Muslims Continue Hajj Pilgrimage

Posted November 7th, 2011 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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More than 2.5 million Muslims continued their annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca on Monday with the ritual of throwing stones at pillars representing the devil.

The ceremony of the stoning of the devil, perhaps the most fraught part of the five-day event, took place in the Saudi holy city of Mina. Each pilgrim throws 21 pebbles at each of three pillars, symbolizing how – in the tradition of Abraham – the prophet spurned Satan who came three times to tempt him.

The pilgrims then go to the Great Mosque in nearby Mecca, the holiest site of Islam, to walk around the Kaaba, a huge cube-shaped structure into which is set the Black Stone, Islam's most sacred relic.

Saudi officials said a record 1.8 million foreign pilgrims representing 183 nationalities had arrived in the kingdom by Friday to take part in the Hajj — the oldest and most sacred ritual of Islam. All physically- and financially-able Muslims are required to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

But this year, there is a whole new category of people taking part — those free enough, including ordinary citizens from Libya. For decades, the chance to make the pilgrimage was dictated by Moammar Gadhafi, a system that ended with the leader himself.

During the opening Hajj prayer Saturday, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al Sheikh, made reference to the unrest and change, blaming “foreign elements” for provoking confrontation between the people and their leaders.

But he also called on citizens to solve their problems through dialogue, not bloodshed, and urged leaders to act in accordance to Islam, and not use weapons against their own people.

Most pilgrims visit the holy mosques in Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed, and nearby Medina, where Mohammed was buried about 1,400 years ago. They also gather on Mount Arafat, where the prophet is said to have delivered his last sermon.

The Hajj is being streamed live at