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Reviving The Sacred Months: Dhul Hijjah (Part 1)

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The buzz of Ramadan has come and gone, leaving us with already-fading memories of days of fasting and nights of worship. Caught up in the bustle of our regular lives, especially as the world struggles to move towards a post-pandemic norm, we may find ourselves longing for another opportunity to ground ourselves spiritually. Just in time, Dhu’l Hijjah has begun! Some of us might be a little confused – okay, so what? We’re not going for Hajj, so what’s the big deal? It’s actually a very big deal. For all that we know of the incredible blessings of Ramadan (even non-Muslims know about Ramadan), too few of us know of the rest of the months of the Islamic calendar, and in particular, those months which were designated by Allah as being uniquely sacred. 

{Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein…} (Surah al-Tawbah 9:36)

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Abu Bakrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumaada and Sha’baan.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 2958).

Of the four sacred months, Dhu’l Hijjah was singled out to be the most sacred of them all – even moreso than Ramadan.

Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” They said: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah?” He said: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah, unless a man goes out himself for jihad taking his wealth with him and does not come back with anything.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 2/457)

Ibn Abbas reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No deeds are more pure to Allah Almighty, nor greater in reward, than good deeds performed in the ten days of the month of sacrificing.” (Source: Sunan al-Dārimī 1774; Hasan (fair) according to Al-Albani)

In reference to the second verse of Surah al-Fajr, where Allah swears by the dawn and “wa layaalin ‘ashr,” Imam Ibn Kathir reported from Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Zubayr, Mujahid and others that “the ten nights” mentioned in this surah are referring to the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah. 

Altogether, the evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah emphasize the unique importance of the month of Dhu’l Hijjah, and in particular, it’s first ten days. 

Ramadan duas

close up of men hand pure fresh sugar cane juice in plastic cup for Ramadan iftar buffet with Thai food menu. Food set including palm date, sweet and drink. Peopel waiting time for fast breaking. Top view.

Fasting

These are days of increased worship, akin to our increased worship in Ramadan; indeed, we are strongly recommended to fast the first 9 days of Dhu’l Hijjah. 

Hunaydah ibn Khaalid (may Allah be pleased with him) reported from his wife, from one of the wives of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, and may He be pleased with all of them), who said:

The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) used to fast the first nine days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, the day of ‘Ashoora’ and three days of every month. (Abu Dawood (2437))

Even if you’re unable to fast all nine days, try to fast at least a few of them, including the Day of ‘Arafah! For women in particular, this is an excellent opportunity to also combine the qadha’ fasts of Ramadan with the increased blessings of these days of Dhu’l Hijjah; for those who have already made up their days (or who plan on making them up later), or for men, it is also encouraged to make the intention for Sunnah fasting on Mondays and Thursdays alongside these days of Dhu’l Hijjah – essentially maximizing the rewards.

Dhikr

The first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah are a time when we have been urged to increase in our tahleel, takbeer, and tahmeed – that is, to recite the shahadah, to say Allahu akbar, and to say alHamdulillah repeatedly. Most of us are familiar with the takbeerat of ‘Eid – this is not just for ‘Eid, but for these days as well. 

Ibn Umar reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“There are no days greater and more beloved to Allah than these ten days of Dhul Hijjah, so increase in them your declaration of the oneness of Allah, your exaltation of Him, and your praise of Him.” (Source: Musnad Aḥmad 5423)

If you have kids (and even if you don’t), a great way to incorporate this and make it part of one’s daily practice is to have the audio of takbeeraat playing on speaker so that everyone can hear it and be accustomed to reciting it as well. Find other creative ways to encourage this practice as well – go for a dhikr walk with your spouse, children, family members, or friends (just don’t turn it into a bid’ah by doing synchronized dhikr or something), or use a planner sheet with designated hourly/ daily goals, or set a timer for yourself (even if it’s just 5 minutes) throughout the day to take a dhikr break. 

Hand holding The Holy Quran on a white background

Qur’an, qiyaam (and other prayers), and sadaqah

Just as in Ramadan, we should be aiming to increase our recitation of the Qur’an, strive to pray qiyaam every night, and give sadaqah every day. You don’t have to do a full khatmah, but look at the goals you accomplished in Ramadan, and compare them to where you are now – and try to bridge the gap. Even if it’s just increasing from half a page of Qur’an to one page, or from two pages to four, or half a juz to a full juz, the rewards will be exponentially multiplied! 

With regards to prayers throughout the day, there are so many ways to increase one’s worship in simple ways. If you find it difficult to pray all your sunan ar-rawaatib (the voluntary prayers attached to the obligatory prayers) every day, challenge yourself to at least pray them during these days! The sunnah of Fajr is especially important, as RasulAllah told us

The two Rak’ah before the dawn (Fajr) prayer are better than this world and all it contains” (Sahih Muslim). 

Salah adh-Dhuha is another oft-neglected sunnah with amazing rewards. It is an optional two-rakʿah prayer, performed in the time between sunrise and Dhuhr.

The Prophet ﷺ said:

In the morning, every single joint of yours must pay a sadaqah (charity). Every SubhanAllah is a sadaqah, every Alhamdulillāh is a sadaqah, every La Ilaha Illa Allah is a sadaqah, every Allahu Akbar is a sadaqah, every commanding good is a sadaqah, and every forbidding evil is a sadaqah, and all this is accomplished through two rakʿahs one can pray in Duha [prayer].” (Ibn Khuzaymah; authentic according to the conditions of Muslim. Sahih at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (1/164))

The Prophet ﷺ said:

“Whoever prays the Fajr prayer then sits in his place of prayer remembering Allah until sunrise, then prays two rakʿahs, shall be rewarded as if he had performed Hajj and ʿUmrah, with a reward that is complete, complete, complete.” (at-Tirmidhi (586), al-Mundhiri in at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (1/220), and Sahih al-Jāmiʿ (6346))

At night, schedule time after ‘Isha or before Fajr for qiyaam – even just two rak’aat! – just as we scheduled time for taraweeh in Ramadan. 

In the last ten nights of Ramadan, many of us set up a plan where we would give in sadaqah each night. Do the same for the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah! There are so many causes to give to, whether it is to support local Muslims in need, or contributing to causes such as supporting those in Palestine, Kashmir, Yemen, the Rohingya, the Uighurs, and others. Now more than ever, we cannot forget how many Muslims – in our own cities and towns, as well as overseas – are suffering from starvation, ethnic cleansing, crippling poverty, and more. 

The first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah are incredibly precious and should not be wasted – its significance in our hearts should be on part with the significance that we give Ramadan, and the attention that we pay to our worship in these ten days should be as our focus in Ramadan. Just as Ramadan provides us with a month’s worth of spiritual struggle and reflection, so too does Dhu’l Hijjah make us pause, reflect upon the meanings of Hajj and incorporating its messages and lessons into our daily lives, and create a spiritual regimen even if we ourselves are not going for Hajj. 

May we all be of those who spend the priceless minutes and hours of the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijjah in worship, repentance, and purification; may our deeds be accepted; and may we be of those who revive the sunnah in our lives and encourage it amongst our families, friends, and communities.

Ameen.

Help Us End Ramadan with 1000 Supporters!

Alhamdulillah, we're at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

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