Death by Stampede

This is in response to the Writing 101 blog prompt assignment number fourteen. I picked up the closest book, turned to page 29, and noticed a phrase jumping off the page. “Death by Stampede.” It made me think of recent Hajj events in Mecca where pilgrims are trampled to death by stampeding believers. The following is a letter from a girl to her brother about what happened at the latest Hajj. (This is a fictional account.)

Dear Fahim,

It’s morning on the first day. Things are really amazing at Hajj. I’ve never seen this many people. There has to be a million pilgrims here. Maybe more. Today we go to Mina for the stoning of the jamra with pebbles. I was wondering what the significance was. Someone told me it’s actually the stoning of the devil. They told me after the stoning everyone must shave their heads. I’m thinking I’ll look kind of silly, but I’m honored to be here and to participate. If I can crush al nafs al ‘amāra during the stoning of Jamrat al ʿAqaba, then I will have taken the next step in attaining closeness to Allah.

I’ve heard that the stoning of the devil ritual is considered the most dangerous part of the Hajj. Crowd conditions are especially difficult on the final day when people leave the valley of Mina and head back to Mecca. People often get crushed in the crowds. Wish me luck. I’ll finish this letter when I get back from Mina.

Hi, I’m back from Mina. It was so horrible. I really enjoyed the ritual of the stoning of the devil, and everything was going well. I noticed a lot of people camping out until noon. I asked why we were waiting to throw the pebbles. One old man said according to haddith the Prophet Mohammed’s last stoning was performed just after noon prayer. He said scholars feel that the ritual can be done at any time between noon and sunset on this day, but many Muslims are taught that it should be done immediately after the noon prayer. So there were many pilgrims camped out until noon, and then they rushed out to do the stoning.

I was so scared, being pushed along. I was almost being carried rather than walking. I tried to get out of the crowd, thinking it was too dangerous to go. But I couldn’t break free. It was so hot and there were thousands of people. We were almost there when the crowd suddenly started to stumble and break apart. People were screaming. One woman was kneeling down in front of me, holding a child. I saw a lot of blood coming from the child’s head and nose. I think her arm was broken. People tried to steer clear of the woman and child, but they kept on going. No one stopped to help.

I know you told me that there have been many such incidents in the past. Some of them very serious. One of the elders later in the evening told about the time when 244 worshipers were trampled to death. Hundreds more were hurt. Several pilgrims fell off a foot bridge, and others tried to escape the push of the oncoming crowd. He said 340 pilgrims died in a fire at the overcrowded Mina tent camp in 1997.

I just don’t understand why something tragic happens when people are taking the time to travel to the holy city and pay their respects. Why would Allah allow all those people to die? Isn’t there any other way to do this without people getting crushed to death? One senior temple official said all safety measures were in place at the site. He said sometimes “caution isn’t stronger than fate.” If that doesn’t sound like “It was Allah’s will” I don’t know what does. I don’t plan on taking this pilgrimage again in my life.

I can’t wait to come home. This has been a very trying trip.



4 Replies to “Death by Stampede”

  1. Nice job. You held my interest and painted a picture for me of what the conditions were like. Keep writing. I would like to have had more detailed descriptions of the dress and more descriptions on what the stoning ritual looked like.


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