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Muslim pilgrims wrap up Hajj with symbolic stoning of the devil amid deadly heat

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)
Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

Muslim pilgrims used the early morning hours on Monday to perform the second day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, as noontime summer heat caused heatstroke among thousands wrapping up the Hajj pilgrimage.

The final days of the Hajj coincide with Muslims around the world celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday.

The stoning of the pillars representing the devil takes place in Mina, a desert plain just outside the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Paramedics carry a Muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Paramedics carry a Muslim pilgrim for a medical check after he fell down due to a heat stroke at pillars, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

A third stoning is scheduled on Tuesday, before the Farewell Tawaf, or circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca.

The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

All Muslims are required to make the five-day Hajj at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so.

More than 1.83 million Muslims performed Hajj in 2024, slightly less than last year’s figure of 1.84 million, according to Saudi officials.

The Hajj rites largely commemorate the Quran’s accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail and Ismail’s mother Hajar — or Abraham and Ismael as they are named in the Bible.

The rites have taken place under the soaring summer heat, which is expected to reach 49C in Mecca and the sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Centre for Metrology.

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

More than 2,760 pilgrims suffered from sunstroke and heat stress on Sunday alone at the start of the first round of stoning, according to the Health Ministry.

Jordan announced on Sunday that 14 Jordanian pilgrims died from heatstroke during the Hajj.

The number of pilgrims on the roads leading to the pillars on Monday morning decreased significantly, compared to Sunday’s rites.

Later on Monday, the sky turned cloudy and it rained for a while, helping taper off the stress of the desert heat.

Security forces, medics and first responders have been deployed in and around Mina, especially on roads and open areas to help pilgrims. They treated many people for sunburns on their feet.

“I am really impressed by the preparations,” Sani Abdullah, a Nigerian, told The Associated Press, adding that he was used to such burning heat in his country.

“I have never encountered any problems. Everything is going smoothly.”

Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

The stoning began on Sunday, a day after the pilgrims visited the sacred Mount Arafat where they spent their day in worship and reflection.

The ritual in Mount Arafat, known as the hill of mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The pilgrims collected the pebbles, which they have used in the symbolic stoning of pillars, from Muzdalifa, an area located a few miles away from Mount Arafat.

The Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth and once it is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal.

Most of the pilgrims then leave Mecca for the city of Medina, around 210 miles away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber.

The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

A pilgrim prepares to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage
A pilgrim prepares to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

This year’s Hajj came against the backdrop of the devastating Israel-Hamas war, which pushed the Middle East to the brink of a regional conflict.

The war has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians in the besieged strip, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank.

It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip weren’t able to travel to Mecca for the Hajj this year because of the closure of the Rafah crossing in May, when Israel extended its ground offensive to the city on the border with Egypt.