Al-Mash’ar is also called ‘al-Muzdalifah—the near place-’ since it is very near to Mecca. There is a consensus among the Islamic scholars that the Maghrib and Eshaa Prayers should be offered together in al-Mash’ar. It is derived from the Arabic root ‘sh-a-r’ meaning ‘motto’ or ‘sign’. It is a place for those seeking God, for no sign of mammonism or egotism is there. Al-Mash’ar is a dark plain with pebbles on it, which has accommodated over one million pilgrims who have taken refuge in God and supplications under the dim light of stars of a mysterious sky. It is truly Mash’ar –sign-, for nothing but God-seeking mottos can be heard. Eyes cannot see anywhere but the echo of supplications soothes man’s soul.
WHAT A BLESSED PLACE AND WHAT AN AUSPICIOUS NIGHT!
This night has no equal in man’s life. It is dark but brighter than any day for men of heart. It is a night when the breeze of God’s mercy is blowing and rain of His forgiveness is falling. It is a night when the doors of God’s favor are opened to man. It is the even of the festival of sacrifice and the time of the King’s public audience.
Imam Sadiq (a.s) says:
وإنِ استَطَعتَ أنْ تحيِيَ تلكَ الليلةِ فافْعلْ، فَإنّه بَلَغَنا أنَّ أبوابَ السّماءِ لا تُغلقُ تلكَ الليلةَ لأَصواتِ المؤمِنينَ لهُم دَوِيٌّ كَدَويِّ النّحلِ. يقولُ اللهُ جلّ ثناؤهُ: أَنا رَبُّكُم وأَنتُم عِبادِي أدَّيتُم حَقِّي وحقٌّ عَلَيَّ أن اَستَجيبَ لكُم. فَيَحُطُّ اللهُ تلكَ الليلةَ عّمَّن أرادَ أنْ يحُطَّ ذُنوبَهُ ويغْفِرُ لمَن أرادَ أن يغفرَ لهُ
“If you can keep vigil tonight, do it, for it has been reported to us that the gates of heaven are not closed to the believers tonight. Allah says: ‘I am Your Lord and you are My servants. You have paid my due. Hence, it is incumbent on Me to answer your prayer.’ Therefore, He removes the sins of whomever He wishes and forgives whom He wills.”
NIGHT, TIME OF COMMUNION WITH GOD
Men of heart and insight know that night is opportune time for communion with God. Among blessings God has bestowed upon man is the blessing of night:
وَجَعَلْنَا اللّيْلَ لِباساً
“And We made the night to be a covering. (The Holy Quran; 78:10)”
وَاللّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَى
“I swear by the night when it draws a veil. (The Holy Quran; 92:1)”
Should the child-like playful man be left to himself, he is so much in love with the playing called the world and its ornaments that he will ruin himself. But like a loving mother who puts her playful child to sleep so that the child’s energy will not go into waste, God puts a covering on man so that his eyes will not see all these toys and will be quieted down. Unfortunately, this playful man has turned nights into days with artificial lights and spends his precious life on love for the world making himself physically and mentally exhausted and deprived of the aim of creation. In this world where most people are dead-hearted “and most of them do not understand,” there are men of heart who are source of human dignity and living evidence of man’s superiority over animals, people who work during the day and keep vigil at night.
وَأمّا النَّهارُ فَحُلَماءُ عُلَماءُ، بَرَرَةٌ أتْقِياءُ، قَدْ بَراهُمُ الخَوْفُ فَهُمْ أمْثالُ القِداحِ يَنظُرُ إلَيهِمُ النّاظِرُ فَيَحْسَبُهُم مَرْضى وَما بِالقَوْمِ مِن مَرَضٍ ، أو يَقولُ : قَدْ خولِطُوا، فَقَدْ خالَطَ القَومَ أمْرٌ عَظيمٌ.
أمّا اللَّيلُ فَصافُّونَ أَقْدامَهُم تالِينَ لأَجْزاءِ القُرْآنِ يُرَتِّلونَهُ تَرْتيلاً، يُحْزِنونَ بهِ أنفُسَهُم، وَيَسْتَبشِرونَ بهِ، وتَهيجُ أحْزانُهُم بُكاءً عَلى ذُنوبِهِم وَوَجَعِ كُلومِ جَوانحِهِم ، فَإذا مَرُّوا بآيَةٍ فيها تَخويفٌ أصْغَوا إلَيها بمَسامِعِ قُلوبِهِم وَأبْصارِهِم، فَاقْشَعَرَّتْ مِنها جُلودُهُم، وَوَجِلَت مِنها قُلوبُهُم، وَظَنّوا أنَّ صَهيلَ جَهَنَّمَ وَزَفيرَها وشَهِيقَها في اُصُولِ آذانِهِم، وَإِذا مَرُّوا بِآيَةٍ فِيها تَشْويقٌ رَكَنوا إلَيها طَمَعاً ، وَتَطَلّعَتْ أنفُسُهُم إلَيها شَوقاً، فَظَنُّوا أنَّها نُصْبَ أعْيُنِهِم، جاثِينَ عَلى أوساطِهِم يمَجِّدونَ جَبّاراً عَظيماً، مُفتَرِشينَ جِباهَهُم وَأَكُفَّهُم وأطْرافَ أقْدامِهِم وَرُكَبِهِم، تجَرِي دُمُوعُهُم عَلى خُدودِهِم، يَجْأَرونَ إلى اللهِ في فِكاكِ رِقابِهِم.
“During the day they are enduring, learned, virtuous, and God-fearing. Fear of Allah has made them thin like arrows, if anyone looks at them he believes they are sick, although they are not sick, and he says that they have gone mad. In fact, great concern has made them mad. During the night they are upstanding on their feet reading portions of the Quran and reciting it in a well-measured way, creating through it grief for themselves and seeking by it the care for their ailments. If they come across a verse creating eagerness for Paradise they pursue it avidly, and their spirit turns towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is in from of them. And when they come across a verse which contains fear of Hell, they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. They bend themselves from their backs, prostrate themselves on their foreheads, their palms, their knees, and their toes, and beseech Allah, the Sublime for their deliverance.”
Imam Ali (a.s) longed for the nights to come so that he could have communion with God. During his supplication, he would always say:
آهٍ آهٍ مِن قِلَّةِ الزّاد وطُولِ الطّريقِ وبُعدِ السّفَر
“Alas! The provision is little, the way is long, the journey is far and the goal is hard to reach.”
NOW IT IS NIGHT, THE EVEN OF FEAST OF SACRIFICE IN AL-MASH’AR AL-HARAM
The eve of Eid ul-Adha is among four blessed nights along with the Laylat ul-Qadr –theGrand Night- for keeping vigil. Imam Ali (a.s) says:
“I like to see myself free during four nights to engage in prayer: the eve of month of Rajab, the eve of mid-Shaban, the eve of Eid ul-Fitr (feast of breaking the fast), and the even of Eid ul-Adha.”
The pilgrims should reduce their sleep and food and instead engage in prayer, for the hours and days spent in the Hajj rites are very important. God introduces them as numbered and stated days:
وَاذْكُرُوا اللهَ في أَيَّامٍ مَعْدُودَاتٍ
“And laud Allah during the numbered days. (The Holy Quran; 2:203)”
وَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللهَ في أَيَّامٍ مَعْدُودَاتٍ
“And mention the name of Allah in stated days. (The Holy Quran; 22:28)”
To sum it up, the pilgrims must take advantage of these transient heavenly hours during which they are God’s guests and He has declared His readiness to fulfill the requests of His guests:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ اُدْعُونِي اَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ
“And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you. (The Holy Quran; 40:60)”
If a beggar asks for something, it is not strange, but when a generous one is looking for a beggar, it is something unusual. A hadith says:
إِنَّهُ إِذا كَانَ آخِرُ اللَّيْلِ يَقولُ اللهُ تباركَ وتَعالى هَل مِن داعٍ أُجيبُهُ؟ هَل مِن سائِلٍ فَأُعْطيهِ سُؤالَهُ؟ هَل مِن مُستَغفِرٍ فَأغفِرُ لهُ؟ هَل مِن تائبٍ فَأتوبُ عليهِ؟
“When night comes to an end, Allah will say: Is there anyone calling upon Me so that I will answer him? Is there anyone asking Me so that I will fulfill his request? Is there anyone to ask forgiveness so that I will forgive him? Is there any repentant so that I will accept his repentance?”
How can God possibly reject His servants’ calls and begging when He Himself says:
وَأَمَّا السَّائِلَ فَلا تَنْهَرْ
“And as for him who asks, do not chide (him). (The Holy Quran; 93:10)”
As everything is prepared for our duaas to be answered, we first pray for the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s), confess our wrongdoings, and supplicate in this way:
فَما كُلُّ ما نَطَقتُ بهِ عَن جَهلٍ مِنّي بِسوءِ أَثَري ولا نِسيانٍ لمِا سَبَقَ مِن ذَميمِ فِعلي لكِنْ لِتسمَعَ سماؤكَ ومَن فيها وأرضُكَ ومَن عَليها ما أظْهَرتُ لكَ مِن النّدمِ ولجأتُ إليكَ فيهِ من التّوبةِ، فَلَعلَّ بعضَهُم بِرحمتِكَ يَرحمُني لِسوءِ موقِفي أو تُدرِكُهُ الرِّقّةُ عليَّ لِسوءِ حالي فيَنالُني منهُ بِدعوَةٍ هيَ أسمَعُ لدَيكَ مِن دُعائي أو شَفاعَةٍ أَوْكَدَ عِندكَ مِن شَفاعَتي تكونُ بِها نجَاتي مِن غَضَبِك وفَوزَتي بِرضاكَ.
“Now all that I have said rise up from my ignorance of my evil footsteps or forgetfulness of my blameworthy acts in the past, but in order that Thy heaven and those within it and Thy earth and those upon it may hear the remorse which I have professed to Thee and the repentance through which I have sought asylum with Thee. Then perhaps one of them, through Thy mercy, may show mercy upon my evil situation or be seized by tenderness for my evil state. There may come from him for my sake a supplication to which Thou givest ear more than to my supplication or an intercession surer with Thee than my intercession through which I may be delivered from Thy wrath and attain to Thy good pleasure.”