This whole journey was hard to comprehend. I just couldn’t bring myself to believe I was actually on the Plains of Arafat.
After an hour and a half early this morning, we arrived in Arafat at 3:00 am. We would be here for less than 24 hours. I didn’t know how I felt at that point. Coming from a life that was so fast paced and constantly ‘on the go’, I wondered what I would do on the plains for the few hours I was here. But at the same time, the status of this land and of this day was so great, that I didn’t know if I would be able to do enough in the short time we had. Our group leaders had reminded us time and again that the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, the Day of Arafah, was the climax of this entire journey. In ahadith it is narrated that a person does not leave the Plains of Arafah except that they are completely cleansed of sin. This was the start of a new beginning…
There was nothing specific that was obligatory here, except that we must spend time contemplating and to really connect with Allah (swt).
The miracle of this Holy Land was such, that despite such little sleep, all tiredness faded. With over an hour to go until Fajr time, some set up their sleeping bags in the tent and decided to rest for a few hours, whilst others, like myself, decided to sit under the open sky and stay awake until Fajr.
I closed my eyes, just to give myself some time to process exactly where I was, and my surroundings. I’d had butterflies in my stomach since the day before, in anticipation of reaching here. And no matter how hard others had tried to explain this place and the feeling of this land, being present here, myself, was the only way I was truly able to understand the essence of all of this.
What was required here in Arafat was to remain here in Wuquf (waiting) after Dhuhr until sunset. It was also recommended to be awake at this time and to be immersed in reflection. I did not want to be tired, so I decided to sleep after Fajr prayers for a while. Around 11:00 am, those around me nudged me awake for breakfast (the government provided meals) after which we rushed to join the long queues outside the washrooms to do Wudhu and freshen up for Dhuhr prayers. All the Hujjaj were in Arafat today and of the 200+ members in our group, the ladies were sharing 1 tent whilst the gents shared another adjacent tent. I noted that for every 4-5 tents that were set up, there was one Wudhu and Washroom area.
We prayed Dhuhrain prayers in congregation and then sat for a short Majalis. Today was the Wafat of Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqil. My mind drifted to the thought that back in Canada, community members would have gone to the mosque the night before, and many would be sitting in their homes or at the mosque performing the Amal for Arafah. But me, I was actually IN Arafat!
We were not sitting in black clothes, quite the contrary. We weren’t in a mosque. We were in tents, with 40+ degrees of heat and minimal air conditioning. And then it dawned on me. Imam Husayn (a) had also been on the plains of Arafat when his cousin was martyred in Kufa. He too, stood here, several hundred years ago, and conversed with Allah (swt).
Mustafa Mama recited Du’a-e-Arafah as taught by Imam Husayn (a). It shook me to the core. What we read as a supplication was not a written supplication for Imam Husayn (a) but a conversation from the heart and so eloquent! I had been reading this Du’a for months now to be able to familiarise myself with it, just for this day. What a beautiful supplication that Imam had spoken just prior to his departure for Kerbala.
It was around 2:00 pm. We had time to ourselves now until sunset. I had my headphones and decided to listen to the Du’a of Arafah again and look through the meaning at my own pace and try to understand this Du’a of the Imam in a different light.
I then decided to go sit outside for a while. There on the land, we wrote the names of our loved ones, buried letters to the Imam, and prayed for family, friends, and ourselves. Everybody engaged in conversation with Allah (swt) and reflection in ways they felt worked best for them. Some prayed, whilst others just sat in silence.
And then began my search.
My search? I vividly remembered a point that Shaykh Jaffer had made in the seminar; to actively search for the Holy Imam of our time (atfs) on the Plains of Arafah.
The Imam of our time, May He hasten his reappearance, was on this blessed land. That was a guarantee. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself; which tent was he in? Was it nearby? Had he passed me whilst I walked between tents? Did he know that I had not stopped thinking of him since morning?
In my mind, I recalled the words from Du’a-e-Nudba; “Hal Ilayka Yabna Ahmada Sabeelin fatulka?” ‘Is there any way I can meet you O Son of Ahmad?”
And all the while, I wondered if I would really be able to meet him.
With sunset 45 minutes away, two of my friends and I began walking. We didn’t know which direction we were going in, but we wanted to find where the Mountain of Mercy (Jabal ar-Rahma) was located. We didn’t talk much, it was more of a silent walk. My eyes deseparately searched left and right, looking intently for the Imam (ATFS). At that point, I felt as though I wasn’t sure if I would recognise him. I felt great remorse. Had I dedicated my years in service to him? I had no way of knowing if I saw him, or if he saw me, but he had been there when I had, in that blessed land. The search gave me a stronger resolve, to keep working hard at purifying my soul, so that I was worthy of meeting the Imam, if not today, then one day.
As we walked, we saw people in Ihram standing atop a building, all facing one direction, with their hands in Qunut. One of my friends stated that they must be facing Jabal ar-Rahma as that is the only key landmark in that vicinity. We walked towards the building, keeping vigilant of how many tents we had passed before turning in either direction, because every tent looked exactly the same, and there were hundreds set up in Arafah. We couldn’t afford to get lost!
As we got nearer, we saw that it was actually a men’s washroom area with a rooftop where people were standing. We found a stairwell and climbed to the top of the building. The view was breathtaking. To our right, the skies were orange and the sun had begun to set, and to our left we saw white speckles, clustered on a mountain top. These were Hujjaj sitting on Jabal ar-Rahma. The mountain was in the distance; I would think at least a half hour walk away, but to be able to see it from here was fulfilling in itself.
We were not up there for too long, as it was Maghrib time soon after and we wanted to be back at our tent. I didn’t know what time our buses for Muzdalifah would come, but we had been told ‘anytime after Maghribain prayers’. That could be as early as 6:30 pm or as late as 1:00 am. We just had to take it as it comes.
We prayed outdoors under open skies and then went back into the tents. Hujjaj were now a little more social and shared their experiences thus far and their anticipations of what lay ahead. At 11:00 pm we heard that our buses were here.
I looked back one last time.
The day of Arafah had passed us, and God’s promise was that each individual today would leave with a clean slate, and their sins were forgiven. What a divine gift! My final prayer on that soil was to be granted the strength to maintain that slate and have the ability to work as hard as I could to reach nearer to Him and refrain from wrong-doing. I prayed that I would be worthy of returning to this blessed land again someday….soon.
The ladies boarded a separate bus and the gents boarded a separate bus. Now, we would be separate as the men were required to spend a longer time in Muzdalifah. We would see them again the next day in Mina.
Muzdalifah was not far. We reached at 11:30 pm and made our way into the fenced area to find a place to sit. A short stay in Muzdalifah and the collection of the pebbles was part of the rituals of Hajj. However, our buses out of Arafat were one of the last and we were quite late. There didn’t seem to be any space for us to camp!
And so after trying to explain to those guarding the fence, they finally let our group out of the gates, and we began to walk…..