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Last Updated: 2008/11/09
Summary of question
How does staying at Arafat lead t self-knowledge?
question
How does staying at Arafat lead t self-knowledge?
Concise answer
Arafat is the name of a land near Mecca which is obligatory for Hajjis (pilgrims) to stay there on the 9th day of the month of Zilhajja during the Hajj pilgrimage. The word Arafat is derived from “Arafa” which means recognition such as to recognise self and to recognise the God. In this land a human will discover about his/her sins as well as the greatness and blessings of Allah (SWT) leading to confessions and repentance. Of course self-examination/self-recognition will only occur if the Hajj pilgrimage is performed together with thought, vision and wisdom.
In Arafat a Hajji’s self-awareness will lead him/her to calculate all the past mistakes and consequently a genuine repentance. Therefore Arafat is the place of self-examination and self-recognition as well as self-correction. The philosophy behind staying in Arafat is that a Hajji will leave all the world positions behind and wears only 2 pieces of clothing like shroud in order to feel really needy and only sees Allah (SWT) as the only supreme power without a need. In this way a Hajji will remember death, grave and the day of judgment when he/she has no protector except the Almighty.
 
Detailed Answer
Arafat is the name of a land near Mecca which is obligatory for Hajjis (pilgrims) to stay there beginning from the midday of the ninth of Zilhajja until sunset of the same day. This is called in jurisprudential terminology called "wuquf" which is obligatory for all pilgrims who have donned Ihram.  There is a lot of virtue and reward for staying at Arafat. It has been reported from Imam Sadiq (AS) that he said about the important of Arafa: "If a person remains unfrogiven in the month of Ramadhan, he will not be forgiven in any other month after it unless he is able to attend the plains of Arafa (during the obligatory pilgrimage)."
The word Arafat is derived from “Arafa” which means recognition such as to recognise self and to recognise the God. In this land a human will discover about his/her sins as well as the greatness and blessings of Allah (SWT) leading to confessions and repentance. There is no doubt that self-recognition will only occur if the Hajj pilgrimage is performed together with thought, vision and wisdom. In Arafat a Hajji’s self-awareness will lead him/her to calculate all the past mistakes and consequently a genuine repentance. Therefore Arafat is the place of self-examination and self-recognition as well as self-correction. The philosophy behind staying in Arafat is that a Hajji will leave all the world positions including his children, wife, family and property behind and wears only 2 pieces of clothing like shroud in order to feel really needy and only sees Allah (SWT) as the only supreme power without a need. In this way a Hajji will remember death, grave and the day of judgment when he/she has no protector except the Almighty. Keeping the above in mind, if a pilgrim stays in this land for one day or more and he really forgets himself and directs all his attention to his Creator, he will definitely attain a level of understanding and cognition. By reexamining himself and his deeds and regretting his past actions and seeking divine forgiveness, he will able to attain closeness and proximity to God.
Therefore, staying at Arafat without contemplation and getting rid of negligence and selfishness and by sufficing to performing only a few formal and outwardly practices will not lead to self-knowledge and self-recognition, although he becomes relieved of obligation jurisprudentially. That is to say, he will no longer be under the obligation and he will be relieved of the duty to perform 'wuquf' but such a person will be deprived of attaining self-recognition.
Indeed, as to the name of Arafat there are other reasons and secrets mentioned which are not in opposition to the said meaning and it can be said that all these reasons can be taken into consideration in calling this place as the land of Arafa. It has been, for example, said that Adam and Eve knew each other on that land after descent (fall)[1] or for example it has been said that Adam and Eve made confessions and admitted their sin therein.[2] One of the students of Imam Sadiq (AS) asked him: "Why was Arafat named Arafat?" The Imam replied: "On the day of Arafa, Gabriel moved Ibrahim, the Friend of Allah (AS), to the plain of Arafat where it made Ibrahim (AS) familiar with Hajj rituals."[3]
 

[1] Javadi Amoli, Abdullah, Jur'a-e az Sahbai Hajj, p. 147, fourth edition, Mash'ar Publication, Qom, 1386 (solar calendar).
[2] Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya'qub, Usul al-Kafi, vol.4, p.191, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1365 (solar calendar).
[3] Ibid, p. 207.
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