Welcome to our special feature on the 9th of Zilhijja, the day of Arafa on which Hajj pilgrims gather from dawn till sunset on the plain of Arafaat outside Mecca, to spent the time in prayer and supplications for obtaining the proper cognizance of God Almighty, in the footsteps of the prophets of the past, especially the father of the human race, Adam, the great Patriarch Abraham, and the greatest-ever messenger, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
The huge caravan of the pilgrims moves towards Arafaat, usually in the afternoon of the eighth Zil-Hijja, in order to avoid congestion. Heads are bare and bodies covered with two pieces of white unstitched clothes. Having with them provision for a few-day stay in the plain, and saying Labbayk whose spiritual echo is filling Mecca and the north-eastern plains, the pilgrims move in groups to gather in the plain of Arafaat at noon of the ninth day. Arafat is a smooth and flat plain about twenty-four kilometers north of Mecca in the lap of Jabal ar-Rahmah (literally meaning, Mount of Mercy). Arafaat is a holy place God has appointed to receive His guests. The banquet is in Mount Mercy so that all guests can enjoy God’s infinite blessings each according to his capacity. The rite of staying in Arafat begins at the noon of the 9th of Zi’l-Hijja and ends at the sunset of the same day. The time of this religious act is short but its divine blessings are great. Once on hearing a beggar asking people for alms, the Prophet’s 4th Infallible Heir, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS) said: “Woe to you! Are you asking people for help in this place while Allah’s mercy today is so comprehensive that what is in mountains is hoped to receive His general mercy and become prosperous.”
By the terms ‘what is in mountains’ the Imam perhaps meant plants growing on the mountains as a result of whose transformation a prosperous man would be born.
Once a man in the Sacred Mosque asked the Prophet’s 6th Infallible Heir, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS) as to “whose sin is greater than others, the Imam answered: “He who stays in Arafaat and Muzdalefa, performs the Sa’y between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa, circumambulates the Ka’ba, performs prayer in the standing-place of Abraham, and after completing all these acts says to himself or has the impression that Allah has not forgiven him is the biggest sinner.”
The Prophet’s 5th Infallible Successor, Imam Mohammad Baqer (AS) has said: “The supplications of every pious or impious man who stays in Arafaat and Mash’ar al-Haraam the following night will be absolutely answered. The supplications of a pious man will be fulfilled in matters regarding both this world and the Hereafter but the supplications of an impious man will be fulfilled only in matters regarding this world
The plain of Arafaat resembles the Day of Judgment. Almost three million pilgrims from different parts of the world have converged on this plain. Wearing shroud-like clothing and bareheaded, all the pilgrims have raised their hands in supplication in this hot plain. What incentive has brought them to this wasteland from their homes? Have they come here under any force or allure of anything? They have come here to give positive response to God’s call. They have come here to enjoy the divine banquet to win God’s pleasure. It is the day of benefaction. O Lord, this edifice is the same place where Adam earnestly pleaded for Your mercy after having rued his fault of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, and was forgiven. It is the place where Abraham supplicated to You and won Your blessings. All messengers of God prostrated themselves in this place. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) also expressed his servitude to God here. Here from atop Mount Mercy, the Prophet delivered his famous address during his Farewell Hajj Pilgrimage informing the ummah of God’s decision recall him from earth, and exhorting Muslims to hold fast to the Saqalayn after him in order to stick to the right path. As quoted in all compendiums of hadith, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, he said: “I am leaving behind among you the Two Invaluables, the Book of God, that is, the holy Qur’an, and my progeny the Ahl al-Bayt. Hold fast to them and you will never go astray, for the two never separate from each other, even when they return to me at the fountain (of Kowsar on the Day of Judgement), and you will be questioned about your behaviour towards them.”
Arafaat is the place, where the Prophet’s grandson, the Immortal Martyr of Karbala, Imam Husain (AS), raised his hands in supplication to God and recited the famous supplication, amidst tear rolling down his eyes and the eyes of all listeners. This supplication is indeed a masterpiece of attaining the proper cognizance of Almighty God, and is recited on this day all over the world. It is usually recited in the afternoon before sunset, and here is a passage from it:
“O Allah, we are turning our faces to You in this evening that You glorified and honoured by Mohammad— Your Prophet, Messenger, Chosen one among Your creatures, Keeper of Your revelation, bearer of Your good tidings and warnings, and the bright light with whom You have blessed the Muslims and whom You have made mercy from people. Bless him and his household— the chosen ones, the pure, and the immaculate, and include us by means of Your reprieve. To You, voices of different tongues are directed. O Allah, give us in this evening a share of the blessings that you give to Your servants, light of guidance, mercy that You spread, blessings that You reveal, wellbeing that You extend, and abundant sustenance; You are certainly the Most Merciful of the merciful ones. O Allah, in this very time, include us with the successful, the thriving, the blessed, and the winning, and do not deprive us of Your mercy and of that for which we hope, and do not refute us with disappointment, and do not reject us from Your door. You are certainly the Most Generous of the generous ones and the Most Munificent of the munificent. We are directing towards You with full confidence and towards yours Sacred House with full intentions.”
The sun in Arafaat is setting and God’s banquet is coming to an end. And before the pilgrims leave for Mash’ar al-Haraam to collect the pebbles for stoning the devils the next day, they earnestly pray for the reappearance of the Imam of the Age for end of corruption and oppression on Earth and the establishment of the global government of peace, prosperity and justice. Amen.