Muslim Pilgrims Perform 'Stoning Of The Devil' Ritual During Annual Haj

Category: World / Oct 26, 2012 2:46PM EDT
Millions of Muslim pilgrims participated in the first day of the 'stoning of the devil' ritual on Friday (October 26) during the annual haj. The ritual, which sees pilgrims throwing pebbles at three walls for three days, takes place outside the Islamic holy city of Mecca. It is a rite that symbolizes the rejection of temptation. The haj sees millions of people from all over the world flock to Saudi Arabia to carry out what many pilgrims describe as an opportunity of a lifetime. "Today I am very happy and feel like I am lucky because God chose me here, because there is a billion people want to come here but they can't come here," said Mohammad Hassan fromJordan. Saudi authorities have spent billions of dollars in recent years improving haj infrastructure to avoid a repeat of accidents which have killed hundreds of people. This year's haj takes place against a backdrop of divisions among Muslims, as Shi'ite Iran and Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria's civil war. Syrian pilgrims raised rebel flags as the haj reached its peak near Mecca on Thursday, despite a call from Saudi Arabia's top cleric for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to be free from nationalist sentiment and Muslim infighting.