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Archive for Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hajj draws to close; feast preparations begin

January 11, 2006

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— Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims hurled pebbles at stone pillars, symbolically stoning the devil Tuesday in a final rite of the hajj. Across the Islamic world, the faithful butchered sheep and cattle to kick off one of their biggest holidays - the feast of sacrifice.

The feast, called the Eid al-Adha, commemorates Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son in God's test of the patriarch's faith. At the last moment, God substituted a sheep for the son. The story is shared by Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

From the Philippines to Bosnia and across the Middle East, Muslims slaughtered livestock for festive family dinners and meat donations to the poor.

At Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia, the 2.5 million Muslims participating in the annual hajj pilgrimage held the first of three days of a stoning ritual to cleanse sins. They threw pebbles at "al-Jamarat" - three stone pillars symbolizing the devil.

"Alhamdulillah (Thanks to God), I am done with the first stoning. It was easy and I managed to hit the devil," said Abdul Bassit Amro, who had traveled from the Philippines. Pilgrims from 178 countries were registered at the hajj.

After Tuesday's stoning, many of the male pilgrims shaved their heads - the mark of a Muslim who has completed the hajj. Islam requires that all Muslims who are financially and physically able make the pilgrimage at least once to Mecca, birthplace of the 7th century prophet Muhammad and site of the holiest shrine, the Kaaba.

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