More than two million Muslims from around the world have flocked to the Valley of Mina, outside the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, as the annual Hajj pilgrimage reaches its peak.
On Saturday, which marks the Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) holiday in the Muslim world in commemoration of the sacrifices made by the Prophet Abraham and his household, Muslim pilgrims return to Mina, a small village east of Mecca, to throw seven pebbles at a stone pillar that represents the Satan.
The symbolic ritual is the reenactment of the Prophet Abraham’s hurling stones at the Satan who tried to tempt Abraham against sacrificing his son, Ismail. The move symbolizes the conquering of self-temptation.
After the symbolic stoning of the devil, Muslim pilgrims also perform the ritual of slaughtering sheep and cattle, marking the first day of Eid al-Adha.
All the meat from the slaughtered sheep is supposed to be distributed for consumption among the needy families and friends as well as the poor in the community.
Meanwhile, male pilgrims are also required to shave their heads as part of the ritual.
Following the sacrifice, the pilgrims go back to Mecca to end the formal rites of Hajj by performing a final tawaf (circumambulation) and walking to and from the hills of Safa and Marwa, symbolizing the long walk in the desert by Abraham’s wife, Hagar, in search of water for her infant son.
Hajj is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam and the largest act of mass pilgrimage in the world.
The holy pilgrimage is also a demonstration of Muslims’ unity and their submission to Allah.
Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to perform the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime.