How should we understand stoning, sacrificing an animal and shaving in Hajj?

The Details of the Question

Will you explain with hadiths the meaning of the deeds such as sacrificing an animal, stoning the devil, shaving the head, etc. done in Makkah during hajj?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Understanding Stoning the Devil:

One of the conditions of Hajj is stoning the devil. Stoning symbolizes the Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) (pbuh) throwing stones at the devil in order to expel the devil who tried to prevent him. The devil appeared before him and he stoned the devil, who wanted to come between him and his Lord, and who wanted to prevent him. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“Learn your duties related to hajj from me.” (Nasai, Manasik, 220)

Thus, he performed hajj himself and taught it to the people there himself.

In a sense, stoning symbolizes a war against the devil. A hajji throws every stone against himself, his lust and the devil. He tries to destroy one by one those different fronts that lead him to various mistakes and sins. He needs to eliminate the places where the devil confronts him, and the weapons and fronts he uses in the way of sacrificing everything he has for Allah. Pride, arrogance, property, position, rank, glory, fame, egoism, youth, marriage, family and children... Whatever hinders his worshipping and responsibilities...

Today, when the hajji throws stones, he plays the role of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) and follows the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The hajji who plays this role symbolically throws stones at the piles of stones representing the devil, but, in fact, he should throw stones by thinking about his weak points through which the devil deceives him. Since everyone knows better his own shame, vulnerability and sin, he should stone his soul, his lust, and the impulses that cause him to sin with every stone he throws.

He throws seven stones on the first day, and forty-nine or seventy stones on the following days there. It represents multitude. Its meaning is that he must be constantly alert against the devil, and he must have thousands of stones to throw at him if he confronts him hundreds of times. He should perform “istiadha” in the form of saying “Audhu billahi minashshaytanir rajim” meaning “I seek refuge in Allah from the stoned devil!”, which he is used to repeating, not only with his words but also with his essence more consciously. He should know from whom and in whom he takes refuge. He should realize that he takes refuge in Allah, “Rahim (Merciful)”, from the devil, who is “Rajim (Stoned)”.

If he cannot understand it and is interested only in the symbols and shapes, and cannot comprehend the meaning and wisdom of it, he will be deceived again with the delusion that he “stones the devil”. The devil is not outside as it is symbolized there; as the Prophet (pbuh) states,

“Satan (the Devil) circulates in man as blood circulates through veins.” (Bukhari, Itikaf 11, 12)

Understanding Sacrificing an Animal:

Sacrifice is an important deed of worship in which man shows that he can give up his property just because Allah wants, and that he can sacrifice his property in the way of Allah. It is forbidden to pluck even grass in ihram but live animals are sacrificed on eid day as a sign of devotion to Allah and sacrificing. Sacrificing an animal is performed to express gratitude for fulfilling the duties of hajj.

Eid al-Fitr is celebrated after completing the Ramadan fasting; similarly, Eid al-Adha is celebrated when hajj is completed. Patience, war, gratitude and victory. The hajji who attains knowledge in Arafat, consciousness in Mash’ar, love in Mina and victory in Jamarat reaches taqwa with the gift of sacrifice, and Allah through taqwa.

Takbirs uttered on Eid-al-Adha days are called “takbirs of tashriq”. “Tashriq” is the name given to the process of sun-drying of the meat of the sacrificed animals by placing it on hot rock in the Era of Jahiliyya. Thus, pilgrims dried the meat of the sacrificed animals on the stones in the sun during hajj and kept it for themselves to eat later. When the hajji repeats the takbirs of tashriq, he should think about what good habits and deeds he has kept for himself for later use. At least, he should take from Mina the sustenance of taqwa just as he comes with the sustenance of taqwa for hajj. Animals sacrificed for Allah and in the name of Allah are a sign of dhikr and gratitude, humility and submission, solidarity and brotherhood.

Especially today, when the meat of the sacrificed animals is sent to poor countries without being eaten by hajjis, the support and social solidarity they give to their Muslim brothers whom they have never met constitute the most significant aspect of the pilgrimage. For example, it is very nice that the sacrificed animals of our country's hajjis are consumed in a Muslim region in Africa, whose name they do not even know, and that they receive the prayers of those Muslims in absentia.

What the hajji sacrifices is not sheep, cows or camels but his desire, enthusiasm and lust. The hajji should sacrifice all of them for the sake of Allah so that he can feel the eid in his heart and the closeness in his spirit because this eid is Eid-al-Adha, the moment of closeness, eid of closeness to Allah.

Eid al-Adha is the feast of those who experience the meaning of hajj even if they are in very distant countries. Those who experience this closeness in hajj will carry that nice feeling they have gained to the places they will go. They will be pure, fresh blood that will cause a spiritual blood circulation in their own countries.

Later, some pilgrims will experience separation, some pilgrims will experience migration, and some pilgrims longing. The blood shed from those animals sacrificed for Allah symbolizes that the sins of those who sacrifice animals are shed and that “their impurity is removed”.

When the hajji sacrifices the animal for Allah, he knows that it is a sunnah inherited from the Prophet Ibrahim and that it is a reminder of sacrificing his favorite child in the way of Allah. He thinks that the wealth and children Allah has given are not obstacles in the way of Allah, but rather things to make him closer to Allah. While sacrificing a living being for Allah there, the hajji prays to Allah so that his children in his hometown will be in the way of Allah and closer to Allah; and he works hard to attain it throughout his life.

Understanding Shaving the Head:

“O Allah! Have mercy on those who have their heads shaved!” (Bukhari, Hajj, 127)

The hajji, who first stones the devil and then sacrifices an animal, symbolically sacrifices a part of his own being by shaving his head. It shows that he will sacrifice not only his hair but also his life in the way of Allah when necessary; every strand of hair that falls from his head virtually symbolizes his sins.

When the Prophet (pbuh) prayed by saying, “O Allah! Have mercy on those who have their heads shaved”, some of the Companions said, “Would you pray for those who shorten their hair, O Messenger of Allah?” He prayed for them by saying, “And those who shorten their hair...” in the fourth prayer. Some of the Companions shaved their heads and some of them shortened their hair. (Bukhari, Hajj, 127)

Shaving the head symbolizes humility and neediness, which is described as “with bare head and feet”. It is symbolized by cutting a bit of the hair in women.

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