بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Standing at ʿArafah is one of the pilgrimage’s rites. The Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
“The pilgrimage is ʿArafah.”
Meaning, this is the most significant integral that one observes during the pilgrimage and it is one of its main pillars. For one’s pilgrimage to be complete they must stand at ʿArafah. The Day of ʿArafah has many virtues and blessings associated with it. It is a day that is mentioned in the Qurʾān where Allāh says:
“By the witness and what is witnessed.”
Ibn ʿAbbās said that both Friday and the Day of ʿArafah are intended in this verse. The word “shāhid” is Friday and the word “mash-hūd” is ʿArafah. This is supported by what is related from the Prophet (upon him be peace):
اليَوْمُ الْمَوْعُودُ يَوْمُ القِيَامَةِ وَاليَوْمُ الْمَشْهُودُ يَوْمُ عَرَفَةَ وَالشَّاهِدُ يَوْمُ الجُمُعَةِ
In this narration, it is mentioned that the “yawm mawʿūd” is the Day of Judgement, the “shāhid” is Friday, and the “mash-hūd” is ʿArafah. The Day of ʿArafah is referred to here as “mash-hūd” because it is a day witnessed by such a large gathering of believers. In our times, millions of pilgrims stand at ʿArafah worshipping and praying to Allāh. In this way, the Day of ʿArafah is witnessed by all those who are blessed to make the pilgrimage and attend. And while it may be the pilgrims there who witness the day firsthand, Muslims from all corners of the earth are aware of the day and observe it.
In this narration, the Prophet (upon him be peace) mentioned the “mash-hūd” before the “shāhid.” This indicates to the significance and virtue of the Day of ʿArafah. And it indicates to the masses of people who gather there as well. The plains of ʿArafah swell with pilgrims, and in this way, it resembles the Day of Judgement.
Those who stand on the plains of ʿArafah engaged in earnest supplication to their Lord, those who spend the long hot days of summer fasting for His sake, those who worship Him sincerely, they shall soon stand in droves before Him. And at that time, the deeds they sent forth will be a means for His benevolent mercy to encompass them on a day in which there is no shade except for His. Beseeching Allāh for forgiveness and pardon is a prayer readily accepted on this day. Standing before Him at ʿArafah will earn one His forgiveness and a liberation from the Hellfire.
The Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace) said:
إِذَا كَانَ يَوْمُ عَرَفَةَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَنْزِلُ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَيُبَاهِي بِهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةَ فَيَقُولُ انْظُرُوا إِلَى عِبَادِي أَتَوْنِي شُعْثًا غُبْرًا ضَاجِّينَ مِنْ كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ أُشْهِدُكُمْ أَنِّي قَدْ غَفَرْتُ لَهُمْ فَتَقُولُ لَهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَيْ رَبِّ فِيهِمْ فُلَانٌ يَزْهُو وَفُلَانٌ وَفُلَانٌ قَالَ يَقُولُ اللَّهُ قَدْ غَفَرْتُ لَهُمْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَمَا مِنْ يَوْمٍ أَكْثَرُ عَتِيقًا مِنَ النَّارِ مِنْ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ
“When the Day of ʿArafah comes, Allāh descends to the heavens and boasts to the Angels: ‘Look at My servants. They have come to me from afar disheveled and dusty, proclaiming their servitude. I bear witness to you that I have forgiven them.’ The Angels reply: ‘O our Lord! Amongst them is so-and-so being haughty, so-and-so, and so-and-so.’ Allāh says: ‘I have forgiven them.’ And the Prophet (upon him be peace) said: ‘There is no day in which more are liberated from the Fire than the Day of ʿArafah.’”
Allāh is telling the Angels to reflect over the state of the pilgrims who are standing on the plains of ʿArafah. They traveled to His House exalting His majesty and reverently submitting to Him in worship. They are standing there disheveled, their bodies, hair, and garments have become unkept from observing the state of pilgrim garb while performing the pilgrimage’s rites. In this condition, they stand there before their Creator invoking the talbiyah, confirming His Oneness and proclaiming His praise. Supplicating to Him for His forgiveness and mercy, praying to Him for all their needs. Allāh tells the Angels to ponder over the pilgrims’ state in order to boast to them regarding His pilgrims. And then, He informs them that they have been forgiven.
On this day, so much abundant mercy and boundless forgiveness is showered upon the worshipers all of which infuriates the Devil. The Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
مَا رُئِيَ الشَّيْطَانُ يَوْمًا هُوَ فِيهِ أَصْغَرُ وَلَا أَدْحَرُ وَلَا أَحْقَرُ وَلَا أَغْيَظُ مِنْهُ فِي يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ وَمَا ذَاكَ إِلَّا لِمَا رَأَى مِنْ تَنَزُّلِ الرَّحْمَةِ وَتَجَاوُزِ اللَّهِ عَنِ الذُّنُوبِ الْعِظَامِ إِلَّا مَا أُرِيَ يَوْمَ بَدْرٍ
“The Devil does not witness any day in which he is more insignificant, vanquished, disdained, and infuriated than the Day of ʿArafah. The reason for that is what he sees from the descent of mercy and Allāh’s pardoning of grave sins. The only exception to this is what the Devil saw on the Day of Badr.”
On the Day of ʿArafah, the Devil witnesses the Angels descending upon the plains and he knows that their decent is one of mercy and forgiveness. Abū al-Walīd al-Bājī discussed this point. It may be that the Devil sees them and overhears the mention of what is happening. Or it may be that the Angels mention what is happening to frustrate him. He may overhear them mentioning that Allāh is pardoning the sins of those standing on ʿArafah, and this may be their mentioning of which sins and whom is being forgiven or it may be that he is informed of this without those details. In this way, Allāh conceals the faults of His worshipers who have been forgiven. The Devil is insignificant on this day; the awe-inspiring stature of the Angels makes him look small. The lapses he worked so hard to get man to fall into are forgiven; his effort and work has been undone; thus, he is vanquished. The Angels inform him that forgiveness is being showered upon the believers; thus, he is disdained and frustrated.
This is a day on which the pilgrims’ sins are forgiven. As well, the non-pilgrims who fast on the Day of ʿArafah will have their sins pardoned. The Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
صِيَامُ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ إِنِّي أَحْتَسِبُ عَلَى اللهِ أَنْ يُكَفِّرَ السَّنَةَ الَّتِي قَبْلَهُ وَالسَّنَةَ الَّتِي بَعْدَهُ
“Fasting on the Day of ʿArafah, I am certain that Allāh will expiate the sins of the year before it and the year after.”
Fasting on this day is recommended for non-pilgrims. Pilgrims do not fast so that they may have energy to stand and supplicate at ʿArafah. As well, the pilgrims are guests at Allāh’s House. And when one is a guest, he does not fast.
Many events in the lives of man have taken place at ʿArafah. It was there where Allāh took the covenant from mankind. Ibn ʿAbbās (Allāh be pleased with him) related that the Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
أَخَذَ اللهُ الْمِيثَاقَ مِنْ ظَهْرِ آدَمَ بِنَعْمَانَ يَعْنِي عَرَفَةَ فَأَخْرَجَ مِنْ صُلْبِهِ كُلَّ ذُرِّيَّةٍ ذَرَأَهَا فَنَثَرَهُمْ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ كَالذَّرِّ ثُمَّ كَلَّمَهُمْ قِبَلًا قَالَ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى…
“Allāh took the covenant from Adam’s loins at Naʿmān -i.e., ʿArafah- and brought out all of his progeny that He created. He then spread them before Him like ants. He spoke to them directly and said: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied: “Indeed.’…”
Ibn al-Jawzī mentioned two possibilities regarding the name ʿArafah. He said that when Adam and Eve left Paradise and came to earth, they descended to two faraway lands and were thus separated. After some time, they came across each other at ʿArafah. The root letters of the word ʿArafah are the ʿayn, the rāʾ, and the fāʾ, which can mean being acquainted. And when Adam and Eve met at ʿArafah, they realized that they were acquainted with each other.
Another possibility that Ibn al-Jawzī related is that the Archangel Gabriel showed the Prophet Abraham the pilgrimage’s rites. And when confirming if he understood the rites, he would ask Abraham: “ʿarfta?” meaning, “Do you understand?” To this, Abraham replied in the affirmative. The root letters that comprise the verb in Jibrīl’s question are the same root letters as the word ʿArafah.
When standing at ʿArafah one is standing where he initially testified to Allāh’s Lordship. He is standing where the father and mother of mankind reunited on earth. He is standing where Jibrīl taught the Prophet Ibrāhīm the rites of the pilgrimage. He is standing where Allāh revealed to the Prophet (upon him be peace) the verse:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا
“Today, I have perfected your religion and completed My favor upon you. I am pleased that Islām is your religion.”
One stands on ʿArafah’s plains amongst a group similar to what will be seen on the Day of Judgement. Here, we must realize that we have testified to Allāh’s Oneness and Lordship. We have done so and now must confirm it and believe in Him. We dwell on earth as His creation, descendants of a single progenitor whom He fashioned and molded most excellently. Our duty to uphold God’s commandments is conveyed to us by the Angels and Prophets. They teach us what we must do. This continued from the time of Adam to Abraham and then continued thereafter. The final messenger is the Prophet Muḥammad (upon him be peace) and Islām is the religion of truth. The verse was revealed at ʿArafah, the same place that man took his initial covenant, the same place Adam and Eve reunited, the same place that Jibrīl taught Ibrāhīm the rites, during the Prophet’s farewell pilgrimage; another significant event in man’s life was witnessed.
Standing there, the pilgrims together proclaim the talbiyah. They ask Allāh for His mercy and forgiveness. They yearn for His pardon and fear His punishment. They pray to Him while standing in this massive gathering. This cannot be but an event that makes one reflect on what is to come. The Day of Judgement is inevitable.
ذَلِكَ يَوْمٌ مَجْمُوعٌ لَهُ النَّاسُ وَذَلِكَ يَوْمٌ مَشْهُودٌ
“That is a day on which the people will be gathered; that is a day which will be witnessed.”
And Allāh knows best.
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 2:229.
 Fayḍ al-Qadīr, 3:406; ʿUmdat al-Qārī, 1:321.
 Q, 85:3.
 al-Sirāj al-Munīr, 4:509; Tafsīr al-Baghawī, 4:232.
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 5:293.
 Mirqāt al-Mafātīḥ, 3:1017.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Khuzaymah, 4:263.
 Muwaṭṭaʾ, 422.
 Muntaqā, 3:79.
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 2:166.
 Tabṣirah, 2:134.
 Musnad Aḥmad, 4:267.
 Muthīr al-ʿAzm al-Sākin, 239.
 Q, 5:3.
 Q, 11:103.