From the Annals of History
The Plains of ‘Arafāt
Maulana Ayyub ‘Attari Madani
‘Arafāt is the plural of ‘Arafah. 9th Dhul Hijjah is also called ‘Arafah and ‘Arafāt too, although this is actually the name of the region, not the day. Each part of this special region is called ‘Arafah, therefore the whole region is referred to with the plural form ‘Arafāt’, (Mirat-ul-Manajih, vol. 4, p. 139).
Reason for the Name
Multiple explanations have been provided to explain the origins of the name ‘Arafah:
1. ‘عَرَف’ means ‘to recognise.’ At this place, Sayyiduna Adam عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام met Sayyidah Hawa رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا after 300 years of separation and both of them ‘recognised’ each other, (Tafseer Qurtubi, Surah Al-Baqarah, under verse 198, vol. 1, p. 320, juz 2).
2. At this place, Sayyiduna Jibril عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام taught the prophet Ibrahim عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام the essential rites of Hajj, to which he عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام replied: ‘عَرَفْتُ’ i.e. ‘I have recognised.’
3. One meaning of ‘عَرف’ is ‘to give’. On that day, Allah Almighty gives gifts of forgiveness to the pilgrims. That is why it is called ‘Arafah.
4. Pilgrims admit their sins having reached there, which is another reason why it is called ‘Arafah, (Khaazin Surah Al-Baqarah, under verse 198, vol. 1, p. 140; Mirat-ul-Manajih, vol. 4, p. 207).
The plain of ‘Arafāt is a vast field on the east side of Makkah, on the way to Taif, at a distance of approximately 20 kilometres from Makkah and roughly 11 kilometres from Mina, (Bahar-e-Shari’at, part one Terminologies). This field is roughly 12 kilometres in length from North to South, and 5 kilometres wide from East to West. This is encompassed by a hill called ‘Arafāt, (Urdu News web). It is better to perform the standing (wuqūf) in between the plains of ‘Arafāt, near Jabal Al-Rahmah mountain where there is a flooring of black stones, (Rafeeq-ul-Haramayn, p. 160).
Whoever enters ‘Arafāt for even a second, from 9th Dhul Hijjah, after the sun declining (i.e. from beginning of Dhuhr Salah) till true dawn of 10th Dhul Hijjah, has become a Haji; staying at this place is the greatest rite of Hajj, (Rafeeq-ul-Haramayn, p. 160).
There is a magnificent masjid on the Western corner of the plain of ‘Arafāt called Masjid Nimrah. It is also called Masjid ‘Arafah and Masjid Ibrahim, (‘Aashiqan-e-Rasool ki 130 Hikayaat, p. 235).
Virtues of Standing (wuquf) at ‘Arafat:
1. Many awliya رَحِمَهُمُ الـلّٰـه and two prophets of Allah Almighty, Sayyiduna Khidar and Sayyiduna Ilyas عَـلَيْـهِما الـسَّـلَام attend the plains of ‘Arafāt on the Day of ‘Arafah, (Fatawa Razawiyyah, vol. 10, p. 748).
2. It is reported from Sayyiduna Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه that ‘there are some sins which can only be expiated by standing at ‘Arafāt (i.e. they are only wiped away by means of the stay at ‘Arafāt), (Qoot-ul-Quloob, vol. 2, p. 199).
3. The Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘There is no day in which Allah Almighty frees more people from Hell than the Day of ‘Arafah. The mercy of Allah Almighty draws close (to His people), then he honours His people in front of the angels, saying: ‘With what intentions have these people come?’ (Muslim, p. 540, Hadith 3288).