MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15: If you’ve been keeping up with ReadTheSpirit’s coverage of Hajj 2010, don’t miss this observance: today is the Day of Arafat, or Waqf al Arafa. More than 2 million pilgrims are on hand, Saudi authorities report, so a great sea of people will be moving to the Plain of Arafat, looking up at the mount where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. There, pilgrims stop for hours of reflection throughout the afternoon, often praying or reciting the Quran. The trip to Arafat is a dramatic experience of unity—one of several within the Hajj—showing that all Muslims are equal regardless of social class, wealth, or any other worldly rank.
Observant Muslims around the world fast on this day in perparation for the three days of joyous events following tomorrow’s Eid al-Adha. Wikipedia has details. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad fasted the day before Eid al-Adha, so Muslims around the world follow his example to this day. This fast is held in such high esteem, in fact, that it’s said two years’ worth of sins are absolved if one keeps today holy!
Some scholars of world religions compare the Day of Arafat and its tradition of fasting with Yom Kippur in Judaism. Some Muslim writers describe their experience at Arafat as a wiping clean of their past transgressions. Some even describe it as an experience of rebirth.