Muslim holidays: Pilgrims gather for stoning of the devil Nov. 16

stoning the devil

On the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, millions of pilgrims gather in Saudi Arabia to perform a ritual called "stoning the devil." Image: CC Al Jazeera English/Flickr

A look at Muslim holidays can reveal a lot about the cultural differences between Islam and the West. A major Muslim holiday called Eid al-Adha began on Nov. 16 and is celebrated for three days. While a western holiday such as Christmas celebrates consumer spending and other forms of excess, Eid al-Adha celebrates the “stoning of the devil.”

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha

The upcoming Muslim holiday season includes Eid al-Adha, followed by the Islamic New Year on Dec. 7 and Ashura on Dec. 16. On Tuesday millions of Muslim pilgrims descended on the Mina Valley in Saudi Arabia to throw pebbles at a religious monument called the Jamarat Pillars. The act symbolizes the Prophet Abraham’s resistance to the devil when the devil tried to talk him out of killing his only son Ishmael as a demonstration of his obedience to Allah. The stoning of the Devil legend has it that Abraham, egged on by the Archangel Gabriel, threw rocks at Satan, who gave up and skulked back to Hell.

Pilgrims relive stoning of the devil

Abraham’s wife Hagar tried to stop him from killing Ishmael. Ishmael wasn’t thrilled about it either. There are three Jamarat Pillars that represent the devil in the Eid al-Adha ritual. The largest pillar represents the devil trying tempt Abraham into disobeying Allah. The second represents the devil tempting Hagar to try and stop him from killing their only son. The third represents the devil tempting poor Ishmael to plead for his life instead of dutifully submitting to being murdered for the satisfaction of Allah.

Muslim holidays can be lethal

Muslim holidays have been known to trigger deadly incidents. To get to the Jamarat Pillars, an immense crowd of Muslim pilgrims, which gets larger every year, must cross the Jamarat Bridge. The stoning of the devil ritual has become nearly impossible to control, and on several occasions hundreds of Muslim pilgrims have been suffocated or crushed. In recent years, Saudi authorities have expanded the Jamarat Bridge to five levels in an effort to reduce the potential for carnage. To improve crowd management, the Jamarat Pillars were replaced with large walls to hustle the devil-stoners through at higher volumes.


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