The Abrahamic Hajj (9)
Welcome to the 9th episode of “The Abrahamic Hajj”, as we near the climax of the annual pilgrimage to the Sacred Ka’ba, the Symbolic House of God Almighty.
Today’s article is on the occasion of the Blessed Day of Arafah when Hajj pilgrims assemble on the plain of the same name, southeast of the holy city of Mecca, to observe special rituals of this day, which on the 9th of Zilhijja are observed throughout the world and broadcast live on TV in several countries, in order to enable us to increase in ourselves the proper cognizance of God Almighty, as the Prophets had done.
Wuqouf or staying at the plain of Arafah is an obligatory ritual of the Hajj at-Tamatu'. What is important in wuqouf is the niyyah or intention to stay and as a matter of precaution it should be from the beginning of zawaal or the reaching of the sun at meridian point till sunset. It is forbidden to depart from this place knowingly and deliberately before sunset.
For your information, the term Arafah is derived from the Arabic word “Ma’refa” which means proper cognition. It means the cognizance of God Almighty. Thus the Day of Arafah is the best opportunity for a believer to humbly seek forgiveness in the Divine Court and to strive towards perfection of faith with new enthusiasm. To be brief, it was on this plain that Adam and Eve, the parents of all mankind, sought forgiveness for their error in eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree and being cast out from the Garden of Bliss. God accepted the prayers of the first pair of human beings, as they beseeched Him for the sake of the Last and Greatest Messenger to come in their progeny, and his Immaculate Ahl al-Bayt
Arafah is also the day on which Prophet Abraham (PuH), on God’s commandment, institutionalized it as part of the Hajj rituals, while achieving complete cognizance of the One and Only Creator to Whom he had been obedient since childhood by passing all divine tests, including his unscathed emergence from the huge fire into which he was flung by the tyrant Nimrod; his subsequent expulsion from his homeland Mesopotamia; his settling in Canaan or modern Palestine; his leaving of his second wife Hajar and his firstborn child, Ishmael, in the wilderness of Mecca; and last but not the least, his sacrifice of the youth Ishmael which was miraculously substituted with a ram sent from heaven by the Almighty.
Arafah is also the day on which Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny), delivered the famous sermon from atop Jabal ar-Rahma or Mount Mercy during his Farewell Hajj in which he specified the rites and laws of pilgrimage. He emphasized the equality of all mankind, irrespective of the superficial differences of ethnicity, languages spoken, colour of skin, and place of birth.
The Prophet of Peace did not leave Muslims in the dark. Towards the end of his sermon on the plain of Arafaat, he expressed the famous statement, known ever since by Hadith Thaqalayn, as recorded in the books of both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. He said in a clear tone:
“I am leaving behind among you the Two Weighty Things (Thaqalayn); the Book of God (holy Qur’an) and my progeny the Ahl al-Bayt. Hold fast to them and you will not go astray for the two never part with each other even when they return to me at the Fountain (of Kowthar on Judgement Day).”
He then specified by name his divinely-designated successors, of whom the first was his cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS).
Among the prayers recited at this place is the famous supplication taught by the Prophet’s grandson Imam Husain (AS), the Martyr of Karbala.
Let us listen to a passage of this dynamic supplication to God that is also recited fervently throughout the world by believers on the 9th of Zilhijja.
“I affirm, my God, with the veracity of my faith, my resolute conviction, my positive profession of Your Oneness, the inner depths of my consciousness, the connections of the conduits of light of my eyes, the lines on my forehead, the hollow passages of my breath, the pliable tissues of the ridge of my nose, the auditory meatuses of my ears, that upon which my lips come together and close, the vocal movements of my tongue, the joint of my mouth’s palate and jaw, the roots of my molar teeth, the organs that facilitate the swallowing of my food and drink, the stem of my brain, the hollow passages of my neck’s cords, that which is enclosed in my breast’s cavity, the vessels of the trunk of my aorta, the veins of my heart’s diaphragm, the lobes around my liver, that which is contained in my ribs’ cartilage, the sockets of my joints, the contraction of my legs, the tips of my fingers, my flesh, my blood, my hair, my skin, my nerves, my windpipe, my bones, my brain, my veins, and all of my members, and what was woven upon them in the days of my suckling, what the earth has taken away from me, my sleep, my waking, my pauses and the movements of my bowing and prostrating, that had I taken pains and striven for the duration of epochs and ages—were I to given to live that long—to deliver thanks for one of Your blessings, I would not be able to do so, except by Your favour, which would make it incumbent upon me to offer You never-ending thanks anew and to celebrate Your praise afresh.”
The passage which we recited to you, with its minute description of the functions of the human organs and anatomy was expressed over almost a millennium and four centuries ago. This is only a mere passage the lengthy sermon of Imam Husain (AS) which has been translated into all languages including English, and which describes the wonders of creation, the Infinite Mercy of the Lord Most High and the humble but pivotal position of mankind in this vast universe.
Here is another passage from the same eloquently moving supplication:
“O Allah, I beseech You, bearing witness to Your Lordship, acknowledging that You are my Lord and to You is my return. You originated me with Your blessing before I was anything worthy of mention. You created me from dust, then lodged me in the spines (of my fathers), secure from the vicissitudes of fortune and the vagaries of ages and years. I remained in transience from spine to womb in a time immemorial of days past and centuries bygone. Out of Your tenderness, bounty and goodness toward me, You sent me not into the domains of the leaders of unfaith, who broke Your covenant and impugned Your prophets. Rather, You sent me out toward the guidance which had been foreordained for me, the way which You made easy for me and in which You nurtured me…
“So glory be to You, glory be to You, who are Originator and Restorer, Laudable, and Glorious. Holy are Your Names and tremendous Your bounties. So which of Your blessings, my God, can I enumerate or name? For which of Your gifts am I able to give thanks?
On the 9th of Zilhijja, pilgrims on the plain of Arafah and the faithful all over the world commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqeel (PuH) the cousin of Imam Husain (AS) and his emissary to the people of Iraq, who was killed in a brutal manner in the city of Kufa by the tyrannical Omayyad governor, Obaidollah ibn Ziyad.
Here we present you a passage from another moving supplication for the Day of Arafah, which reads:
“O Allah! This is the Day of Arafah, a Day which You have made noble, bestowed honour and magnified. Within it You have spread Your mercy, showed kindness through Your pardon, made plentiful Your grants, and by it You have been bounteous towards your servants.”
These dynamic words and phrases were expressed by Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), the Prophet’s 4th Infallible Heir and the son of the Martyr of Karbala. These wording make us better aware of the significance of the Day of Arafah and the blessings God Almighty showers on this day for all those who turn towards Him with sincerity and humbleness.
As sunset approaches the pilgrims begin to leave Arafah for Muzdalefa where it is obligatory for pilgrims to stay for a part of night before moving to Mena on the 10th of Zilhijja. As a matter of precaution pilgrims should stay till sunrise at Muzdalefa, which is also known as Mash’'ar al-Haraam, and where the pebbles are collected for the stoning of the symbolic devils at Mena, or more properly the three places where Satan had appeared respectively to Abraham, Hajar and Ishmael in a vain bid to prevent the great Patriarch from obeying God’s command to sacrifice his son.