the night before the first throwing and wait in anxiety to undertake the ritual.
In fact, all the past tragedies in Hajj were due to stampedes during this ritual and after the deadly 2006 stampede that left 364 pilgrims dead, though Saudi Arabian authorities have replaced the pillars with a pedestrian bridge and 26-metre long walls for safety.
However, managing the crowd on the last day remained a challenging task for Saudi Arabia as the tradition calls for stoning immeidately after the noon prayer. Though some scholars believe that it can be done till the day’s evening, many Muslims are taught that it should be done immediately after the noon prayer. Hence, many of them camp outside until noon and rush out after noon prayers to stone the Devil. Hence, the stampede.
Nearly 2 million pilgrims pay Hajj every year and this year 1.37 million people have visited Mecca for the Hajj.