The month of Dhul Hijjah is a sacred month in the Muslim calendar, but some of us may not realise just how important the first ten days of this blessed month are.
And unlike Ramadan - where we feel mentally and spiritually prepared even before the month begins - the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are usually not given the same importance and thus, often catch us by surprise!
The following hadith explains just how incredible these ten days are:
“There are no days in which the worship of Allah is as beloved to Him as in the ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Fasting on each of these days is equivalent to standing in prayer on the night of power (Laylat al-Qadr).” (At-Tirmidhi)
Ibn Hajar (a distinguished scholar of hadith) said: “All of the good deeds are combined in these ten days and that is not the case for any other ten days of the year.”
By this he was referring to how ALL five pillars of Islam are emphasised during these ten days, which cannot be said about any other days of the year.
This means that without a doubt, these sacred days of Dhul Hijjah are the most blessed and important days of the entire year - more so than even the days of Ramadan!
And whilst we may not be able to perform Hajj this year, there’s no reason why we can’t use the next ten days as an opportunity to reflect upon ourselves after Ramadan, to revive our intentions and to reconnect with our faith in a positive and practical way.
So what can we do to maximise the benefits of this time? Here are some simple yet effective ways of making the most of this month:
Coming out of Ramadan, many of us will have made the intention to reach certain goals with regards to our worship e.g. reciting Quran every day or giving charity every week. However, just a short time after Ramadan, many of us will have found ourselves slipping and have been unable to get back on track.
But it doesn't have to be this way!
The blessed days of Dhul Hijjah represent an excellent - and quite frankly unmissable - opportunity to revive our relationship with Allah and recalibrate ourselves back to Him.
Take a deeper look at why you haven't been able to achieve a certain goal?
For example, if your aim was to pray fajr every day but you found yourself missing it often, you might realise that it's because you are going to sleep too late and therefore are too tired to wake up for the prayer.
Re-familiarise yourself with the story of Ibrahim (AS); why do we commemorate him and perform the sacrifice of an animal during this time? What does it actually mean to sacrifice something for the sake of Allah?
From here, you can reflect upon what sacrifices you can make during this time (which will ultimately benefit you) by making a note of all the things you can give up for these ten nights.
For example, alongside fasting and giving charity, you could give up time spent on social media or watching TV and use that time in a more productive manner.
As mentioned above, these ten days emphasise all of the pillars of Islam, and so this is the perfect time to reconnect with your Lord through the second pillar, Salah.
Being mindful of your prayers by removing distractions and allowing yourself to ‘be in the moment’ will help to improve the focus of your prayers.
And if you have yet to establish praying five times a day and find it a struggle, then this is the perfect opportunity to get started insha'Allah!
Make the intention to pray all of the daily prayers on time, with pure focus and attention for at least the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Once you've successfully established your salah over these ten days, you'll insha'Allah feel spiritually stronger and will naturally want to continue with your efforts.
One of the simplest, yet most effective acts of worship you can do is to increase in the remembrance of Allah through making abundant dhikr.
In a famous narration, the Prophet ﷺ said:
“There are no days greater or more beloved to Allah than these ten days of Dhul Hijjah, so increase in them Tahleel (La illaha ill Allah), Takbeer (Allahu akbar) and Tahmeed (Alhamdulillah and Subhan’Allah)” (Musnad Imam Ahmed)
Notice how he ﷺ emphasised the importance of quantity during these days. Therefore keep your heart, mind and tongue engaged in dhikr wherever you can, e.g. while walking, commuting to and from work or doing daily chores.
Fasting is not just limited to the Day of Arafat; you can fast any of the 9 days of Dhul Hijjah. If you are able to, it is recommended to fast as many days as you can, but if you find it difficult, then try your best to not miss the Day of Arafat as the Prophet ﷺ said:
“Fasting on the day of Arafat expiates the sins of the previous year and of the coming year.” (Muslim)
Indeed, all of the virtues of Ramadan (including the last ten nights) are found in the day of Arafat! It is the ultimate day of mercy for Muslims, and is also special because it was the day Allah perfected the religion of Islam for us. Therefore it is the best day to make dua.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “The best dua’ is the dua of the day of Arafat” (Al-Albani)
In fact, he ﷺ would spend the entirety of this day calling upon Allah, from Duhr until Magrib - so don’t forget to make lots of dua for yourself, your family and the whole Ummah on this day.
In terms of which duas to say, there are no specific duas one should recite on the day of Arafat; rather this is the time to ask Allah for everything your heart desires.
These are just some of the things we can do to gain incredible rewards from the amazing opportunity that is Dhul Hijjah.
Remember that all of your good deeds will be greatly multiplied during these special days, so the most important thing is to try your best with a sincere and hopeful heart, and of course, continue your efforts beyond the month of Dhul Hijjah!