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This is a special series of Blogs which describes my time and experiences during Hajj this year.
DAY 21 – 10 August 2019 – 09 Zilhajj 1440
The Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) said “Al Hajj o Arafah” meaning that the Hajj is actually Arafah or Arafat.
Staying in Arafat (waqoof e Arafat) is the Principal part of Hajj. It is Farz (mandatory) and cannot be compensated by sacrifice (damm) like some other Manasiks can be. One has to reach Arafat before sunset on this day, even if it may be for a short time.
It is customary to leave Mina after Fajr prayer and go to Arafat and stay there till sunset. However, the Maghrib prayer is not offered there; the pilgrims leave Arafat without offering Maghrib prayer.
We were taken to Arafat by train a little after midnight. This is also permitted.
Arafat is 5 – 8 km from Mina, depending upon where you start from. The Buses take many hours due to heavy rush, but the train took only about 10 minutes to reach. Waiting to get on the train took longer, but it was still much less than bus travel.
Our guide took us from tents to train station, traveled with us to Arafat and then handed us over to another guide who took us to our tent there.
Masjid Nimra is the only mosque in Arafat. Obviously, all the pilgrims cannot be accommodated there; only a small number goes there and listens to the Hajj sermon directly. Others can listen to it on some speakers or through the mobile app. This year, live translation in multiple languages was also offered.
We passed by several tents before reaching our own. They all appeared to have air-conditioners installed and running; ours had couple of air coolers. Men’s’ tent was closed from three sides and was fully open on the fourth side. Just opposite to men’s tent was women’s tent which also had three closed and one fully open side. The open sides of men’s and women’s tents were facing each other, and therefore, both parties were in full view of each other.
Arafat was hot, and air coolers did not provide enough relief from heat. Many heavy-weight, heavily bearded gentlemen took off the upper sheet of Ihram and fixed themselves before the air coolers in groups. They arranged themselves in such a manner that the cool air may not escape from their group to reach other lesser mortals. Sitting half-naked, they did not even consider they were in full view of the women in the opposite tent, and that it was not appropriate.
The day’s meal in Arafat is served to all pilgrims by the Saudi government traditionally. However, many other people take it upon themselves to serve the pilgrims by distributing cold water, juices, and fruits. Whenever such a new supply arrived at the tent, some more active people literally attacked it and hijacked it. As a result, some people kept on hoarding, while others did not get anything at all. The hijackers managed to eat much more than their capacity and were later found in queues outside the meagre number of bathrooms. The bathrooms and ablution place design were similar to Mina, hence the same issue of how to keep ourselves and Ihram clean.
Zuhr and Asr prayers are offered together in Masjid Nimra. But If you are praying in tents, then these are offered separately and on their time. At Zuhr time, there were many small congregations for offering prayer.
It is ‘masnoon’ (following the sunnah), that from Zuhr till sunset, one should only pray. No nawafil, no Qur’an recitation, no Zikr; only praying. On the occasion of the Last Hajj (Hajj a tul Wida), the Holy Prophet sat on the back of the camel and raised his hands in prayer and prayed from Zuhr to sunset. Surely, all his prayers would be for the Ummah.
Some of the prayer time was wasted in the worry about hot weather. People sat in groups and chit chatted to alleviate the suffering from heat. After about an hour, suddenly the clouds appeared, and heavy downpour started.
The downpour continued for over an hour. Water quickly accumulated on the tent roofs and found its way from many sides to get under the tent. Most carpets had to be rolled. The baggage had to be taken care of. The heat subsided and the weather became very pleasant.
The land being sandy, the rainwater got absorbed quickly. In the meanwhile, Asr time came on us. Again, there were several congregations for Asr prayer.
Wuqoof e Arafat is an extremely precious occasion. It is narrated that Allah descends down to the sky (Arsh) which is nearest to earth and looks directly at His subjects prostrating before him and praying fervently to him. This is the time to disconnect from all distractions, and concentrate on the presence before Allah, the Almighty, the All Merciful. This is the most favored time to ask forgiveness from Allah and seek to relieve ourselves from the huge burden of sins we have piled up on our backs through our lives. This is the most appropriate time to pay gratitude to Allah and ask for His Guidance to be able to do better and more in the way of good. This is really the time to ask Allah for His Mercy, His Benevolence, His ‘Fazal’, and His unlimited Blessings for ourselves, our families, our parents, our children, our friends, and for those who requested us to pray for them. This time is only for asking, and requesting, and praying, and begging before our Lord. Pray till our mouths dry up from speaking and our eyes have no more tears to support our prayers and we are too spent to pray physically. And then continue to pray with silent mouth and closed eyes. This time at Arafat is the highest time for acceptance of prayers.
How can one lose even a tiny portion of such precious and valuable time for prayers? But we did. A fair amount of time was seen being wasted on photography, video calls, phone calls and usual discussions.
Wuqoof e Arafat is time bound and did get over. But what did we gain from the biggest opportunity? Allah Knows better. Allah is ‘Samad’ and hopefully shall ignore our silly, stupid, senseless whittling away of such precious time.
It is extremely sad commentary that during Wuqoof e Arafat, we remained more concerned about connecting with people rather than connecting with Allah. We strived to tell the families, friends, and acquaintances back home about our presence in Arafat. We worried about sending pictures to them in real time; even better if we could do video call. The only thing we did not worry about was connecting with Allah, our Lord and presenting ourselves to Him and seeking His Bounties which were abundant at that time. We considered that we did enough of a great job just by staying at Arafat for so many hours.
Just after sunset, we were taken to train station and we headed for Muzdalifah.
Night at Muzdalifah
Muzdalifah is quite near to Arafat and is actually on the way back to Mina. We reached Muzdalifah quickly.
We were placed in a compound just outside the train station. We would stay here till morning and leave after Fajr prayer. We unrolled our mats which we had brought for this purpose and prepared to pray Maghrib and Isha together. Meanwhile, the compound filled quickly and was soon filled from end to end.
Staying the night at Muzdalifah under the open sky and taking rest is Sunnah of our Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).
It was 9.30 at night. We soon realized that we were not going to get anything to eat. And it so happened. Except a small water bottle, which we picked up on arrival here, nothing was served; neither for dinner, nor for breakfast.
It was surprising. If it was planned that way, it should have been informed so that we would bring some biscuits or fruit or like with us. Two gentlemen from our group were diabetic. It was a real problem for them to remain empty stomach for so long. Fortunately, one of them found a few biscuits in his bag. I declined and asked them to share among themselves. So, we stayed the night at Muzdalifah without food and water.
We had to, and we collected pebbles from Muzdalifah for Rami at Jamarat. We needed 49 if we left Mina on third day, or 70 if we stayed over for fourth day. To be on the safe side, we collected a little more than 70.
Hajj is a huge movement of people, probably the largest in the world. Taking care of millions of pilgrims takes a very high level of organized effort. Saudi government and other governments who assist and participate deserve our sincere applause and commendation. It is a great job done, by any standard.
Isolated events like the one mentioned may be the result of negligence of some individuals. The spirit is not to snatch the credit away for the good work done; it is just an honest account of what happened. Yes, it may help in improvement, and it may also help the pilgrims to be ready if at all such a thing happens.