In Arabic, one of the names of the Day of Arafah is “Yowm al Waqfah” because the verb waqafa in Arabic means ‘to stand’ and this is what the pilgrims do on this day – they stand on the mountain and the plains of Arafaat, making supplication to their Lord and repenting for a lifetime of mistakes and sins. But the other meaning of waqafa is ‘to stop.’
Thus the day of stopping and standing before our Lord is an invitation to pause and think. We are going through life at breakneck speed, with barely a moment to catch our breaths let alone to stop and assess…On this high-speed cycle we are in, all things have become tasks to do, and rituals to perform and get over with – including our religious practice. Because we are stuck on achievement of actions in a cycle that never goes deeper, even the daily prayer, the fasting, and other good actions have become a veil between us and our Lord. People just keep “performing” and “getting stuff done,” but because it is purely mechanical, they eventually hit a wall and the motor gives up. At this point, people become disillusioned, wondering where the fruits of all their deeds are. They start to feel ‘distant.’
What happened? They didn’t take the time to understand what they were doing, to ask why, to ask what religion is and for, to connect to God’s everpresent love and grace, to rest in His Care, and to not believe that our actions are the source of our wellbeing. To realize that God is Greater and His Care of us is the actual reason for all good in our life…Actions then are a response, not something we do to receive wages from Him. They are a celebration of His Grandeur and our joy at being His.
How do we maintain a state of worship that is steady, enriched by the acts of worship, but not constituted by actions and deeds alone – nourished by them but consisting of a constant awareness/mindfulness of our being the creation of a Generous Lord. Faith: to have a very being that hums and vibrates with the state of being a servant to the Most High. Faith: to exude veneration, gratitude, glorification of Him and trust, positive hopes, and good opinion of Him – no matter what we are doing in any particular moment.
We must take time to still ourselves and reflect. In this era in which time itself is speeding up, we are in dire need of a stop to consider things.
Thus, I invite you and myself to a stop.
I would like to stress the importance of this stop, and to beg my brothers and sisters who are able to, to take the Day of Arafah off work – not so that we can take our children to the park or go from being slaves at work to slaves in our private lives and to our neverending tasks, but rather to dedicate one day for the sake of Allah – to take it as a Sabbath. On this day, in addition to fasting, take the time to recall the Hadith about the way we must call out to our Lord with the desperation of a drowning man. Try to make that your state, even for a short time. The single thing I encourage everyone most is to be present with God between 8:15am and 11:15am EST as this is when the pilgrims are at the climax of the Pilgrimage – between Asr and Maghrib prayers (Makkah time) on the Day of Arafah. The pilgrims are standing up, reaching towards the heavens, hands open in prayer, calling upon their Lord with humility and desperation, prostrating their hearts to Him in total surrender, and asking Him for His blessings, forgiveness, and acceptance. We can join with them in this great state of worship, in the hope that we be included in His loving grace that descends upon all those seeking His Face at this holy hour.
*If you cannot dedicate the whole time between Asr and Maghrib, then at least dedicate the last half hour – take a break from work and bring yourself to that presence and neediness to God, and find a way to cry.