Day of Arafat
Starting at dawn on the day before Eid Al Adha, all pilgrims will be transported to Mount Arafat to spend the daylight hours there. This is considered to be the pinnacle of hajj, the ultimate moment where Allah will forgive the sins of the accepted hujjaj (pilgrims).
Arafat is a desert plane a short distance from Mina, and here, creature comforts are stripped down even further. The austere surroundings in Arafat will make Mina look like a luxury hotel in comparison. The bathroom facilities are at best, a struggle to cope with. This will be a further lesson in humility and of keeping yourself grounded. You came to earth with nothing, but Allah provided for you in your time here. Arafat makes us remember that we will also leave the world with nothing.
Millionaire or pauper, all pilgrims will spend the day as equals, praying and supplicating in the shadow of Jabal (Mount of) Rahmah where the farewell sermon was delivered by Rasulullah SAW, and the implications of this day will render all the surrounding inconveniences irrelevant.
Men and women are segregated into different tents, but it is possible for family members to meet in the open areas and make du’a jointly.
The day of Arafat is the most blessed day of the whole Islamic calendar. The day should be spent making du’a, zikr and salat, for this is a day when Allah’s blessings and forgiveness are abundant. This is the ultimate prize, the forgiveness that we are all seeking. However, Allah does not restrict His forgiveness and bounty to the hujjaj alone. Pilgrims at Arafat are not allowed to fast on this day. The rest of the Muslim world is encouraged to fast on this day, in return for the forgiveness of sins for the prior and upcoming year. This is the time where the pilgrims and the rest of the ummah should make mutual du’a for each other, in a wonderful invisible web of Islamic unity.
Arafat is a temporary stop, lasting only a few hours, but this is the defining moment of your hajj where Allah’s mercy descends on you and insha Allah, by the end of the day, you will be cleansed of all your sins. Therefore do not cheapen the moment by complaining about the lunch menu or the discomforts. The prize is so high that on this day, nothing in the whole of the earth compares to what you are getting.
After Maghrib, there will be another mass movement of the pilgrims, this time to Muzdalifah. Leave Arafat in a state of gratitude, calm and tranquility. Allah has already cleansed you, so there is no more rush. However, from this moment on, do not start collecting sins again! Don’t be selfish. Think of others. Give priority to the ill and elderly. Don’t be snappy if you are stuck in traffic on this 9km journey. Don’t allow your habits to seep back and corrode all the spiritual discipline that you have built up. It is time to be grateful to Allah, and rise above whatever deficits there are in your journey to Muzdalifah.
Again, stay close to your group. It will be night time, and people will be indistinguishable in the darkness. All men will be dressed alike, and the situation will be chaotic, confusing and disorienting. Keep track of your guide, because it is easy to drown in the sea of people, the babble of different languages and the spirit of religious fervor pervading the atmosphere.
If you find this situation stressful, think about the Day of Judgment, where it will be each for himself when the whole of humankind is resurrected and assembled at one place (the Plains of Mashar). On that day, there will be no tour guides, placards, signboards, torchlights, or parents and spouses to guide the way. Our only compass on that day will be fuelled by our faith, and we will be alone.
This time, you will not even have any tents for shelter. Everyone has to sit on the ground under the open sky. Now, Arafat will look like a luxury hotel by comparison.
One of the tasks for the night will be to find pebbles for the symbolic stoning of the devil in Jamarat. Rich and poor will have to sift through the sand under the light of the half moon to find enough pebbles. Your clothes and hands will get dusty while you scratch the ground to find pebbles the size of chick peas. This will be another humbling experience to be cut off from the luxuries of dunia, and to remind us of our lowly place in the grand scheme of things.
Try to make the most of the night, and resist the urge to fall asleep. For many pilgrims, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and is the blessed night of the whole hajj.
Technically one is to stay overnight in Muzdalifah before heading back to Mina, but different rules apply according to the circumstances and crowds. For example, women are allowed to leave earlier. Follow the lead of your tour leader on this issue.
When Ibrahim AS was asked to sacrifice his only son Ismail AS to Allah, Satan tried to cast doubt into Ibrahim’s AS heart. Ibrahim AS responded by throwing some pebbles to Satan to cast him off. This action is replicated at the Jamarat. The Jamarat itself contains three massive pillars representing the spots where Shaitan was humiliated, and has been refurbished and expanded to accommodate the swelling number of pilgrims and to avoid the many fatal stampedes that occurred in the previous years. The process is now safe and quite easy.
Do we love Allah more than anyone else? Do our children love Allah more than anyone else? When Satan approached Ibrahim AS, he pelted Satan with stones. When Satan tried to create doubt in Hajr, she did not flinch and instead threw dust at him to chase him away. Even Ismail AS confirmed his declaration and pledge of obedience to Allah, and willingly agreed to be sacrificed. What about our own status of obedience, where we are asked for just a fraction of this sacrifice and are unwilling to deliver? Think about this when you are throwing your pebbles.
Pilgrims re-enact the encounter of Ibrahim AS and the devil by throwing seven pebbles at the biggest pillar at the Jamarat. Some, in a religious frenzy, tend to get carried away and throw large stones, bricks and even their shoes, but this is dangerous to others as it is wrong.
Take your time when throwing your pebbles. Don’t throw your pebble from too far away, because you might miss your aim and injure someone. Utter the tasbih and tahleel, to thank Allah for His generosity. Thank Allah for allowing you to perform your hajj. There is no need to rush this process as there is plenty of time.
The strength is not in the aim, it is in the heart. Each pebble cast is symbolic of our triumph against our inner demons and doubts, of our victory against the devil and of our cleansing of major sins.