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Hajj 2024: At least 14 pilgrims die from heatstroke

Hajj 2024: At least 14 pilgrims die from heatstroke

MINNA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Crowds of pilgrims on Sunday embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia under the sweltering summer heat. The ritual represents the last days of Hajj, or the Islamic HajjAnd the start of Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world.

Stoning is one of the final rituals of Hajj, and it is one of the five pillars of Islam. This came one day after more than 1.8 million Pilgrims gather on the holy hill known as Mount Arafatoutside the holy city of Mecca, which is visited by Muslim pilgrims to perform the annual five-day Hajj rituals.

14 Jordanian pilgrims died from sunstroke while performing Hajj, according to the Jordanian Petra News Agency. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it coordinated with the Saudi authorities to bury the dead in Saudi Arabia, or transport them to Jordan.

Mohammed Al-Abdulali, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Health, told reporters that more than 2,760 pilgrims suffered from sunstroke and heat exhaustion on Sunday alone. He expected the number to rise, and urged attendees to avoid the sun at peak times and drink water. “Heat stress is the biggest challenge,” he said.

The pilgrims left Mount Arafat on Saturday evening to spend the night at a nearby site known as Muzdalifah, where they collected pebbles to use to throw pillars that symbolically represent Satan.

The columns are located in another holy place in Mecca, called Mina, where Muslims believe Abraham’s faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Ishmael. Abraham was ready to submit to the command, but then God stayed his hand, sparing his son. In both the Christian and Jewish versions of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill his other son, Isaac.

On Sunday morning, the crowds headed on foot to the stone stoning areas. Some were seen pushing disabled pilgrims in wheelchairs along a multi-lane road leading to the complex that includes the large columns. Most of the pilgrims were seen suffering from the intense heat and carrying umbrellas to protect them from the scorching summer sun.

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An Associated Press reporter saw many pilgrims, especially elderly ones, collapsing on the path leading to the pillars due to the scorching heat. Security forces and paramedics were deployed to assist, and those who lost consciousness were transferred on stretchers from the heat to ambulances or field hospitals. As temperatures rose by midday, more people needed medical help. The temperature reached 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) in Mecca, and 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 Fahrenheit) in Mina, according to the Saudi Meteorological Authority.

Despite the stifling heat, many pilgrims expressed their joy at being able to complete their rituals.

Abdel Muti Abu Ghanima, an Egyptian pilgrim, said: “Praise be to God, (the operation) was joyful and good.” “No one wants more than this.”

Many pilgrims spend up to three days in Mina, each throwing seven pebbles at three pillars in a ritual symbolizing the elimination of evil and sin.

While in Mina, they will visit Mecca to perform “tawaf,” or circumambulation, which is circumambulation around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque counterclockwise seven times. Then another circumambulation, the Farewell Tawaf, will mark the end of the Hajj as the pilgrims prepare to leave the Holy City.

The ritual coincides with the four-day Eid al-Adha, which means “Feast of Sacrifice,” when Muslims with means commemorate Abraham’s test of faith by slaughtering cattle and animals and distributing meat to the poor.

Most countries celebrated Eid al-Adha on Sunday. Others, such as Indonesia, will celebrate it on Monday.

In a statement, President Joe Biden wished Muslims around the world a blessed Eid al-Adha, and noted that the holiday is a time for prayer, contemplation, and sacrifice.

The statement said, “Hajj and Eid al-Adha remind us of our equality before God and the importance of community and charitable work, which are values ​​that directly address the American character.” “The United States is fortunate to be home to millions of American Muslims who enrich our nation in countless ways, from medicine to technology, education, public service, the arts, and beyond.”

Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads and remove the white, shroud-like clothing worn during the Hajj, and women also cut off a lock of hair in a sign of renewal and rebirth.

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Most pilgrims then leave Mecca for Medina, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray at the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, the Holy Chamber. The 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 perform Hajj once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to do so. Many wealthy Muslims perform the Hajj more than once. The rituals largely commemorate the Prophet Abraham, his son the Prophet Ishmael, Ishmael’s mother Hagar, and the Prophet Muhammad, according to the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book.

Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah said in a press conference that more than 1.83 million Muslims performed Hajj in 2024, which is slightly lower than last year’s numbers when 1.84 million performed Hajj rituals.

Most Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little, if any, shade. It is set in the second week of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar, so its time of year varies. This year, the Hajj took place during the scorching Saudi summer.

This year’s Hajj season came against a devastating backdrop Israel-Hamas warWhich pushed the Middle East to the brink of regional conflict.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were unable to travel to Mecca to perform Hajj this year due to the closure of the Rafah crossing in May when Israel expanded its ground attack on the city on the border with Egypt. And they won’t be able to do that They celebrate Eid al-Adha as they did in previous years.

Gaza: Dozens of Palestinians gathered on Sunday morning near the destroyed mosque in Gaza City, south of the Gaza Strip. Khan Younes To perform Eid prayer. They were surrounded by rubble and the ruins of collapsed houses. In the nearby town of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, Muslims performed their prayers in a shelter turned into a school. Some, including women and children, went to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their loved ones.

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Abdel Halim Abu Samra, a displaced Palestinian, told the Associated Press after the conclusion of prayer in Khan Yunis: “Today, after the ninth month, more than 37,000 martyrs have fallen, more than 87,000 have been wounded, and hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed.” “Our people are living in difficult circumstances.”

Also in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians gathered to perform Eid prayers in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Muhanna, the imam of a mosque, said: “We are suffering a lot and living in difficult moments with (what is happening) to our brothers in Gaza.”

In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis, and in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Muslims celebrated and prayed for the war-weary Palestinians in Gaza.

Bashar Al-Mashhadani, the imam of Al-Jilani Mosque in Baghdad, said, “We rejoice in Eid, but our hearts are sad when we see our brothers in Palestine.” “(We) urge Arab and Islamic countries to support them and stand by them in this ordeal.”

In Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militant group exchanges almost daily attacks with Israel, a steady stream of visitors made their way to the Palestine Martyrs Cemetery near the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut early Sunday morning, carrying flowers and jugs of water for the martyrs. The graves of loved ones, an annual tradition on the first day of Eid.


Associated Press writers Wafaa Al-Shurafa in the Gaza Strip and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that the name of the hill is Mount Arafat.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP cooperation With The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., the AP is solely responsible for this content.