Sunday, October 21, 2012

What to do on the Blessed Days of Dhu ‘l-Hijjah

The Blessed Days of Dhu ‘l-Hijjah: Its Virtues and Various Acts to Perform for All Muslims:

By Ustadha Bint Ahmad
Adapted from Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s Lata’if al-Ma‘arif
With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.
All praise belongs to Allah alone and blessings and peace be upon his beloved, Muhammad, his family, his companions, all of them.
In the Qur’an, Allah takes oaths by various entities to highlight their importance. From amongst these entities, one aspect by which He takes an oath is time. Time is one of the greatest bounties of Allah bestowed upon mankind. In the pursuit of living a life in the obedience of Allah, it is essential that every individual continually reflects over this blessing.
Time in and of itself is a great bounty. However, from amongst the twelve Islamic months of the year, Allah has made some times superior than others. Some times are golden times in which the reward of simple acts is multiplied abundantly. Examples illustrating this are in the following verses where Allah specifically makes mention of certain important periods in the Muslim calendar: Allah says:
“Among them are four sacred months…”. (al-Tawbah: V26)
And he says: “The hajj is known months”. (al-Baqarah: V197)
And he says: “The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed”. (al-Baqarah: V185)
These special days are full of virtues and acts of obedience by which one can draw close to Allah. During these virtuous days Allah unveils an extra compassion from his benevolent nature through which one can attain whatever he wishes from Allah’s favour and mercy upon him. The fortunate one is a person who enriches himself in these virtuous days, months and hours, by using them to attain the nearness of Allah and carrying out the acts of His obedience. It will surely be that such a person will acquire a moment from these virtuous times to have gained the fortune of everlasting success. One has the great potential to become from among those who are guaranteed a place in paradise and freedom from the fire of hell. (May Allah make us from amongst such people, Ameen)
A common phrase used by time conscious individuals is ‘Time is of the essence’. A believer is ever more conscious about time as one is unaware of when they will breathe their last. For this reason every Muslim strives to live an obedient life and is constantly striving to increase in righteous deeds.
There are certain times, days and months where the rewards of righteous deeds are multiplied and attaining salvation in these days becomes easier. From amongst these days are the first ten days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.
Dhu ’l-Hijjah
The month of Dhu ’l-Hijjah is named after the performance of the sacred pilgrimage (hajj) which occurs within it. Although this year every Muslim will not undertake the wonderful journey of hajj, it is still important to be aware of the blessings of this month. With the days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah fast approaching, it is necessary for each of us to understand its sacredness, the incidents which occurred within it and the virtuous acts in which to participate in order to attain the nearness of Allah.
The virtues within this month can be divided into:
a. The virtues of the first 10 days
b. The virtues of the 9th Dhu ’l-Hijjah (yawm al-‘arafah)
c. The day of ‘Id (yawm al-nahr)
d. The 11th, 12th and 13th Dhu ’l-Hijjah (ayyam al-tashriq)
Along with understanding the virtues it is equally important to know which acts should be performed to truly benefit and attain the nearness of Allah in these extra special days. After discussing the virtues of each of the four above, a few acts to carry out will also be stated.
The Virtues of The First 10 Days
In the Qur’an, Allah takes an oath:
“And the 10 nights” (Al-Fajr: V 2)
Many of the Qur’anic exegetes including Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid and many from them state that the ten nights mentioned in this verse refer to the first ten days of Dhul al-Hijjah, and this is the correct opinion. (Ibn Kathir)
The ten nights by which Allah takes an oath are full of merits. The days in and of themselves are virtuous as are the performance of righteous deeds within them. This can be understood from the words of our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Ibn ‘Abbas narrates: The Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these days” (i.e the first ten days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah). (Bukhari)
Jabir narrates: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “There are no days more virtuous to Allah than the ten days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah”. (Ibn Hibban)
Hafiz Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani mentions:
The reason why the first ten days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah are distinguished is due to it being the time in which the foundational worships are collectively carried out i.e. salat, fasting, charity and hajj are carried out in conjunction with one another. These acts are not carried out collectively in any other days. (Fath al-Bari)
Acts One Can Perform On the First 10 Days
After becoming aware of the various virtues the first ten days enjoy, it is essential that one does not let these day pass without performing righteous deeds and striving to attain eternal success. These are golden days where a believer can easily be forgiven and elevated as well as attain the pleasure of Allah, Most High.
Some of the acts one can undertake are:
1. Fasting the first nine days or as many as one can keep.
Hunaydah ibn Khalid narrated upon the authority of his wife who said, “Some of the wives of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) told me that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to fast the Day of ‘Ashurah, the first nine days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah, and three days out of every month”. (Ahmad, Nasa’i)
2. Dhikr (the remembrance of Allah). This can be done by saying the takbir (Allahu akbar), the tahmid (al-hamdu li-Allah), the tasbih (subhana al-Allah) and the tahlil (la ilaha illa al-Allah).
Allah says, “…and recite Allah’s name in specified days” (al-Hajj: V28).
The specified days refer to the first ten days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah. By remembering Allah in these days one will be directly following the recommendation in this verse.
3. Performing the ‘Umrah and Hajj. This is only time in the year Muslims can undertake the journey of Hajj. This physical and spiritual journey entails one leaving behind many luxuries and totally submitting one’s self to Allah to be cleansed and elevated. One of the reasons why the ten days are so blessed is because they coincide with some of the days of hajj.
4. Repentance.
During these blessed days there is a great opportunity to benefit from the extra benevolence unveiled from Allah, hence; one should set side time to repent for all sins- minor and major.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “The one who repents from sins is like he who has no sin”. (Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi)
5. Refraining from sins.
It is important that each Muslim acknowledges that in order to gain the maximum benefit from righteous actions, it is essential to abstain from sins. Even if a person cannot perform any supererogatory acts, the least one should do is refrain from sin. One must be mindful of every type of sin, from the violation of the rights of Allah, to the rights of the creation of Allah, including sins of the physical body and sins of the tongue.
6. Increase in supererogatory acts in general.
These are days in which any righteous deed is more beloved in the eyes of Allah and more virtuous than if the very same acts were to be performed in the normal days of the year. This could include:
a. Recitation of the Qur’an.
Often after the month of the Ramadan one loses the habit of reciting the Qur’an regularly. Use these days to increase in the recitation of the beautiful words of Allah to re-establish daily recitation.
b. Maintain ties.
When one becomes busy with work or studying maintaining good relationships with family, neighbours and friends becomes difficult. These days are a prime time to maintain good ties.
c. Supplicating to Allah.
This is a believer’s link to conversing with Allah. One should use these days to express ones gratitude and ask for ones lawful worldly needs as well as salvation in the hereafter.
d. Giving in charity.
The Virtues of the 9th Dhu ’l-Hijjah (Yawm al-‘Arafah)
There are numerous virtues of the 9th of Dhu ’l-Hijjah which is known as yawm al-‘Arafah. This is the day where the pilgrims assemble on the plain of ‘Arafah to complete one of the essential rituals of the Hajj. From among the many merits of this day, a few are:
1. This is the day the religion was perfected and the blessings of Allah were complete. The following verse was revealed to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the day of ‘Arafah:
Allah says: “Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessing upon you, and chosen Islam as Dīn (religion and a way of life) for you”. (Al Maidah: V3)
The completion of Allah’s blessing refers to forgiveness for ones sins by Allah, as without it the blessings of Allah cannot be complete. This brings to light the importance of being forgiven by Allah.
2. Allah takes an oath by it twice in the Qur’an with the words shaf’ and shahid which some of the exegetes explained as both being the day of ‘Arafah, thereby highlighting the importance of this day.
Allah says: “And by the odd (shaf’)” (Al-Fajr: V3)
And Allah says: “And by that which attends (al-shahid)…” (Al-Buruj: V3)
The odd day refers to the 9th of Dhu ’l-Hijjah. Ibn Abbaas said: ‘… the odd is the Day of Arafah”. This is the view of ‘Ikramah and Dhahhak also. (Ibn Kathir)
Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: “The shahid is the day of ‘Arafah”. (Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad)
3. It is the best of all days.
Jabir narrates: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best of days is the day of ‘Arafah”. (Ibn Hibban). However there are other scholars of the opinion that the day of sacrifice (10th Dhu ’l-Hijjah) is the best day on the Islamic calendar.
4. Fasting on this very day is expiation of two years of sin.
5. It is a day of forgiveness from sins and emancipation from the fire of hell.
A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) narrates: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “There is no day greater than wherein Allah frees slaves than the day of ‘Arafah. Verily Allah comes near, then he boasts about them (the servants) to the angels, then he says: “What do these servants want?” (Muslim)
Acts One Can Perform on the Day of ‘Arafah
On the day of ‘Arafah every believer should strive to be forgiven from sin and emancipated from the fire of hell. One should be mindful of performing the following acts whereby this can be facilitated:
1. Fast on the day of ‘Arafah. The fast of this day is expiation for a person’s sins of the previous and upcoming year.
Abu Hafsah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Fasting on the day of ‘Arafah absolves the sins for two years: the previous year and the coming year” (Muslim)
2. Prevent one’s self from engaging in sin.
3. Abundant recitation of the testimony of the oneness of Allah with sincerity.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said. “The best supplication is the supplication of the day of ‘Arafah, and best is that which I and the prophets before me said: La ilaha illa-Allahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu al-mulku wa lahu al-hamdu wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadir”. (Tirmidhi)
4. Be sincere in repentance.
5. Supplicate to be saved from the fire of hell and placed in paradise and to be blessed with the everlasting pleasure of Allah.
The Virtues of the 10th Dhu ’l-Hijjah (Yawm al-Nahr)
The tenth of Dhu ’l-Hijjah is known as the day of sacrifice (yawm al-nahr). This is the day where in Muslims across the world celebrate ‘Id al-Adhah.
Some of the virtues found in the Qur’an and hadith are:
1. Allah has taken an oath by the world al-Watr (the even). “…and by the even (al-watr)” (Al-Fajr: V3)
Some Qur’anic exegetes state that the even refers to the 10th Dhu ’l-Hijjah. This once again accentuates the importance of yet another day from the blessed ten days of Dhu ’l-Hijjah.
2. It is the best of days. Earlier it was discussed that the best of all days is the day of ‘Arafah, another groups of scholars state that the best of all days in the year is the 10th of Dhu al- Hijjah.
‘Abd Allah ibn Qurt (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “The best of days to Allah is the day of sacrifice (yawm al-nahr) then the day ofqarr (11th Dhu ’l-Hijjah)”. (Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Nasa’i, Ibn Hibban).
3. It is the greatest day of hajj.
Ibn ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) stood between the jamarat (area pelted with stones) on the Day of Sacrifice during his Hajj and said, “This is the greatest day of Hajj.” (Bukhari)
On this day many acts are performed by the pilgrims performing hajj:
a) Stoning Jamrah al-‘Aqabah
b) Offering the sacrifice
c) Shaving the head or cutting the hair
d) Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’bah)
e) Sa‘i (running between al-Safa and al-Marwah)
4. It is the day of ‘Id for all Muslims.
The Companion Anas (Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) migrated to the city of Medina and saw the people celebrating two days of festivities. He said, ‘What are these two days?’ The people of Medina replied, ‘They were days of festivities in the pre-Islamic era (jahaliyya).’ Then he said, ‘Verily Allah has replaced these two days with (what) is better for you—the day of Adha and the day of Fitr” (Abu Dawud)
5. It is the day of the offering of the sacrifice of an animal.
This is an act that pilgrims and many non-pilgrims throughout the world participate in. It is a reminder of the Prophet Ibrahim’s (May Allah be pleased with him) total submission to Allah when asked by Allah to slaughter his son. Allah’s request to the Prophet Ibrahim was a test of his submission, dedication and devotion to Allah. Upon success, Allah substituted his son’s body (the Prophet Isma’il) with a ram.
By sacrificing an animal Muslims demonstrate their willingness to carry out rituals for the sake of Allah and making sacrifices to demonstrate utmost submission to Allah.
This incident is mentioned in the Quran.
Allah says: “And he (Ibrahim) said, “I am going to my Lord. He will show me the way. O my Lord, bless me with a righteous son (Isma‘il).”So, We gave him the good news of a forbearing boy. Thereafter, when he (the boy) reached an age in which he could work with him, he (Ibrāhīm) said, “O my little son, I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so consider, what is your opinion?” He said, “O my dear father, do what you have been ordered to do. You will find me, inshā’allah , (if Allah wills) one of those who endure patiently.”So, (it was a great episode) when both of them submitted themselves (to Allah’s will), and he laid him on his forehead (to slaughter him), and then We called out to him, “O Ibrāhīm, you did make the dream come true.” This is how We reward those who are good in their deeds. This was indeed a trial that clearly demonstrated (their obedience). And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, and We left for him (a word of praise) among the later people,(that is,) “Salām be on Ibrāhīm! This is how We reward those who are good in their deeds.” (Surah al-Saffat: V99-110)
Acts One Can Perform on the Day of Sacrifice (‘Id al-Adha)
The day of ‘Id is can often confused with many celebratory days of other religions and cultures. Therefore, it is necessary for each Muslim to understand the day of ‘Id thoroughly. It is not a break from the worship or obedience of Allah. On this ‘Id (the ‘Id of sacrifice) Muslims are encouraged to participate in the act of slaughtering an animal for the sake of Allah alone. This act symbolizes submission to Allah, it promotes selflessness (as a portion of the meat is encouraged to be distributed to family and the poor), and it is a reminder to be grateful for the blessings of Allah unto mankind. It is to be understood that this day is yet another great opportunity to attain the nearness of Allah.
The acts that can be performed are:
1. Slaughtering an animal (one who is required in the shari‘ah must offer the sacrifice)
2. Maintaining family ties.
3. Being charitable.
4. Refraining from sin. It is important that on this day one does not neglect the obligatory acts like the five mandatory prayers.
The Virtues of the 11th, 12th And 13th Dhu ’l-Hijjah (Ayyam al-Tahsriq)
The days of tashriq are the three days that follow the day of sacrifice. Although these days are not a part of the first ten days, they still entail reward and blessings.
Allah says, “And remember Allah in the appointed days” (Al-Baqarah: V203)
The ‘appointed days’ refers to these very three days in which Muslims are commanded to remember Allah. Within these days one is not allowed to fast; this is a reminder to Muslims that even the rewards of virtuous deeds are dependent on when Allah has intended for them to be meritorious.
The Messenger of Allah said, “The days of Mina are days of eating, drinking and remembering Allah”. (Muslim) In this hadith again reference is being made to the days of tashriq.
Acts One Can Perform On the Days of Tashriq
The days of tashriq are the appointed as the days wherein one should abundantly remember Allah. One should always try to engage in the remembrance of Allah; in these days this should be increased. This can be attained by the following:
1. After every obligatory prayer (from the fajr of the 9th till the ‘asr of the 13th Dhu ’l-Hijjah) the takbir of tashriq should be recited. That is:
Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, La ilaha illa-Allah, wa-Allahu akbar, Allah akbar, wa li-Allahi ‘Lhamd.’
‘Allah is the Greatest. Allah is the Greatest. There is no God but Him. And Allah is the Greatest. Allah is the Greatest. And to Allah belongs all praise.’
2. Remembering Allah with the basmalah (bi-Smillah) and with the takbir (Allahu akbar) at the time of slaughtering the animal.
3. Remembering Allah at the time of eating and drinking by mentioning his name to begin and finishing by praising him. Being extra mindful of this if one normally forgets to do so.
4. Being abundant in all forms of remembering Allah.
The fiqh of ‘Id, the slaughter and the takbir of tashriq have not been mentioned. Each reader is advised to read on these issues too. This article was for the purpose of stating the virtues and suggesting beneficial acts to perform on these special days. May Allah grant us all the ability to understand the virtue of these blessed days and the ability to do righteous deeds to attain His everlasting pleasure. Ameen.
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