In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful
Today is a most special day of the Hajj, the day of Arafat. It is said that, on this plain, Adam and Eve were first reunited after their expulsion from the garden. Standing on the plain of Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have said that, “Hajj is the day of Arafat.”
On the plain of Arafat, pilgrims spend the entire day in prayer, meditation, and reflection. Then, from about late afternoon until the sun sets, pilgrims begin to beseech their Lord for forgiveness for all of their sins. It is a dress rehearsal for Judgment Day, when everyone will stand, alone, before their Creator and be called to account for their actions.
I remember this day as if it was yesterday. We stayed in a big, carpeted, and air conditioned place. It was sort of like a large warehouse, but it was actually quite comfortable. Food, drink, and tea was served throughout the day. From the morning through the afternoon, we spent the day praying, reading Scripture, and quietly reflecting. After the late afternoon prayer, however, the real emotion of Arafat came at me in full force.
A number of the pilgrims in our group got together and made a communal prayer to God for His grace and forgiveness. I preferred to be alone, all alone, with my God to talk with and beseech Him for His mercy. I could not stop the tears from falling. I thought about all the things I had done wrong; all the sins I committed; all the times I fell short of the Lord’s standards; and all I could do was weep.
I thought about how Beautiful the Lord had been to me, and how ugly I had been in return to Him. I thought about how Merciful He had been to me, and how ungrateful I had been through my sins. I thought about how Perfect He is, and how flawed and broken I was. And all I could was weep.
I bowed my head to the ground and begged my Creator to look past everything that I done wrong and take me in as I am: weak and flawed. I bowed my head to the ground and laid all my faults and shortcoming before the Foot of the Lord. I bowed my head to the ground and made no excuses for what I had done in the past. And I appealed to the Lord for His undying Mercy and Grace, for that was all I could do, and that was all I had left to do.
And as the sun set, elation set in because, as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told us, all of our sins would be forgiven. We would be born anew. In fact, the first sin one can commit after the day of Arafat would be to think that God did not forgive you for your sins. The power and emotion of that moment would stay with me forever. I felt totally rejuvenated, and my bond with God became even stronger.
When I first went to Mecca, I was quickly overwhelmed by the Awesome Power of God, fully symbolized by the Ka’aba. Yet, that feeling went away quickly, and He became a near and dear Friend and Companion. This strengthened to the greatest degree after Arafat, and I have leaned on that Friend and Companion ever so much from that day forward.
I will never forget that day on the plain of Arafat: it was a day of powerful emotion and a day of powerful grace.