NOWHERE is Islam revealed in all its glory and greatness but in the plains of Arafah outside the Holy City of Mecca when Muslims performing the haj, the most significant among the Five Pillars of Islam, gather to perform the final rites of their pilgrimage. It usually falls during Wukuf Day, on the 9th and 10th day of the Muslim calendar month of Zulhijjah.
One’s pilgrimage to Mecca is only considered complete once the pilgrim has reached Arafah on that day. The gathering at Arafah is a Muslim’s biggest day as this is when pilgrims seek redemption for all their sins and beg forgiveness from the Almighty.
It must be remembered as well that it was at Arafah during his final haj that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) delivered his last sermon, enjoining all Muslims to open themselves before Allah and live anew, having been thus blessed by the Almighty. Soon after, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) passed away.
Arafah is also revered as a place that best resembles Mashar, the place that all Muslim faithful will awaken on Judgement Day in the next world.
Pilgrims praying upon Mount Arafat outside Mecca. REC
The pilgrimage is noteworthy far beyond its precepts and biddings. In the Quranic verse, in Surah Al-Nasr, it is stated that the pilgrimage is for all humankind.
A deeper and larger meaning to the performance of the haj can be discerned by relating the concepts of redemption, renewal and rebirth to the sense implied in the mentioned surah.
For Malaysians of all faiths, the time has come for us to perform the ultimate pilgrimage by seeking redemption for all the bad deeds that we have inflicted upon one another on the basis of half-truths and lies in the above-mentioned realms.
We can do a renewal and a rebirth by coming out clean and, as the Malay saying goes, “Balik kepangkal jalan” (Go back to where you began).
Renewal that covers attempts by the authorities to integrate the different races in the country via multi-focused activities is something that will take time. This is due to the multiracial and multireligious make-up of a society like ours.
Getting the people to unite in a ‘renewal’ exercise can take different forms and may all end up in cultural tangles that may even lead to unexpected results. We can have sit-ins, occupy, street demonstrations and even lightning-strikes.
But the support for these may not be all that representative of the multiracial composition of the country. Other problem areas include, for instance, the “no” from Muslim students to the sharing of dormitory-space together with students of other races.
Invitations for applications from other racial groups other than Malays to join the military, police and other security organisations have not been that encouraging every time these were started.
If renewal is going to take too much time in getting effective results, then try rebirth as a means of a system-change in the country. The danger signs here are that no one has come close to defining what they really want.
Statements reported have given some indications, but generally, the “yellow shirts” demonstration had the hopes that the present government has to resign en bloc, and if this failed, they wanted the head of the government to step down for what he had been alleged to have done.
The charges brought against the demonstrators by the police had clearly accused them of inciting the people to bring down an elected government. In short, the discussion above conveys a sense that all the three concepts — redemption, renewal and rebirth — can only operate if there is actually a “new beginning” to be exercised by everyone, regardless of their religions or cultural origins.
This is also what Malaysian pilgrims in Mecca will want to realise at the end of their haj. We wish them all success.
To the families and kin of those who had lost their loved ones in the recent crane collapse tragedy in Mecca, we extend our deepest condolences and also our prayers for their loved ones.
The significance of Aidiladha
MUSLIMS in Malaysia and most of their brethern around the world will observe Aidiladha, which means the “Feast of the Sacrifice” today.
Also known as Hari Raya Haji or Hari Raya Qurban in Malaysia, Aidiladha is one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar. It honours the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as an act of obedience to Allah’s command – and Allah's mercy in putting a ram in Ismail's place at the last moment, according to Islamic traditions.
As Arab news channel Al Arabiya explains it, “Muslims believe that the very moment Ibrahim raised the knife, God told him to stop, that he had passed the test and to replace Ismail with a sacrificial ram.”
Aidiladha also marks the end of the haj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, when millions of Muslims make the mandatory journey to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.
Muslims will sacrifice cows, goats, lambs, among other animals in remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah and, after that, distribute the meat to family and neighbours as well as the needy.
They begin the day with morning prayers at the mosque, followed by visits to family and friends and the exchange of food. Prophet Ibrahim’s act of faith conveys a powerful message: making sacrifices should be a part of our everyday activities and not merely a once-a-year occurrence.
It is hard to give up things that are close to our hearts, but that is what sacrifice is all about. The question is, are we prepared to part with a bit of our wealth to help those who are in need or freely offer to undertake charity work?
The answer is around us. The life of our society, now alarmingly tense, is characterised by anti-social behaviour, drugs, mental illness, homelessness, family break-ups, teenage pregnancies, recreational sex, and elder abuse and neglect, among others.
Sadly, we keep seeing greed, arrogance and a “me-first” attitude that puts individuals above anything else, including moral values.
Repression and violence are in danger of becoming the accepted norms. Corrupt people believe they can get away with their crimes and think nothing of resorting to vicious means to protect their interests.
We continue to read about children abusing their elderly parents. Sadly, older persons who are frail and vulnerable cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs.
At the same time, we hear of busy parents who have no time for their young ones in need of parental guidance and attention. Who do we blame when they take drugs, get pregnant or bully others?
Some may say that, as a society, we have lost our moral bearings, and that is a frightening thought. When Muslims assemble in the congregation of prayer today, they will pray for forgiveness and strength of faith.
They will find themselves responding to the spirit of the day to purify their hearts and souls. Aidiladha urges Muslims to fully grasp the spiritual meaning of sacrificing in the name of Allah and for the good of mankind. Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha. NST Opinions Editorial 24 September 2015