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Muslim Pilgrims Symbolically Stone Satan During Annual Hajj Ritual

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims are performing the ritual "stoning of the Devil," Monday, at Muzdalifa, outside of Mecca, in one of the high points of the annual Hajj. Pilgrims will also sacrifice a lamb to mark the day Muslims call Eid al- Adha, or "Feast of the Sacrifice."

Throngs of pilgrims cast pebbles, while some threw much larger stones at symbolic pillars, meant to symbolize Satan, on the Muzdalifa plain outside Mecca.

Saudi religious authorities had urged Hajjis not to congregate around the pillars, or "jumrat", all at once, to avoid any bloody incidents or stampedes that have marred the event in previous years. Saudi Arabia has spent more than $1 billion on a massive infrastructure project to build multi-level bridges leading up to Muzdalifa, to allow a steady, but safe flow of pilgrims into the area and to avoid crushing.

Hajj tradition goes back to Abraham

Saudi police and National Guard troops looked on silently as white-cloaked pilgrims drew as close to the pillars as possible to throw their stones, and to symbolically drive Satan away from themselves and mankind. It is the customary belief in Islam, that Satan unsuccessfully tried to tempt Abraham as he was on his journey to Mecca to sacrifice his son.

In a special ceremony, Saudi King Abdullah thanked his top officers for their efforts in keeping the annual Hajj safe, and providing help and comfort to those pilgrims who may have needed it.

Saudi Arabia proud of effort to keep Hajj safe

King Abdullah says Saudis are selfless and devoted to doing their duty, with patience, and responsibility towards their fellow man, their religion and their country. He thanked the Saudi armed forces, as well, for being pillars of the nation and protecting their countrymen from evil and from terrorists with sacrifice and courage, often falling in the line of duty as martyrs, to keep the peace and maintain security.

The Arab press reports that up to 100,000 Saudi police and security troops have been deployed, this year, to keep the peace and maintain security at the annual Hajj.

Muslim ritual also includes sacrificing animal

After stoning the devil, pilgrims will go on to have their heads shaved, before symbolically removing their two-piece white cloaks or "ihram," which they have worn throughout the Hajj from Mecca to Mount Arafat and back.

The Hajjis will also sacrifice a lamb or goat to mark the successful completion of their pilgrimage. For this reason the day has come to be known as Eid al Adha throughout the Islamic world, and Muslims everywhere are sacrificing animals to mark the occasion.

In Cairo, hundreds of people gathered in most neighborhoods to sacrifice animals, slaughtering them according to the Islamic ritual as old men, women and children looked on, and as pools of blood filled the streets.