Mount Arafa: The mountain of knowledge?

Ahmed Mahmoud , Saturday 10 Sep 2016

One of the most important hajj rituals is to step on Mount Arafa, east of Mecca

Muslim pilgrims pray atop Saudi Arabia s Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 27, 2023. AFP

During this time of the year, millions of Muslims flock to Saudi Arabia to fulfill the annual hajj rituals.

On the eve of the first day of Eid Al-Adha and the start of Hajj, the key ritual for pilgrims is to step on Mount Arafa, which is east of Mecca, around 22km between Mecca and Al-Taef.

Many stories surround the origin of the mountain's name. But there are two most common folk tales about the mountain name.

First, it is said that the site is where Adam and Eve first met, and therefore Arafa which is derived from the verb arafa (to know in Arabic).

The second story is told in the classic book Tafseer (Interpretation) by the 9th century Persian historian Al-Imam al Tabari.

The fable goes as follows: while the angel Gabriel was roaming with the prophet Abraham in Mecca to lay out for him all the hajj rituals, Gabriel would ask Abraham "A areft?" (Now you know? in Hebrew) and he would answer Araf (I know).

Others say Arafa was agreed upon as a name for the hill because Abraham ِArafa (knew the hill well) because this is where he left his wife Hajar and son Ismail in Mecca and this is where he returned later to find them.

However, according to the 5th Andalusian historian to Ibn Attia, the word Arafa means the pleasant aroma of the Sewak tree. 

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