The month of Dhul-Hijjah is the 12th in the Islamic Hijrah calendar and the last month; one of the four that the Qur’an sets apart as sacred, with Rajab (seventh), Dhul-Qa’adah (11th), and Muharram (first). Allah Almighty says:
“Indeed, the ordained number of the months with Allah is twelve lunar months, as was decreed in the Preserved Heavenly Book of Allah on the day He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred – and that is the upright religion — so do not wrong yourselves or others in them.” [Qur’an, 9:36]
Doing wrong in these months, especially to people, increases the degree of sin more than the same act in other months.
This is the way of Allah the Most High, His Sunnah, to use the Qur’anic term. He hallows some of His creation in eminence over the rest. He prepared Earth in the cosmos to host life, as we know it. He ennobled Makkah above all its spaces and places. He honoured Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), over all human beings as the Messenger for the Qur’an, Allah’s culminating Heavenly Book, after which there would come no other revelation or new Prophet.
Before Islam, the Arab tribes refrained from fighting during these months, to the extent that if a man met the slayer and killer of his father or brother, he would not avenge the death. While the Arabs corrupted the calendar by intercalating days and even months, the custom of observing these four months as sacred had come down to them as a remnant of the way of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), which means these months had their origin in Divine Revelation.
One of Islam’s critical aims was to reset the lunar calendar that Allah had instituted “on the day He created the heavens and the earth,” as the previously cited Qur’anic verse tells us. This is of immeasurable importance. Without it, people could not have reestablished the primordial religious rites that Allah has ever made obligatory on human beings.
Here are some of the established practices of the blessed days of Hajj for us to incorporate into our worship, and lessons we can take from these days:
Fasting the Days of Hajj
Fasting the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah is desirable (Mustahabb). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“On no days are righteous deeds more beloved to Allah than these ten days,” meaning the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah.” [Bukhari]
Fasting is of the very best of all worship, though the Prophet (Peace be upon him) prohibited fasting the days of Eid, one of the two of which falls on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah. For this reason, one who chooses to fast may only do so in the first nine days of this month.
In another report, authenticated by reputable Hadith scholars, a wife of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) used to fast nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, the day of Ashura and three days of each month, the first Monday and two Thursdays.” [Ahmad and Abu Dawud]
The 10th of Muharram commemorates the day Allah delivered Prophet Musa (Moses) and the Children of Israel from Pharaoh through the divinely split waters and drowned Pharaoh and his hosts in them.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“Deeds are shown [to Allah] on Mondays and Thursdays, and I like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting.” [Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) also exhorted fasting three days of the lunar month, which he said is like “fasting for a lifetime” — any three days, but preferably the White Days (Ayyamul Bidh), that is, the 13th, 14th and 15th, when the moon is in the phase of fullness.
Some say the Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not strictly adhere to fasting the nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, but there is agreement (Ijma’/consensus) that it is good for one to fast most or all of them, since fasting falls under the category of “righteous deeds.”
Sadaqah or Free-Will Charitable Giving
Charity is one of the best acts of worship one can offer, especially in these days, and in the sacred months, high among the other good deeds one should do in this season.
Takbir/Saying Allahu Akbar
One ought to perform a variety of good deeds during these days — especially giving charity, as stated, being good to others, and reciting the Qur’an. Uttering the remembrances of Allah is particularly recommended in these days of Hajj, wherever we are, most particularly repeating: “Allahu akbar,” Allah is Greatest. It was reported by Bukhari that Ibn Umar and Abu Hurairah used to go out to the market places on the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah saying “Allahu akbar” repeatedly, and the people would join them.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“The best supplication is the supplication of the Day of Arafah. And the best that I, and the Prophets before me, have said is “La ilaha illallah, Wahdahu la sharika lah, Lahul-Mulk wa-lahul-Hamd, Yuhyi wa yumit, Wa huwa ala kulli shai’in qadir.”
It is also authentically reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Four words are dearest to Allah: Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, La ilaha illallah and Allahu Akbar.”
Fasting the Day of Arafah
Fasting the Day of Arafah — the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah — is not obligatory but very important. It is called this because on that day, the pilgrims making Hajj gather on the plateau of Arafat outside of Makkah and supplicate Allah from morning till late afternoon.
Every Muslim capable of fasting that day should, to reap its great benefit. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Fasting on the Day of Arafah expiates the sins of two years, the past and the coming.” [Muslim]
Also the Prophet (Peace be upon him) also said:
“There is no day on which Allah sets free more servants from the Fire than on the Day of Arafah. He (Allah) draws near. Then He praises them to the angels, saying: ‘What do these people want?’” — meaning He shall answer their pleas, and deliver them from Hell and admit them to His Garden.”
The Sacrifice of Eid (Udhiyyah/Layyah)
Dhul-Hijjah is the month of Eid-ul-Adha, the Festival of the Ritual Sacrifice, which lasts four days. The 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah is the first day of Eid. It is also known as the Day of Slaughter (Yawm al-Nahr), for on it the sacrifice of animals begins. On this day, all Muslims, old and young, women and men, should attend the Eid Prayer, and fasting on it is prohibited (haram).
It is desirable (the Hanafiyyah say it is obligatory) for Muslims to slaughter animal on behalf of themselves and their families (the Hanafiyyah say for each obligated individual), saying at the moment, with the animal facing Makkah/Qiblah, Bismillahi wallahu Akbar, Allahummah hadha minka wa laka.
The Three Days of Tashriq
Following the Eid Day are the three days of Tashriq. The word tashriq means to expose something to the sunlight for drying. These days bear this name because they were the days in which people exposed the butchered meat of their sacrificed animals to the sun after salting it in order to make either beef, lamb, or camel jerky, to preserve it. Fasting any of these three days (and the previous day of Eid) is forbidden (haram) due to the statement of the Prophet (Peace be upon him):
“The days of Tashriq are days of eating, drinking and mentioning Allah.”
Lessons in Reflection
There are morals to be learned from the divine designation of these blessed ten days for exerting oneself in good deeds, as follows:
- We learn that among numerous good works, it is important not simply to do whatever is good in and of itself (we should do good), but rather we are to do the particular good that is appropriate for the time. Thus, we exert ourselves in one way in Ramadan and another in Dhul-Hijjah.
- The ten days are a blessing and a motivation for initiating good doing. In this way, they prime us for how and what kind of good works to do throughout the year.
- These days remind us that we have limited days on earth. The days of Dhul-Hijjah come and go as do the days of life. So we should utilise them in the highest and best possible way.
- The ten days of Dhul-Hijjah make a way for those who feel they did not perform to the optimum level they had hoped for in Ramadan to make up for any shortcomings. This also teaches us to always look to the future with hope and anticipation. So if you find that you have slacked off in your worship, charity, or other good deeds; or in your vigilance and that your faith has slipped, instead of lamenting and letting the whisperer burden you with guilt and bad feeling, rather intend with each new day to strive in some of these many ways of goodness that Allah has opened specially for you. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“There are no days greater in the sight of Allah and in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great deal of Tahlil (La ilaaha illallah), Takbir (Allahu Akbar) and Tahmid (Alhamdu Lillah).” [Ahmad]
Credit: Murtadha Gusau