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Stoning Pillars During Hajj: Did Devils Turn into Stone?

Questioner

Safwaan

Reply Date

Aug 03, 2019

Question

Assalamu-Alaikum. I just got a few questions about things I do not understand. Insha-Allah the team at Reading Islam will hopefully help me understand: 1- When prophet Abraham threw Satan with stones, the devils turned into stone. Please tell me why they are pillars. 2- In an exegesis of the Quran, Ibn Kathir narrates a hadith stating that everything is made of water. Please explain.

Consultant

Answer


Stoning Pillars

Short Answer: Prophet Abraham did not yield to Satan’s temptation. He chose his love for God over his love for Ismail. So he decided to obey God’s commandment and sacrifice Ismail. The “jamarat” are not the devils. They are only symbolic representations of the Devil, one may say, dwelling within ourselves. When we throw stones at the stone pillars, we ought to know that by this act, we drive away the devil from our own hearts.

_____________________________________

Salam Dear Safwaan,

Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Throwing pebbles at the three stone pillars in Mina is a ritual of the pilgrimage (Hajj); and it is based on a historical event from the life of Prophet Abraham (in Arabic, Ibrahim).

We read in the Quran how God Almighty (in Arabic, Allah) granted the prayer of Abraham (peace be upon him) for the gift of a virtuous son:

{O my Lord! Grant me a righteous son!” “So we gave him the good news of a forbearing boy} (As-Saffat 37:100-101)

As far as Prophet Abraham is concerned, the boy, Ismail (peace be upon him) was not like any son for a father.

He was the promise of future generations, and in a sense, he was the whole world for Prophet Abraham. But later, God Almighty sent Prophet Abraham a vision in which he was commanded to slaughter his only son.

Prophet Abraham was in the travails of the terrible dilemma before him. Only after the third vision did he finally decide to carry out God’s command. This is reflected in the Hajj ritual of stoning the three idols representing Satan who tempted Prophet Abraham to disobey God.

Satan works wherever he finds weakness, doubt and despair; and he would come forward with justifications to persuade us to shun our duty.

But Prophet Abraham did not yield to the temptation. He chose his love for God over his love for Ismail. He decided to obey God’s commandment and sacrifice Ismail.

When Prophet Abraham and Ismail were ready for the sacrifice, God told Prophet Abraham:

{O Ibrahim! you have confirmed the vision. Thus, indeed do We reward those who do right. This is indeed the manifest trial!} (As-Saffat 37:104-105)

God commanded the prophets, as well as their followers, to commemorate this monumental sacrifice by performing a ritual sacrifice of an animal during Hajj. And an important part of hajj is the ritual of the stoning of devil at the three stone pillars.

There is no authenticity for the idea that when Prophet Abraham threw stones at the Devil, the devil turned into stones. The three pillars called “jamarat” placed at Mina for the hajj ritual were constructed recently. The “jamarat” are not the devils.

They are only symbolic representations of the Devil, one may say, dwelling within ourselves. When we throw stones at the stone pillars, we ought to know that by this act, we drive away the devil from our own hearts.

Everything from Water?

Concerning the explanation of the verse you referred to, let me cite the complete verse,

{Are, then, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We then parted asunder? — and [that] We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, [begin to] believe?} (Al-Anbiyaa 21:30)

Here is the explanation offered by the well-known Quran translator, Muhammad Asad:

The statement that God “made out of water every living thing” expresses most concisely a truth that is nowadays universally accepted by science. It has a threefold meaning:

(1) Water was the environment within which the prototype of all living matter originated;

(2) Among all the innumerable — existing or conceivable — liquids, only water has the peculiar properties necessary for the emergence and development of life; and

(3) The protoplasm, which is the physical basis of every living cell — whether in plants or in animals — and represents the only form of matter in which the phenomena of life are manifested, consists overwhelmingly of water and is, thus, utterly dependent on it.

Read together with the preceding statement, which alludes to the unitary origin of the physical universe, the emergence of life from and within an equally unitary element points to the existence of a unitary plan underlying all creation and, hence, to the existence and oneness of the Creator. (The Message of the Quran, last accessed June 9, 2009)

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

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Stoning Satan in Hajj: Beyond Symbolism

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About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

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