This year’s Hajj and the preceding one are unique and unprecedented because they gather the lowest number of participating pilgrims since the creation of the Saudi Kingdom in 1932, thanks to coronavirus. Earlier, authorities in the kingdom had asked the international Islamic community not to participate in this year’s ritual for the fear that the pandemic might get a breeding ground among the pilgrims. So, only a few Saudis and fewer foreigners are participating.
As such, pilgrims arrive at Mount Arafat to observe the biggest of the Hajj ritual; we, outside Saudi Arabia, too share those moments, appreciate the day, and in awe supplicate to the Almighty Allah (SWT).
Mount Arafat is a sacred place where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) delivered the famous farewell sermon in which he, among other things, warned Muslims to guard as sacred: people’s property, their blood, women’s right, including their security, food and dignity. On that day, it was said, the last portion of revelation was sealed: “On this day, I’ve perfected for you your religion”, says Quran. Thus, the Arafat vigil offers the pilgrims some opportunities to stand, sit and bow in a contemplative, solemn mood to the Almighty. On this day, Allah forgives more people and liberates them from hellfire to paradise.
Arafat signifies diversity and pluralism, hence, the subtle directive for tolerance. The word ‘Arafat’ derives from the word ‘Arafah, or he learned/knew. Arafat is a place where people get to know each other. The place is known as Jabal al-Rahma or the Mountain of Mercy. Assembling such diverse people in one place, under one umbrella of universal brotherhood, is God’s subtle command: tolerate each other. I am yet to understand from which religious sects such as Bokoharam, Taliban, etc., emanate.
Moreover, Hajj, Aràfat in particular, is symbolic; it signifies peace and social inclusion as Muhrim/pilgrim is asked not to kill even an insect, including mosquitoes, flies, bees, etc. So when a pilgrim returns home, he’s at least taught to respect other God’s creatures as part of the ecosystem. Therefore, their lives are spared because they’re as sacred as human souls. In other words, Arafat teaches Muslims not to kill!
Arafat signifies tolerance, as Muslims converge from different continents, countries, races, colours and languages in one place, same time, wearing the same garments, and performing the same rites. As a result, bodies come closer, faces meet, hands are shaken, pleasantries exchanged, tongues converse, and hearts reconcile.
Arafat symbolises utmost humility as people share sameness: bareheaded, with simple white clothes or Ihram, rich and poor, the rulers and the ruled, men and women, Arabs and non-Arabs, whites and blacks come together for a shared purpose. In this togetherness, unity penetrates the hearts as physical beauty is ignored: “The believers are but single brotherhood,” says Quran (49:10).
Arafat is an adaptation of the day of judgement as people submit to the will of Allah in an open, vast ground. It, therefore, replicates and reminds the faithful that a day would come when only the kingdom of God reigns; only He can arbiter!
May the Lord in His infinite mercy restore peace to the world.
Salisu Yusuf teaches at the Department of English, Federal College of Education, Katsina.