MAKKAH – In a bid to avoid deadly stampedes, Saudi Arabia authorities have cut short the stoning ritual period by 12 hours, a decision taken following discussions with different Hajj missions from across the world on the stoning timetable.
“This procedure will enable the pilgrims to throw stones easily and will prevent any stampede that may result from overcrowding,” said Husain Al-Sharif, the ministry’s undersecretary, and a number of officials and experts, Arab News reported on Wednesday, August 24.
On the first day of `Eid Al-Adha, pilgrims start the stoning ritual in Mina, a city that only comes to life during the days of Haj.
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.
Satan is believed to have appeared on the same site to Prophet Abraham, son Isma`il and wife Hagar, who each threw seven stones at the devil.
According to this year’s calendar, the symbolic stoning of the devil will be performed as usual over three days beginning September 11 at Mina, about five kilometers east of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site.
According to the ministry of hajj, during the first day of the ritual, there will be no stoning allowed from 6 am to 10.30 am while on the second day, the ban will be from 2 pm to 6 pm and on the third and final day, it will be from 10.30 am to 2 pm.
Sharif said the total capacity of the Jamarat area and the roads leading to it is 300,000 pilgrims per hour.
He said the grouping of pilgrims will be electronically monitored to prevent any violations.
Every year, Makkah sees millions of Muslims from around the world pouring to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj’s ceremonies 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.
The stampede last year, the worst disaster in Haj history, occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat Bridge, a structure resembling a huge parking garage which hosts the stoning ritual and cost more than $1 billion to build.
At least 2,297 pilgrims died during the stampede on September 24, according to data from foreign officials. Saudi Arabia issued a death toll of 769.