… who is the fairest of us all?
That's what the question is, usually – but today is different. Dhul Hijjah is upon us. The hujjaaj (pilgrims) have already embarked on their noble journey to an even more noble destination, to perform the sacred rites ordained upon the Ummah since the time of Ibrahim 'alayhis-salaam.
Yet even those of us who are not pilgrims making our way to the holy city of al-Mecca al-Mukarramah, but who are going to offer udh_hiyah (the sacrifice) are entering a state of ihraam: a state wherein that which was once lawful for us is now forbidden.
The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “When you see the new moon of Dhu'l-Hijjah, if any one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, then he should stop cutting his hair and nails until he has offered his sacrifice.” According to another report he said: “He should not remove (literally, touch) anything from his hair or skin.” (reported by Muslim with four isnaads, 13/146)
What is the reason, or the wisdom, behind this prohibition? Well, only Allāh knows why exactly He has commanded us to do certain things, but amongst the reasons that we are aware of is that it's a time for us to abstain from worrying about our appearance, and to worry about our souls instead.
Ramadhaan was a time of self-denial and growing closer to Allāh. Each pang of hunger reminded us of His blessings upon us and urged us to strive harder for His Sake. Similarly, the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah push us to get over our vanity… to look past the reflection in the mirror, and to reflect upon our souls.
Women, perhaps, might understand it a bit better than men – after all, many of us spend a great deal of time beautifying ourselves and agonizing over beauty secrets: the perfect makeup, the easiest hair removal, exfoliates and face masks, the best shampoos, the latest fitness regimen… the list goes on and on!
The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are a break from that. Take a deep breath, people, and let's turn our backs on the beauty salons. Instead, let's turn towards the masjid, the Qur'an, the Sunnah… towards those deeds beloved in the Sight of Allāh.
Let our makeup be the mark of sajdah. Let our face masks be abandoned for the pure natural glow of noor that comes of loving Allāh and His Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam). Forget about hair removal – it's sin removal we should be thinking about now. Jane Fonda workout? Hah! Work out the Nafs and Qalb instead.
All right, I'll stop before I'm arrested for overdosing on the metaphors :P
But you get the point :D
Ibn 'Abbaas (radhiAllahu anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allāh than these ten days.” The people asked, “Not even jihaad for the sake of Allāh?” He said, “Not even jihaad for the sake of Allāh, except in the case of a man who went out to fight giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing.” (Reported by al-Bukhāri, 2/457).
Come on, people! Let's make the most of it! Sure, we may be stuck at home instead of flying/ riding on camel-back/ walking to the holiest sanctuary, but that doesn't mean we should be depressed. Ramadhaan wasn't that long ago – but how many of us have kept up with at least some of the practices that we used to perform on a regular basis during that blessed month? Take these days as an opportunity to revive those sunan, and strive to earn Allāh's pleasure.
Today was actually the second day of Dhul-Hijjah, so only eight days left to stock up on the good deeds – we best get a move on then!
Some recommended acts for non-pilgrims:
- Fasting – always beneficial, but even more so during these ten days. It is a Sunnah for non-pilgrims to fast the 9th day of this month, which corresponds to the Day of Arafat for those performing Hajj (should be on the 18th December, inshā'Allāh, if you're following Saudi).
- Takbeer – That is, to say Takbeer (“Allaahu akbar“), Tahmeed (“Al-hamdu Lillaah“), Tahleel (“La ilaha ill-Allāh“) and Tasbeeh (“Subhaan Allāh“) as often as you can remember it – out loud for the guys, and quietly for the ladies. This is sadly a forgotten Sunnah; wouldn't it be great to revive it? Here's a tip: start with reciting it, say, ten times after each ṣalāh on day one. The next day, keep going with the recitation after the ṣalāh, but now also try to say it at least ten times on the way to work/home/school/the gym, etc. The next day, say it after each ṣalāh, on the way to wherever, and also before and after you eat a meal. Keep associating the takbeer with events you do regularly, gradually increasing the number everyday, so that by the time 'Īd al-Aḍḥa comes, you'll have racked up a huge number of hasanat, inshā'Allāh (and if you enjoy doing it, you don't even have to stop! *wink*).
- Offer a sacrifice (remember to avoid cutting your hair and nails until the sacrifice is offered, even if you are delegating the task to someone else).
- General good deeds & lots of sincere repentance – all the deeds that Allāh loves from you at any time of year are even more rewarding during these ten days! This is especially goods new for those who are not able to fast, or forget to recite extra dhikr. So if there are any good deeds that are especially close to your heart, go crazy with them in these ten days, as increasing your efforts by even 1% will reap huge benefits in both this life and the next, inshā'Allāh.
And so, the question we should all be asking ourselves (or our mirrors) is: Who is the most righteous of us all?
Allahumma anta hassanuta khalqi, fa hassin khuluqi. O Allāh, you have beautified my creation (external features), so beautify my character.
Āmīn, thumma āmīn!