Phasing pilgrims' departure from 'Arafat
1. Is it permissible to expand the portion of the plain of 'Arafat reserved for pilgrims to stand on (known as the extension of 'Arafat) to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims?
2. Is it legally permissible for the pilgrims to phase the pilgrims' departure from 'Arafat in such a way as to facilitate the departure of their increasingly massive numbers? Is this considered a modification of the rites of hajj?
First: It is legally established that the boundaries of the stations of hajj, its rites, the boundaries of al-Hill and the Sacred Precinct are among the established matters upon which the early Muslims and their successors are unanimous, except for their disagreement concerning a small number of sites. These boundaries are considered to be among the fixed principles which form the identity of Islam and about which there is no room for disagreement.
Standing at 'Arafat is the greatest integral of hajj; the Propheteven went so far as to say, "The hajj is 'Arafat" [Recorded by Imam Ahmed, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisa`i and Ibn Majah. Al-Hakim declared it authentic]. The boundaries of the plain of 'Arafat extend up to the end of the Sacred Precinct and until the beginning of al-Hill; they are known and marked and Muslims are unanimous on their boundaries—except for what is said about a marginal disagreement concerning Namira. Scholars went as far as to state that not all of the Mosque of Ibrahim (which is called the Mosque of Namira) is considered part of 'Arafat; rather its forefront is at the edge of the valley of 'Uruna and its rear falls within the boundaries of the plain of 'Arafat. They said that standing at the forefront of the Mosque of Namira is not valid while it is valid to stand at its rear. There is a consensus among Muslims that it is valid to stand on any portion of the plain of 'Arafat because the Prophetsaid, "I stood here; the whole of 'Arafat is a place for standing" [Recorded by Muslim from Jaber Ibn Abdallah (may Allah be pleased with them both)].
There is a consensus among Muslims that standing outside its boundaries is invalid. However, it has been attributed to Imam Malik that whoever stands in the valley of 'Uruna has accomplished hajj but must offer a ritual sacrifice in expiation. The correct opinion according to the Maliki scholars, however, is that the valley of 'Uruna is not part of the plain of 'Arafat nor of the Sacred Precinct. Scholars have stated that the hajj of anyone who erroneously stood outside the plain of 'Arafat is invalid. It must be made up (even if all the pilgrims have made the same mistake) because this is avoidable and verifiable, so being mistaken is not an excuse. Thus, if the pilgrims erroneously stand somewhere other than the plain of 'Arafat, they must make up their hajj—whether their numbers are small or great—since it is assured that the mistake of standing in the wrong place will not be repeated when making up the hajj.
Based on this, it is impermissible to expand the portion of 'Arafat outside its boundaries upon which Muslims are unanimous. This is especially so, since the goal for the pilgrim in this integral is simply to be present on any portion of the plain of 'Arafat: on its land or beneath its sky, standing or sitting, mounted or lying down, awake or asleep—the goal is not remaining or settling on the plain of 'Arafat because this integral is fulfilled by merely passing through. The influx of pilgrims and overcrowding can be overcome with a comprehensive organization of the pilgrims' departure from 'Arafat to prevent harmful consequences, even if this means requiring them to follow a legal school that does not stipulate a particular time for standing on the plain of 'Arafat (as will be mentioned in the answer to the following question).
Second: There is a scholarly consensus that the correct time for standing at 'Arafat begins after the sun passes its zenith and ends with dawn of yawm al-nahr (the day of slaughtering). Whoever spends the night and day after the sun has passed its zenith while standing at 'Arafat has fulfilled the obligation and does not have to makes expiation. However, scholars disagreed on two issues:
1. The ruling for standing at 'Arafat and departing before the sun passes its zenith and whether this is a valid substitute for standing until after the sun passes its zenith
The majority of scholars maintain that this does not suffice and that whoever does so must go back and stand on the plain of 'Arafat after the sun passes its zenith or spend a portion of that night until before dawn, otherwise he will have forfeited his hajj. Hanbali scholars maintain in their legal school that this suffices and that the hajj of whoever does so is valid.
2. Is it sufficient to stand on the plain of 'Arafat and depart before sunset?
Hanafi scholars and those who agree with them make it obligatory to stand at 'Arafat until sunset. The most valid opinion of the Shafi'is and those who agree with them is that standing at 'Arafat until sunset is recommended and not obligatory. They maintain that it is permissible for the pilgrim who was standing at 'Arafat before the sun has passed its zenith to depart before sunset. Proponents of the second opinion of both matters substantiate their opinions with the hadith narrated by 'Urwa Ibn al-Madras (may Allah be pleased with him) who said, "I approached the Messenger of Allahat Muzdalifa when he was going for [the 'Eid] prayer and said, 'O Messenger of Allah! I have come from the mountains of Tay`. I have exhausted my mount and worn myself out. By Allah! I have stood upon every mountain; have I therefore accomplished my hajj?' The Messenger of Allahreplied, 'Whoever prays this prayer of ours and stands at 'Arafat—night or day—has accomplished his hajj and has performed its rites' " [This hadith was recorded by Imam Ahmed, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisa`i and Ibn Majah. Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Haban, al-Daraqutni and al-Hakim declared it authentic.]
After mentioning this hadith in Muntaqa Al-Akhbar, the Hanbali scholar Abu al-Barakat Ibn Taymiya wrote: "This is proof that the entire daytime of the day of 'Arafat is the time allotted for standing at 'Arafat."
The teachings and rules of Islam are refined and aim to secure the comfort and safety of those who have been enjoined to perform the legal acts of worship. Islam puts general welfare before individual welfare. There is no objection in not restricting ourselves just to the four schools when the public welfare lies in another school—as we have done, for example, with regards to stoning, since stoning at certain times apart from others poses great hardship for pilgrims. One of the established legal principles is that latitude should be afforded in the case of difficulty.
Based on this, it is possible for the responsible authorities to organize the departure and coming forth of the pilgrims from 'Arafat in a manner suitable to their numbers and that prevents them from jostling and overcrowding. It is established in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence that it is permissible for the ruler to restrict something permissible when it is in the interest of the people, so he is entitled to choose from the [different] schools of jurisprudence that which he deems to fulfill the legal aims and benefits that have to be observed. Therefore, the ruler's conduct with the subjects is based upon their welfare. It is permissible for Muslim rulers who are responsible for organizing hajj to choose from among the acknowledged schools of jurisprudence what they deem most suitable for the safety of the pilgrims and which best fulfills their security and comfort. It is permissible for them to make the pilgrims' departure in two or more stages, as required by their general welfare. This is not in any way considered a modification to the rites of hajj.
Allah the Almighty knows best.