Hajj Journal – Part 7 – The Stoning of Jamaraat
He hurled the tiny pebble toward the wall with too much force and fury. It was as if an enemy stood in front of him, all tied up, and he has been given the chance to deliver the punishment. He took another pebble from his left hand and flung it mightily toward the wall again. This time, quite unfortunately, another pilgrim stood a few meters away from him and got hit by the pebble on his head.
Folks, these pillars merely represent the locations where prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was being tempted by Shaitaan. These pillars are not Shaitaan himself! Don’t take your frustrations out on these stone pillars.
We had to visit Jamaraat three times during Hajj. The first time was after spending a brief night in Muzdalifah. We left around two in the evening and took a short train ride to Jamaraat, which is basically in Mina just east of Makkah.
The stoning of the devil ritual is considered the most dangerous part of Hajj and had caused stampedes that led to the death of so many pilgrims over the years. Up until early 2000, the three Jamaraat were simply tall pillars.
After the 2004 Hajj, Saudi authorities replaced the pillars with 85 ft walls for safety because many people were accidentally throwing pebbles at people on the other side. Furthermore, to allow easier access to the Jamaraat, four levels are built around the three walls, allowing pilgrims to throw stones from either ground level or from the different levels.
See? So much organized now:
Jamaraat Day 1: Prepare to walk a lot on an incline. It’s going to be tough pushing a wheelchair up on the upper levels of the Jamaraat.
This picture was taken while we were on our way to do the first stoning ritual, just after spending a portion of the night in Muzdalifah. My mother-in-law was in a wheelchair and it became a challenge to push it all the way up because of the incline and the massive crowd. Our group leader—may Allah reward him for his kindness—helped Masood and Mushtaq in pushing the chair.
Once we reached the walls of Jamaraat, everything went smoothly. We pelted the smallest wall first, then the middle-sized wall, and then finally the largest wall. The place did not appear as crowded anymore, the breeze was cool, and people did not appear to be rushing. There were several huge electric fans installed all over the place that blew mist at us. Both mom and mother-in-law pelted their pebbles with ease.
There was something greatly satisfying with the stoning ritual – it was actually quite fun! It’s probably because a person does not normally get the chance to hurl stones in public places. Happy and content to have completed this ritual, we walked back down toward the main road in order to get a bus ride to Makkah. Except that all the buses were full! We waited for what felt like forever before our group leader decided that we walked down the road where our chances of getting an empty bus were higher.
It turned out to be a long walk but somehow we were chatting the entire way and did not really notice the distance we’d covered. It helped that it was nighttime and the weather was cool.
An hour later we stopped walking and waited for a bus, and one did arrive in a few minutes, and it was completely empty! However, before we could even move closer to the doors, a huge group of tall and bulky men pushed their way through us and started getting into the bus. “Wait! We were here first and there are women in the group,” yelled our group leader in frustration. None of them paid any attention. It was then that our two group leaders forced their way toward the bus door, stood right at the entrance and blocked the way with their bodies. The tall and bulky men tried to push them aside, but our group leaders (though not as tall and bulky) stood firm and ordered the women in our group to get in. Initially, we were hesitant but looking at how our group leaders were being such gallant gentlemen, we made our way in. It wasn’t easy but we all got seats and traveled to Makkah without further issues.
We stopped briefly at our hotel in Makkah, used the washroom to freshen up and do ablutions and, by the time we headed back to masjid-al-haram for tawaaf, it was time for the fajr prayers.
Today was Eid! The masjid is full to the brim with both pilgrims and locals of Makkah.
You can easily tell the difference between the crowd: the locals arrived freshly-showered, wore new and pretty clothes, and looked absolutely relaxed and collected. The pilgrims, on the other hand, arrived sweaty, our ihram clothes filthy—from spending the whole day in Arafat, the entire night in Mina, and then returning from Jamaraat—and we looked exhausted and weary.
Moments later, the Eid prayer commenced so we stood with the rest of the crowd and joined the prayer. Despite our scraggy appearance, our hearts and soul were soaring with happiness and gratitude. My feet were aching badly and I badly needed a shower, but at that time I did not really care. I was here to complete my tawaaf and saee, and that was what I did.
We returned to the hotel. We received a call informing us that the sacrifice we paid for to be arranged (goats for us all) was done. The men shaved their hair, the women trimmed theirs. We all had a nice, warm shower. We were now officially out of ihram. We slept for a few hours, had lunch, prayed Dhuhr and then left for Mina.
Jamaraat Day 2: It rained!
We headed for Jamaraat from our camp in Mina. We were no longer in ihram and were feeling quite relaxed. And clean!
While walking towards the Metro station, it began to drizzle, much to the joy of all the pilgrims. “This is a sign of blessing, specially after the day of Arafat!” said one elated pilgrim.
Television crew was also around in Jamaraat for the live telecast of Hajj. People would briefly stop in from of the camera to smile and wave. I also stopped and waved! It was such a relaxed atmosphere and our second time of pelting the Jamaraat was also a breeze.
We then returned to Mina.
Jamaraat Day 3: This was the toughest day of my entire Hajj experience. I would suggest not to bring older people, pregnant women, and small children on the last day of this ritual.
We left Mina for Jamaraat at noon. We decided to send mom and mother-in-law back to our hotel in Makkah. Our group’s bus was waiting outside the tent for those who wanted to return to Makkah. We thought it better that we completed the ritual for them, considering that it was the last day of the Jamaraat ritual and there might be greater chances of stampede.
True enough, the crowd was massive. The midday sun was beating relentlessly down on us. We moved an inch at a time, making the journey from Mina to Jamaraat a very difficult one. We opened our umbrellas and tried to provide shade to as many pilgrims as we could. This was also when my handy foldable, hand fan came out extremely useful. We also brought a few water bottles with us.
It took hours to reach the Jamaraat wall. We were under the scorching heat of the sun the entire time, our bodies mere inches away from each other, making it more hot and suffocating. Soon, we ran out of water to drink. I kept my mind busy by thinking about pleasant things. I prayed a lot.
My sister-in-law fainted. One moment she was standing right behind me, the next moment she fell on the ground, unconscious. People immediately moved to give us breathing space. We did not have a drop of water left with us, but suddenly, random strangers began giving us their water bottles. Few seconds later, when she came to, we forced her to drink some water and made sure she wasn’t hurt. The simple act of people giving their water to someone else at the time when each drop was precious is absolutely touching.
By the time we reached the first Jamaraat wall, more pilgrims were fainting. There was a dedicated medical team on standby at one side. Helicopters were available should anyone require immediate hospitalization.
The crowd appeared crazy—the heat, the massive number of people in one place, the overall exhaustion of Hajj. Masood had an extra bag of clothes with him—which belonged to mom but we forgot to give it to her so that she may bring it back to the hotel—but it was getting difficult to hold the bag and do the ritual amidst the crowd, so he just left the bag in one corner.
Our lips were parched, and the sweating was dehydrating us even more. Masood worried that I’d faint next so he gently asked a man standing next to him if he had some water. The man did not have any water with him but he had a can of soda and offered it to us.
It was a struggle getting closer to the wall. You see, the problem with pelting the pebbles from a distance is that you end up hurting someone in front of you. So we moved closer to the wall. Masood held my hand firmly. The pushing and shoving was totally insane and I felt my hand slipping from Masood’s several times. A large man pushed me. He literally pressed his big hand between my shoulder blades and pushed me forcibly. Twice. After the second time, I could no longer contain my anger and frustration, and pushed him back with all my might. He was caught off guard and looked surprised. I shouted at him—for you have to yell in order to be heard in all this chaos—and I said something to him that I can’t remember now. He quickly turned the other way and disappeared in the crowd. Truth be told, I still feel bad about pushing him back. Perhaps I should have exercised more patience.
There were broken umbrellas, torn clothes, missing shoes, and so much rubbish in Jamaraat.
It was totally chaotic. Although there were no reports of any casualty, thank God, several pilgrims were hurt. It was hard to see older people being pushed and shoved by stronger men and women, frightened children crying, wheelchairs hitting those walking in front. Masood and I felt relieved that we did not bring our mothers out on the last day of Jamaraat stoning. For me, this day was the hardest part of Hajj.
Coming up Next:
The last two days in Mina. The fainting and crying. The missing bed. And how the last day in Mina was the best of all.