A Brief History
On January 12, 2006, during the ceremony associated with the final day of the Hajj (annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca), 362 Muslim pilgrims were stampeded to death in a sudden movement of the vast crowd. The Stoning of the Devil takes place in Mina, outside of Mecca.
The annual Hajj gets enormous crowds of Muslims from around the world to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, with as many as 500,000 people crossing one small bridge in only an hour! This sort of crowd density is highly dangerous and even minor crowd movement often results in large numbers of the devout to be crushed or suffocated. As many as 3 million pilgrims attend the annual Hajj ceremonies.
The 2006 incident was not even a particularly large tragedy, as in other years many times the number (thousands!) have died during such incidents. As recently as 2015 (September 24) 2411 faithful lost their lives at Mina in a crushing incident, the highest number of fatalities known to history.
The ceremony of Stoning of the Devil requires each pilgrim to strike one of three “Jamarats” (formerly pillars, now walls) with 7 pebbles in a symbolic stoning of the evil one. The pilgrims must cut or shave their hair after the “stoning” and on the following day must stone the other 2 “jamarats.” The ceremony has its roots in Abraham having performed a similar ritual during his own pilgrimage to Mecca.
As the caretakers of the Holy Sites in Mecca, the government (Royal Family) of Saudi Arabia takes great pains to provide access to the sites and ceremonies for Pilgrims and makes mighty efforts to ensure the safety of the Hajjis. In some years, those efforts are successful, but sometimes tragedies occur in spite of efforts to prevent such incidents.
Question for students (and subscribers): Why would a merciful God (Allah) allow pious followers to die in such a fashion while honoring that same God (Allah)? We at History and Headlines do not pretend to have such answers. If you do, please share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below this article.
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