Jul 9 2022
Question: What is the meaning and significance of the Day of Arafat?
Answer: The 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah (the Month of Hajj) is called the Day of Arafat. This day is the culminating event of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The Day of Arafat falls on the 2nd day of pilgrimage rituals. At dawn of this day, nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims will make their way from Mecca to a nearby hillside and plain called Mount Arafat and the Plain of Arafat.
It was from this site that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, gave his famous Farewell Sermon in his final year of life.
During the entire day, from dawn until sunset, Muslim pilgrims stand in earnest supplication and devotion, praying for God’s abundant forgiveness. Tears are shed readily as those who gather make repentance and seek God’s mercy, recite words of prayer and remembrance, and gather together as equals before their Lord.
Muslims around the world who are not participating in the pilgrimage often spend this day
in fasting and devotion.
The Truth Behind the Day of Arafah & its Name
The Second Day of Hajj: Yawmu-Arafah
The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “ الحج عرفة “ or “Hajj is Arafah“. The Arabic text implies a very important concept of the meaning of Hajj. This short statement means that the whole hajj and its validity is confined in the actual day of Arafahi.e. Hajj becomes valid only when the day of Arafah is observed and witnessed by those who undertake the journey, the pilgrims. Regardless how long the hujjaj stay in Makkah, if they missed that single day, they have then missed the whole Hajj.
The name Arafah عَرَفَة was mentioned in many ahadith such as hadith of the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam): “ الحج عرفة “ or Hajj is Arafah (reported by Imam Ahmad and the four sunan). The name Arafat was mentioned in Surat al-Baqara 2:198
لَیْسَ عَلَیْکُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِنْ رَبِّکُمْ ۚ فَإِذَا أَفَضْتُمْ مِنْ عَرَفَاتٍ فَاذْکُرُوا اللَّهَ عِنْدَ الْمَشْعَرِ الْحَرَامِ ۖ وَاذْکُرُوهُ کَمَا هَدَاکُمْ وَإِنْ کُنْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الضَّالِّینَ
“It is no crime in you if ye seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when ye pour down from (Mount) Arafaat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, ye went astray”
There are different interpretations on why that day was called Arafah or Arafaat, none of these opinions was authenticated by a solid textual evidence that can be traced to the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam). Nevertheless, the scholars of the past recorded them in their books as akhbar or stories of the past and therefore I quote for you few of these opinions here:
- Arafah was the place were Adam and Eve met once again when they were sent down to reside on earth. They came down on two different spots but eventually were able to meet and recognize each other on this plain. Arafah here means “to get acquainted”, so based on this opinion Adam and Eve got acquainted to each other on that very same land we call today Arafah.
- When angel Jibreel came down to Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salam), he taught him the rituals of Hajj and took him around the Holy Sites. For every ritual explained Jibreel would say to Ibrahim “A’raft?” or “Did you learn (this one)?” and Ibrahim would reply with “Araft” or “I did”. Thats why it was called Arafah i.e. he got to know or learn.
- It is a place where people get to know “ عرفه or arafa” each other. Since the hujjaj or pilgrims spend most of that day on the same place and perhaps spot, many will get to know new people and learn more about them. So it is a place of تعارف or getting to know one another, and because of the great number of people who get to know each other the word عرفات or Arafaat came about.
- The word عَرْف or A’rf means fragrance, and because the plains of Arafah are sites on which Allah’s mercy (rahmah) and forgiveness descend, the people would describe the day, the place and its dwellers of being perfumed with this spiritual and mystical fragrance “Arafah”. Moreover because of the rahmah or mercy descending upon the gathering, the small mountain on the plain on which many hujjaj desire to stand was called the mountain of Rahmah “Mercy”.