The Arafah day is unique for many reasons. It is a day seen in a space where no other place on earth provides such an uncanny union of the human with the spiritual. Arafah is that plain land which is situated to the east of Makkah at a distance of about nine miles. Such a pilgrim would miss the hajj- he who misses the assemblage at the plain of Arafah. “Al-Hajj Arafah” -Hajj is Arafah- so says the Prophet Muhammad (May His peace and benedictions be on his soul).
On the 9thday of the month of Hajj, which happens to be next Monday, pilgrims in Makkah would evacuate their tents in Minnah at noon and proceed to the plain of Arafah in time to say the Zuhr and Asr prayers together. Thereafter they will listen to the imam as he delivers the khutbah from the pulpit of Rahmah (Jabal al-Rahmah). The whole period, which is between early afternoon and sunset, would be spent there. The pilgrims would immerse themselves in the eulogy of Allah; they would be chanting the Gloria: “Labayka Allahuma labayka”- I have answered your call Oh! Allah, I have answered your call”.
After sunset, pilgrims proceed to Muzdalifah, another place of high spiritual importance, say the Maghrib and Isha prayers together and pass the night in the open camp. Early in the morning of the following day, which is the 10thday of the month of Hajj, the day of sacrifice, they would proceed to Mina again to perform series of hajj rites. These include the sacrifice of animals, the clipping of the hair, the throwing of the pebbles against the effigies of Shaytan otherwise known as Ramy al-jimar and the Tawaf al-Ifadah.
The day of Arafah is important for many reasons in Islamic spiritual-communal reality. The day awakens the pilgrims to the historical and the eschatological. Here the historical references the standing, by Prophet Muhammad, on the same plain, many years ago to deliver the famous speech, the speech that changed the world. He said: “O People ! Lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.
O People! Just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest); therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity… Beware of Satan for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things. O People! It is true that you have certain rights in regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives, only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat you women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste. O People! Listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to. All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim, which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore, do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah (Hadith), and if you follow these you will never go astray… Be my witness, O Almighty, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”
Brethren, the above is the historical. What about the eschatological? The day of Arafah reminds us all of the impending day of resurrection when humanity shall stand in front of the Almighty to give account. The ritual of throwing stones equally links the pilgrims to the spiritual patriarch in monotheism namely Prophet Ibrahim (upon him be peace).
When the pilgrim sacrifices a ram, he symbolically puts an end to those iniquitous propensities and proclivities which often goad him to commit infractions against his Creator. The believer who sacrifices a ram should be attentive to the necessity for her to submit to the Almighty who has made the sacrificial animal submissive to her.