In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
Today, I was fasting…even though it was not Ramadan. Today, I was fasting…even though it is very difficult for me to fast when it is not Ramadan. Today, I was fasting…and forgoing my wonderfully large cup of coffee that I typically have each and every morning. Today, I was fasting because it is the Day of Arafat.
Arafat is a plain just outside of Mecca. Its name comes from the Arabic word ‘arafa, which means “to know.” This place, according to tradition, is where our father and mother Adam and Eve were first reunited after being expelled from the Garden. For 364 days of the year, this plain is deserted and desolate.
For one day, however, this barren plain becomes the site of screams and pleas. For one day, this barren plain houses 2 million Muslim faithful, who have come from all across the globe to be at this place. For one day, people from all walks of life stand on this plain, virtually naked, and bear their all before the Lord, begging for His forgiveness and Grace. Thus, is it not only natural that we now reflect over the Most Forgiving?
Al Ghafoor, or “The Forgiver and Hider of Faults,” is one of God’s 99 Names. Of all His names, this one is the most important, especially on a day like today, the Day of Arafat. It is the reason that life continues to exist on earth, that it is not destroyed for all its transgressions against the way and law of the Lord. This attribute, Al Ghafoor, is why I continue to live and breathe on this earth, despite all that I do against the Lord.
My Precious Beloved gave me so much in life. Why, He gave me Life itself; He gave me my first breath, when I gave Him nothing back in return. What could I give to the Giver of Everything? What can I do for Him? What can I bring to the relationship with God? What have I ever brought to my relationship with Him?
Only my sin and transgression; Only my intransigence and stubbornness; Only my disobedience and arrogance in front of His Glorious Face. So many times, I succumb to the petty weaknesses of my human condition and sin against Him. Yet, He continues to bless me; He continues to give my sustenance and protection; He continues to pay attention to me, even though many times I fail to pay attention to Him.
All this is because He is Al Ghafoor. His Forgiving nature makes it possible for me to continue to live and breathe on the heels of my sins against Him. He said it Himself so many times in the Qur’an. Here is but a taste of what He says in the Holy Scripture:
Yet, [withal,] thy Sustainer is the Truly Forgiving One, limitless in His grace. Were He to take them [at once] to task for whatever they commit, He would indeed bring about their speedy punishment [then and there]: but nay, they have a time-limit beyond which they shall find no redemption.
Say [to them Muhammad]: “If you love God, follow me. God will love you and forgive you your sins: For God is Forgiving, Most Merciful. (3:31)
Whereas unto God belongs all that is in the heaven and all that is on earth: He forgives whom He wills, and He chastises whom He will; and God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (3:129)
But pray God to forgive: behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (4:106)
Tell My servants that I, I alone, am truly forgiving, a true dispenser of grace. (15:49)
This last verse brings a tear to my eye: the Lord God is telling us that He is the Most Forgiving.
All we have to do is take a step toward God. He told us that He will take two steps toward us. All we have to do is ask His forgiveness, and He will grant it to us. Did He not declare to us:
Say [to them Muhammad]: “[Thus sayest God:] “O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.” (39:53)?
Remember our Master Jacob (peace be upon him), as he dispatched his sons to look for their brothers Joseph and Benjamin, gave this timeless piece of advice:
O my sons, go forth and try to obtain some tidings of Joseph and his brother; and do not lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy: verily, none but people who deny the truth can ever lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy. (12:87)
Our Lord has made Himself be forgiving and merciful towards us: Say [to them Muhammad]: “Unto whom belongs all that is in the heavens and earth?” Say: “Unto God, who has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy… (6:12)
What a wonderful Lord we have! What a precious Lord that rules over us! What a beautiful Friend we have in the Lord! On this day of Arafat, let us remember and praise the Most Forgiving. Praise Him always. Amen.
**I must acknowledge and pray for ArtHafez
for the painting shown.