Muslim pilgrims complete this year’s Hajj as deadly triple-digit temps sear Mecca

Muslim pilgrims have wrapped up the Hajj, or pilgrimage, in the deadly summer heat on Tuesday with the third day of the symbolic stoning of the devil, and the last circumambulation around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, in the city of Mecca.

The three-day stoning ritual in Mina, a desert site outside Mecca, is among the final rites of the Hajj, and symbolizes the casting away of evil and sin. It started a day after pilgrims congregated Saturday at a sacred hill, known as Mount Arafat.

The final days of the annual Hajj coincide with Muslims around the world celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday when Muslims with financial means commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith, when God ordered him to sacrifice his only son, by slaughtering livestock and animals and distributing the meat to the poor.

HEATWAVE SHUTTERS ACROPOLIS IN ATHENS FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE AFTERNOON

The Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Its rituals largely commemorate the accounts of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail, Ismail’s mother Hajar and Prophet Muhammad, according to the Quran, Islam’s holy book. In the Islamic version, God stayed his hand and Ismail was spared.

“I am reassured. I feel comfortable,” Mejahed al-Mehrabi, a Yemeni pilgrim, told The Associated Press after he was done with the third day of the stoning ritual. “Anyone who can visit the Grand Mosque (in Mecca) should do so.”

Nigerian pilgrim Amir Omar was overjoyed once he finished his symbolic stoning. “I am feeling very great that I perform one pillar of my religion,” he said. “I am feeling very grateful.”

The burning sun and suffocating hot weather remained Tuesday, with temperatures, expected to reach 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit in Mecca and the sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Center for Metrology.

Many pilgrims, particularly elderly ones, were seen collapsed and in need of medical assistance because of the heat. Dozens were also reported dead from sunstroke. They included at least 41 Jordanian pilgrims who will be buried in Saudi Arabia, according to Jordan’s Foreign Ministry.

Many other pilgrims couldn’t be accounted for while performing the rituals. Many Egyptians took to social medial to search for their relatives in Mount Arafat and Mina. Some were found in hospitals around Mecca after collapsing from the heatwave.

After the third symbolic stoning Tuesday, pilgrims headed to Mecca to perform “tawaf,” circling the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque counterclockwise seven times. That circumambulation, known as the Farewell Tawaf, marks the end of Hajj as pilgrims prepare to leave the holy city.

Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal.

Most of the pilgrims then leave Mecca for the city of Medina, about 210 miles away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber.

The Sacred Chamber tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

All Muslims are required to make the Hajj once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so. Many wealthy Muslims make the pilgrimage more than once.

More than 1.83 million Muslims performed Hajj in 2024, including more than 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, and around 222,000 Saudi citizens and residents, according to Saudi Hajj authorities.

The 2014 pilgrimage came against the backdrop of the devastating Israel-Hamas war, which has pushed the Middle East to the brink of a regional conflict.

“I prayed first for Gaza then Yemen,” said al-Mehrabi, the Yemeni pilgrim, referring to the war between Israel and Hamas in the Palestinian enclave and the decade-old conflict in his home country.

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