Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, is a profound spiritual journey untaken by Muslims from across the world and it involves a series of rituals that are deeply rooted in the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at Arafat while commemorating the experiences of Prophet Ibrahim AS (Abraham AS) and his family on Eid-ul-Adha. The pilgrimage typically takes place over a span of several days and includes rituals such as wearing the ihram (a two-piece white garment), circumambulating the Kaaba (the sacred house of worship in Mecca), running between the hills of Safa and Marwa, standing on the plain of Arafat, symbolically stoning the devil in Mina and sacrificing a cattle in commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
These rituals emphasise unity, humility and the submission to God’s will, bringing together millions of Muslims from diverse backgrounds in a powerful display of faith and devotion. The Hajj journey is considered a transformative experience, providing spiritual purification, forgiveness of sins and an opportunity for reflection and renewal.
Arafah Day falls on the ninth of Dhul Hijjah and commemorates the finality of the religion of Islam and of Divine revelation but due to difference in crescent moon sighting in different regions, countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, other Gulf countries, USA and UK are marking the Day of Arafah on June 27 this year while Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will observe it on June 28.
Difference between Arafah and Arafat
- The Day of Arafah – It is an important day in the Islamic calendar and it falls on the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, which is the twelfth and final month of the lunar Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is based on the sighting of the moon, so the exact date of the Day of Arafah may vary from year to year based on the lunar cycle. The Day of Arafah is considered one of the holiest days for Muslims around the world, particularly for those performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and it is an integral part of the Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.
- Arafat – On the Day of Arafah, pilgrims gather in the plains of Arafat, a vast open area located approximately 20 kilometers southeast of Mecca. Muslim pilgrims spend the entire day engaged in supplication, prayer and reflection standing on the Mount of Arafat or Mount of Mercy which is also known as Jabal al-Rahmah and is considered a significant aspect of this day, as it is believed to be the place where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered his farewell sermon during his final pilgrimage.
Arafat is believed to be the place where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) delivered his farewell sermon during his final pilgrimage and this sermon, known as the Farewell Sermon, is considered a pivotal moment in Islamic history as it addressed various matters of faith, social responsibility and guidance for the Muslim community. Standing on the Mount of Mercy (Jabal al-Rahmah), which is a small hill within the plain of Arafat, is particularly significant as it is believed that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stood on this hill during his sermon hence, pilgrims strive to spend time there, supplicating and seeking forgiveness.
The gathering in Arafat symbolises unity, humility and the equality of all Muslims before God and it is believed that on this day, Allah forgives the sins of those who sincerely repent and grant mercy to those who seek it. After spending the day in Arafat, pilgrims proceed to Muzdalifah, another important location in the Hajj pilgrimage, to spend the night and from there, they continue to the city of Mina for the ritual of the symbolic stoning of the devil and then proceed to perform other rites of the Hajj pilgrimage.
The Day of Arafah is a day of immense spiritual significance and is believed to be a time when Allah forgives sins and grants mercy to those who sincerely repent. Muslims who are not performing the Hajj are encouraged to observe fasting on this day as it is considered a highly rewarding act where fasting on the Day of Arafah is known as “Yawm al-Arafah.”
After the Day of Arafah, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage and lasts for three days. Eid al-Adha commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God and emphasises the importance of selflessness, faith and charity.
Outside of the Hajj season, Arafat remains a significant landmark for Muslims and a place of historical and spiritual importance and it is visited by pilgrims and tourists throughout the year, although its significance is most pronounced during the Hajj pilgrimage and the Day of Arafah. In conclusion, while Arafah refers to the Day of Arafah, the word Arafat refers to the Plains of Arafat outside Makkah.