Muslim pilgrims rush to complete final hajj rituals

AFP , Sunday 28 Oct 2012

Final rituals of annual hajj sees pilgrims leaving holy city of Mina before dusk to hurl rocks at three pillars representing Satan; Pilgrimage officially ends Monday

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," a rite of the annual hajj, the Islamic faith's most holy pilgrimage, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Muslim pilgrims rushed to complete the final rituals of the annual hajj on Sunday as they thronged a Saudi devil-stoning site on the penultimate day of the pilgrimageMost pilgrims will hurl rocks at three pillars representing Satan between noon and sunset, leaving the holy city of Mina before dusk.

But others will stay on in Mina until Monday when they will perform the stoning ritual one final timeWorshippers living outside Mecca will have to perform the farewell circumambulation around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure in Mecca towards which Muslims worldwide prayThe hajj officially ends on Monday but pilgrims who are in a hurry to conclude their journey can do so on Sunday.

"I hope I will be able to perform the hajj again in the future," said Um Hassan, an Iraqi pilgrim. "It was a great experience."

Able-bodied Muslims must perform the hajj at least once in their lifetimeThe devil-stoning in Mina, once the most dangerous phase of the hajj marred by deadly stampedes and fires in tent camps, has passed without incident this yearMost tents are now fire-proof and gas canisters and cooking are banned. The stoning area has also been expanded to avoid overcrowding.

Saudi authorities have built a five-level structure around the stoning site, allowing for the smooth flow of pilgrims.

Over three million registered pilgrims took part in this year's hajj, based on official figures. But many others also performed the pilgrimage without permits camping on roads and walking on foot between the holy sites.

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