ARAFAT: Nearly three million pilgrims on Monday stood on Mount Arafat, also known as the Mount of Mercy, and the plains surrounding it from where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave his farewell sermon more than 14 centuries ago.
It was from here that the Last Prophet’s Companions set out across the four corners of the world preaching the simple message of Islam. The Prophet’s last sermon, simple and pure as it was, became the magnet for millions to join the fold of Islam. The Prophet preached about the oneness of Allah and talked about piety being the only barometer of one’s closeness to Allah.
The men and women who formed a massive stream of white on Monday got on to any type of transport they could find or just set out on foot to seek forgiveness.The “wuquf” or standing of pilgrims draped in two white unsewn pieces of cloth in the plains of Arafat is the climax of the annual pilgrimage. It was also an extraordinary symbol of Islam’s unity and equality. One of the focuses of pilgrims in Arafat is Masjid Al-Namirah, from where the Prophet addressed his Companions during his farewell pilgrimage, an act that was reenacted by the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh on Monday.
In his sermon, Al-Asheikh urged Muslims to fear Allah both in private and public, and to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet to achieve success in life. He also discussed major problems faced by Muslims across the world, in addition to outlining Islamic creed and deeds.
He stressed that terrorism needs to be rooted out. “The cause that helps the growth of terrorism should be removed and the injustices faced by oppressed societies should be stopped, its perpetrators should be punished regardless of whether they are individuals or groups,” he said.
“While all agreed that terrorism is the worst evil, the real issue is not terrorism alone but there are also evils such as poverty, unemployment, ill health and the consequences of natural disasters,” Al-Asheikh added.
He said the abuse of the Last Prophet in the West should be countered by highlighting his humanity, love and mercy. “Help your Prophet by spreading the radiant image of his personality of mercy and affection and by emulating those qualities in your daily life and inviting people to it. That is the fitting reply to those who make false charges against him,” he said.
Al-Asheikh called on Muslims not to allow their enemies to draw them into conflicts and bloodshed that lay their economies to waste. He also urged the people of the West to adhere to the principles of human rights and justice that they believe in. “We hear about escalating violations against Muslims and their faith and other important Islamic features. Such practices do not help achieve stability and will only worsen the situation and spread hostility and hatred,” he said.
Islam is a religion of moderation and does not support any kind of extremism. It is a religion of universal character fit for all times and people and does not approve of discrimination based on color or nationality. Its values have withstood opposition for around 1,400 years, he said. “Islam is the power of tomorrow and the civilization of the future. It is a religion of justice. It is against a globalization that empowers the strong and rich over the weak and poor with no concern for unemployment, poverty and rising prices.”
He said stability and security could only be achieved by obeying the rulers. He also called on the Iraqi people to respond to the call made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Abdullah to stop bloodshed and bury their differences, and urged the people of Sudan to unite for their own welfare. Outside the mosque, people spent the day in worship and supplication, praying for their needs, and also for the welfare of the Kingdom and its rulers, particularly Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal for the excellent services provided to pilgrims this year.
Saudi national Awad Bafaqer sobbed uncontrollably while seeking forgiveness from God. “Islam is the best religion in the world and I am proud to be a Muslim. I have only one prayer on my lips: May God unite all Muslims. If we are united, we will be victorious here and in the hereafter,” he said. Bafaqer had arrived in Arafat straight from Jeddah.
Getting to Arafat was not without difficulties for many pilgrims. However, despite the hardships, every pilgrim Arab News spoke to told of how reaching the plains of Arafat was a dream come true. “Arafat is very peaceful, I feel a connection with God. Today is the day of Haj and today I feel like I can speak to Allah and find a connection where I feel like I’ve been heard,” said 44-year-old Imtiyaz Bobat of London. “I’ve been praying for my late younger sister. She had meningitis and she passed away recently. My whole Haj has been for her. I’ve been praying to Allah to forgive her for any shortcomings she may have had and also for her very young children. I’ve been praying to Allah to help me become more pious so I can be a better Muslim and of course my parents who have had to endure the loss of a child. I’ve been praying for an end to sufferings in Palestine, Afghanistan and everywhere else in the world. Insha Allah we will have peace,” he said.
“It’s been a very huge day for me, lots of people here, as they make dua and ask Allah for forgiveness. There’s been so much unity here, obviously it’s such a peaceful place and everyone is here with one intention,” said fellow British pilgrim Salim Bhayat of Coventry, UK.
“You have maulanas performing prayers in the background. It’s my first Haj, I’ve never done Umrah and I’ve come on my own. I’ve been praying for my family and friends and peace in the world. That’s all I want in my life. Obviously, you make your own connection with Allah, it’s an individual experience. It’s unexplainable. No words can explain how you feel inside,” he said.
“Praying in Masjid Al-Namirah does not have a special significance while performing the pilgrimage. But everyone wants to pray in it. And I feel myself fortunate enough to get a chance to see this majestic mosque and pray inside it,” said Abdur Rehman Abdul Wahab from Kuwait.
“Haj is never tiring but always rewarding. Whoever performs it becomes as pure and innocent as a newborn child. This is Allah’s way of showering His choicest blessings on the believers,” said Saleh Al-Sheikh, a Syrian-American.
“I’m here to answer the call of Allah and pray for peace and tranquility in my motherland. Those planning to harm us should never succeed in their mission. I also prayed for the unity of the Muslim Ummah, which is the need of the hour,” said Iranian Haider Ali Najafi.
“Arafat reminds me of our beloved Prophet. He asked us to undertake this journey and here we are. We have been undertaking this journey for the last 14 centuries and Muslims will continue to do so until the Day of Judgment,” said Muzaffar Hikayati from the United Arab Emirates.
Local food and drink companies distributed their products for free, and each time distribution trucks opened their doors hundreds flocked to catch food and drinks thrown from them. At sunset, pilgrims started their journey to Muzdalifah where they will spend the night and collect pebbles to perform the symbolic stoning of Satan on the following three days – Arabnews