dirty rag

International - The Devil Gets its Revenge - Mister Thorne

Throwing rocks at powerful, supernatural beings like Satan is a dangerous thing to do. On 11 February, the danger was made obvious as 14 people died in Mina, Saudi Arabia after a large crowd gathered there to throw rocks at the devil.

Each year, Muslims from all over the world make their pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, the birthplace of the founder of Islam, and site of the Cube. The Cube is a small building near the center of the Haram mosque. According to legend, the Cube (the Ka'bah in Arabic) is the oldest house of worship on earth. Legend has it that it was erected by the very first man - Adam - and that it was rebuilt many years later by Abraham and one of his sons. It is toward this Cube that Muslims around the world pray five times each day.

Mounted on a wall of the Cube is a stone that looks like black glass. It is called the Black Stone, and it has its legends. One legend holds that the stone was sent to Adam from Paradise above. It was brilliant white, and it was to be a part of the first house of worship on Earth, modeled after Al-baitul Ma'moor, the house of worship used by the angels. Another legend holds that an angel gave the stone to Abraham to install in the Cube. Yet another legend holds that the founder of Islam settled a dispute about the stone. This was some time before he had the revelations that would inspire him to reestablish the one true religion - the religion of Abraham: Islam.

The Cube had been destroyed by fire and was rebuilt. There was an argument as to which tribe would have the honor of installing the Black Stone in the rebuilt Cube. To settle the argument, it was agreed that the first person who entered the courtyard around the Cube would be the judge. That turned out to be Muhammad ibn 'Abdullaah, and he came up with a plan. He set the stone in the center of a blanket lying on the ground. He asked each tribe to elect one of its people. The elected gathered around the blanket, lifted it, and carried the stone to the wall. Then, Muhammad took the stone and mounted it himself.

One of the first rituals performed each year by the millions of Muslims who make their pilgrimage to Mecca is to walk around the Cube seven times while chanting a prayer: "Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk," which means "Here I am at your service, God; Here I am!" As they go around the Cube, they touch the stone or kiss it. Legend has it that the stone, originally a brilliant white, turned black as it absorbed the sins of those who touched or kissed it.

The last ritual of the Hajj is the ceremonial Stoning of Satan. It takes place in Mina, a small village east of Mecca. The pilgrims throw seven small stones at each of three pillars representing the devil and the temptations it offers. This year, as in years past, the number of people exceeded the amount of space available for them, and 14 were trampled to death. In 1994, 270 died in this fashion; in 1998, 180 died, and in 2001, 35 died.