الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وَٱلۡفَجۡرِ . وَلَيَالٍ عَشۡرٍ . وَٱلشَّفۡعِ وَٱلۡوَتۡرِ . وَٱلَّيۡلِ إِذَا يَسۡرِ . هَلۡ فِى ذَٲلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِى حِجۡرٍ .
By the dawn (al-Fajr), and the ten nights, (i.e. the first ten days of the month of Dhul-Hîjjah), and the even and the odd, and the night when it passes! Is all this (not) sufficient oaths for the people of understanding. (Quran 89:1-5)
عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّهُ قَالَ: «مَا مِنْ أَيَّامٍ الْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ فِيهِنَّ أَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ هَذِهِ الْأَيَّامِ الْعَشَرَةِ» قَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ؟ قَالَ: «وَلَا الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ خَرَجَ بِنَفْسِهِ وَمَالِهِ فَلَمْ يَرْجِعْ مِنْ ذَلِكَ بِشَيْءٍ»
Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "There are no days in which a good deed is more pleasing to God than these ten days." When asked whether even jihad in Allah's path was as pleasing, he replied, "Not even jihad in Allah’s path, except when a man goes out in person with his property and loses both life and property." (Al-Bukhari)
Allah (SWT) has blessed certain individuals and people, specific places, and certain times with special virtues and with His grace. (The annual Hajj is a beautiful example in which the sum total of all of these parts are celebrated: Prophets Ibraheem and Muhammad - peace be upon them, the most devout servant of Allah, the sanctified city of Makkah and its precincts, and this most sacred and virtuous time of the year.) According to the above mentioned verses of the Quran (aayaat) and the Hadith, the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah (the name literally means: the month of the Hajj) in themselves have a particularly elevated status in our tradition, and so too the righteous deeds done during this time.
This is a very significant time of the year for the believers: a season of goodness and elevated spirituality. It climaxes on the Day of Arafat followed by the Day of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), each of these two days can be, and have been, described as the best and greatest day of the year. Collectively, these 10 days and nights, by which Allah swears, are undoubtedly the most important in our calendar. Our scholars have written that these days AND nights are better than any of those of the year, including Ramadan, except for Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power and Destiny), which by itself is the greatest night in the year.
The first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah are the culmination of the sacred months AND of the months of Hajj, and are described by Allah Almighty as the “appointed days” (ayyaam ma’loomaat / أيام معلومات ) when the pilgrims (used to) drive their animals (al-hady / الهدي ) towards Makkah in preparation for the Hajj. They are thus instructed to remember and thank Allah for these blessings, and to ask and receive even more bounties from the Most Gracious (SWT) (Quran 22:28). Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (RAA) is reported to have added: “Supplication/du’aa is not rejected during these days”. ( لا يُردّ فيهن الدعاء )
In the context of Hajj in Surat al-Baqarah (2:198-201), Allah Almighty reiterates, more than a few times, the command to engage in dhikr and recall Allah’s favors, as this is the essence of these blessed days; the 9th and 10th of this month are particularly singled out, as this is when the main rites of Hajj are fulfilled. It is said that the best deeds are the ones in which Allah is remembered much, and this is especially true for the Hajj. In a Hadith in Musnad al-Imam Ahmad, the Prophet (SAW) was asked about various acts like Jihad, prayer, fasting, charity and Hajj: “which of each type has the greatest reward?”. Each time he replied: “The type that has the most dhikr of Allah”. Abu Bakr (RAA) thereupon exclaimed: “Those who remember Allah most (al-dhaakiroon / الذاكرون ) have taken all the good!”. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) responded with “Indeed”.
Most Muslims around the world will not be at the annual Hajj in person, but we are required to be there with them in spirit and in solidarity. We must participate globally with the pilgrims in Makkah in the acts of obedience and righteousness, focusing emphatically on fasting, dhikr and preparation for sacrificing for Allah an animal (udhiyah / أضحية ). In fact while doing the latter, we identify with the sacred state of Ihram that the pilgrims are in, by abstaining from removing any part of our hair or nails when this month starts and until the animal is sacrificed. This is in accordance with the Hadith of Umm Salamah (RAA) as narrated by al-Imam Muslim. Ibn ‘Umar (RAA), moreover, is reported to have shaved his head and trimmed his beard on the day of sacrifice every year, even when he was not present at the Hajj.
During the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah, Allah pours His mercy upon His creation. For the Muslims who are not performing Hajj, it takes more effort to take advantage of the many blessings Allah has promised and to honor these days in which deeds are multiplied many times.
Let's garner the spirit of these sacred and blessed (limited number of) days and maintain the momentum to perform as many good deeds as we can.
Fast - Fast as many of the first 9 days of this sacred month, in particular on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah, the Day of Arafat. This way you can have the sins of the past and coming years forgiven, in sha Allah, as per the Hadith.
Pray - Here's an opportunity to focus and perfect your daily prayers (salah), and add extra sunnah/nafl (voluntary) prayers or qiyam/tahajjud (night prayers) into your day and night. This is the ideal time, if you have strayed to abandon all sins, and if you have slacked to reconnect with your masjid and engage again with your local community.
Give in Charity - All deeds are worth more during the sacred days of Dhul Hijjah, and few of them more so than giving in charity.
Make abundant Dhikr - The Prophet (PBUH) said, "During the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, recite a great deal of tahleel (“laa ilaaha illalLah” - there is no god but Allah), takbeer (“Allahu Akbar” - Allah is the Greatest), and taHmeed (“al-Hamdu lillah” - Praise be to Allah )." Add other adhkaar from the Sunnah as needed and send salawaat (blessings) on our Prophet (SAW).
Supplicate - Make as much du’aa as possible, asking Allah for all your needs and wants. Prioritize your needs of the hereafter and seek forgiveness for your sins (al-istighfaar).
Recite al-Quran - Use your free time also to read from the Book of Allah. Our teachers would ensure that they complete one khatm, or entire recitation of the Quran, during these 10 days.
Study - Increase your knowledge of Islam during this precious time with the intention of study as, and for, worship and service (‘ibaadah).
Sacrifice - Offer an animal or more for sacrifice for the sake of Allah on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, Eid al-Adha (or in the couple of days thereafter). This way you can also help to gift your family and friends, and feed the poor and needy, as well as follow the sunnah of two great Prophets of Allah, Muhammad and Ibraheem (PBUT). Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also said: “Whoever has the means, but doesn’t (plan to) sacrifice an animal, he/she should not even come near the place for Eid prayer.”
We are already in Dhul Hijjah in the Islamic year 1443 AH (After Hijrah/Migration). What do you plan to do in these coming blessed days and what do you hope to accomplish for yourself? Take a few minutes to think it over and perhaps write down your goals. The least you can do is strengthen your soul during these few choice days and hope to be among those whom Allah Almighty addresses in the following way on the Day of Judgment (in the very same surah (al-Fajr/the Dawn) that opens with the virtues of the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah - as explained above):
يَـٰٓأَيَّتُہَا ٱلنَّفۡسُ ٱلۡمُطۡمَٮِٕنَّةُ . ٱرۡجِعِىٓ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً۬ مَّرۡضِيَّةً۬ . فَٱدۡخُلِى فِى عِبَـٰدِى . وَٱدۡخُلِى جَنَّتِى .
"O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord, well-pleased (with Him) and well-pleasing (to Him). So join My (honoured) slaves, and enter My Paradise!" (Quran, 89:27-30)
Next week we will, Allah willing, focus on the 9th and 10th of Dhul Hijjah, the day of Arafat and the day of sacrifice or Eid al-Adha, and the virtues associated with each day. May Allah help and guide us. May He give us knowledge and motivation to strengthen our relationship with Him and with His creation. All Praises are due to Allah Almighty, Lord of the creation. Peace and blessing be upon His beloved Prophet, and upon his noble family and illustrious companions.