Ramadan is celebrated world-wide, people all around the world know it as the month of fasting and taqwa (mindfulness) for Muslims. Dhul-Hijjah on the other hand, another month in the Islamic calendar, is less renowned. But what should we know about the month? What does it hold, and how can we benefit from it?
In regard to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, the Prophet(ﷺ) said: “There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” [Sahih]
What is Dhul-Hijjah?
Dhul-Hijjah literally translates as "possessor of the Hajj", as it is the month in which Hajj takes place; running from the 8th to the 12th of Dhul-Hijjah.
The most important and blessed of these days is the Day of Arafah (9th Dhul-Hijjah). The pivotal day of Hajj, followed by Eid al-Adha on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah. Eid marks the end of the main part of Hajj. Some smaller rituals of Hajj continue until the 12th, but the main rites finish with Eid.
This year Dhul-Hijjah begins on 11th July 2021, meaning Eid al-Adha will fall on the 20th of July insha’Allah.
As a child (in reality until about a year ago) I always found it hard to remember which of the two Eids is Eid al-Fitr, and which is Eid al-Adha (also known as Bakra Eid). My new and simple way is to remember that:
Eid al-adHA comes after HAjj
Eid al-FitR comes after Fasting for Ramadan
I’ve always enjoyed the celebration of both Eids alhumdulillah but what more can we do in Dhul-hijjah in the run up to Eid al-Adha?
The first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah are the most blessed time of the year after Ramadan. Allah himself swears by them in Surah Al-Fajr in the Qur’an:
"By the Dawn, and the Ten Nights…" — Qur’an 82:1-2
Scholars generally agree that these ten nights refer to the 10 nights of Dhul-Hijjah. As with Ramadan one simple act we can perform is to fast. Fasting for the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah is sunnah but if we’re unable to fast for all nine days, then we should at least aim to fast on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the Day of Arafah (19th July 2021).
The Prophet (ﷺ) was asked about fasting on the day of Arafah and said: "It is an expiation for the sins of the preceding year and (an expiation for the sins of) the coming year" [Sahih].
As one local Imam described it to me, a real bargain that we only have to fast for one day but may have all our sins expiated for the past and even coming year!
Virtues of the day of Arafah (9th of Dhul-Hijjah)
The day of Arafah is one of the most important days of the Hajj. Considered to be the main day, as per a hadith in which the Prophet (ﷺ) told us: "The Hajj is Arafat" [Sahih]. The hujjaj (pilgrims) will gather on and around Mount Arafah supplicating sincerely to Allah. Asking for forgiveness and making dua, it is a day of sincere prayer and devotion.
The Prophet (ﷺ) told us: "There is no day when God sets free more servants from the fire than the Day of Arafah. He draws near, then praises them to the angels, saying: "What do these people desire?""
While we may not be present with the pilgrims in Arafah, we can still make the most of this blessed day by fasting, praying, being mindful of Allah, reading Qur’an and doing dhikr. This is generally a day for extra devotion and we can endeavour to be involved with this wherever we may be.
Dhikr - gratitude
We can spend this time, as with any time, by looking at our lives and striving to have a grateful mindset. This will always be something that benefits us, and being grateful for what we have in our life allows us to reframe problems in our day as being small with respect to the countless blessings we have in our lives.
One way to engage in gratitude on a daily basis is to say "Alhumdulillah" (All praise and thanks is due to Allah) 100 times. Each time we say Alhumdulillah we should try and reflect on a blessing in our life and thank Allah for what he has blessed us with.
“There are no days that are greater before Allah or in which good deeds are more beloved to Him, than these ten days, so recite a great deal of tahleel (la illaha il Allah), tasbeeh (subhanallah), takbeer (Allahu akbar) and tahmeed (Alhumdulillah) during them.” [Sahih]
- Tahleel — There is no god but Allah — La illaha il Allah
- Tasbeeh — Glory be to God — Subhanallah
- Takbeer — God is most great —Allahu akbar
- Tahmeed — All praises be to God — Alhumdulillah
Of course one of the greatest things we can do in Dhul-Hijjah is to perform Hajj. It may be a bit hard this year but if we haven’t already done it, we can make our intention for next year. We pray that Allah allows us to perform Hajj soon, when the time is right for us insha’Allah.
It is narrated in a hadith from the Prophet (ﷺ) that the one who performs Hajj sincerely, if they have their Hajj accepted will emerge from it "sinless as a newborn child" [Sahih]
Even just watching and following along with Hajj online or on TV can be a very emotional sight to witness. Seeing the constant stream of people circumambulating the Kabbah in continuous worship may even provide us the inspiration to engage in our own worship in our lives at home. Perhaps offering some extra prayers or dua.
The first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah including the days of hajj are a truly blessed time and we can seek to enjoy and benefit from them in the days leading up to Eid insha’Allah. In summary we can aim to:
- Do more acts of worship.
- Fast for the first nine days
- Do more dhikr and remembrance of Allah
- Follow along with the Hajj, either online or on television to help enliven our souls.
I pray this may be a fruitful and beneficial time for all of us, allowing us to draw closer to Allah while finding peace in our hearts. Ameen.
Beneficial Further Reading:
I highly recommend Yaqeen institute’s game plan for the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah: https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4713562/Dhul-Hijjah/DhulHijjah_10DayGamePlan_CHECKLIST.pdf
Further details on Hajj and the significance of the rites of Hajj: https://yaqeeninstitute.org/infographics/hajj-abrahams-legacy-infographic
SeekersGuidance — The Ten Days of Dhu’l Hijja: Merits & Striving in Spiritual Works: https://seekersguidance.org/answers/general-counsel/the-ten-days-of-dhul-hijja-merits-striving-in-spiritual-works/