In the Islamic calendar, each month carries its unique significance, and Dhul Hijjah is no exception. Known as one of the 'Sacred Months', Dhul Hijjah is perhaps best recognized for the Hajj pilgrimage and Eid Al-Adha. However, its meaning and impact reach far beyond these singular events. This month is indeed a culmination of faith, a time of reflection, and a chance for spiritual transformation. With its deeply rooted history, Dhul Hijjah provides ample opportunity for us to connect (and reconnect) with our faith on a profound level.
The History of Dhul Hijjah
Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, holds a distinguished place in Islamic history. The name 'Dhul Hijjah' translates to 'the Month of Pilgrimage', a moniker given due to the Hajj pilgrimage that takes place from the 8th to the 13th day.
The Hajj pilgrimage is a tradition steeped in faith and resilience, which traces its roots back to the Prophet Ibrahim. The Quran narrates the story of how Ibrahim was instructed by Allah to leave his wife, Hajar and his son, Ismail in the barren desert. With their provisions dwindling, Hajar desperately ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa in a frantic search for water. In the face of desperation, a miracle occurred. The Angel Jibreel struck his foot on the ground and a spring known as Zamzam gushed forth beneath Ismail's feet - a manifestation of divine intervention which became their sustenance.
Years later, when Ibrahim returned to Makkah, Allah tested his obedience once more by instructing him in a dream to sacrifice his son - now a grown man - Ismail. They both agreed to submit to the will of Allah but at the moment of the intended sacrifice, Allah, pleased with their actions and wanting to reward Ibrahim, put a large ram in Ismail's place, saving him.
Years passed, and per Allah's command, Ibrahim was ordained to build the Kaaba. His son, Ismail also helped him to build it, gathering stones while his father built the structure. When it was complete, the Angel Jibreel descended from heaven and taught Ibrahim the rituals of Hajj. Ibrahim spoke to his people using a large stone as his platform, urging them to obey Allah. This large stone remains near the Kaaba and is known as ‘Makam Ibrahim’.
Today, millions of us journey to Makkah and retrace Hajar's footsteps during the Hajj pilgrimage, an act known as Sa’i. This symbolic journey serves as a reminder of perseverance in the face of adversity which is central to Islamic teachings.
When we delve into the significance of Dhul Hijjah, we discover a month of unparalleled virtue and bountiful blessings. The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are particularly cherished, regarded as the most sacred days of the year. As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
"There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days" (Bukhari).
These initial ten days reach their peak on the Day of Arafah, a day of immense significance, where it is said that Allah completed His favor upon mankind and perfected the religion of Islam. This day is seen as a spiritual pinnacle, a time when prayers are answered and countless sins are forgiven.
Closely following the Day of Arafah is Eid al-Adha, also known as the 'Festival of Sacrifice,' which falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah. It serves as a reminder of Ibrahim's unparalleled act of obedience towards Allah – his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son. To commemorate this act of devotion, Muslims across the globe perform Qurbani (animal sacrifice) and distribute the meat among the less fortunate. This act showcases the Islamic principles of obedience, charity, and community, reminding us that our blessings are to be shared.
The Best Deeds to Perform During Dhul Hijjah
Given the virtues of the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, it's recommended to increase good deeds and acts of worship. For many of us, this is a great opportunity to reinvigorate our post-Ramadan efforts and start building momentum in our worship again.
Here's what you can do to make the most of these blessed days:
- Fasting: Fasting on the Day of Arafah is highly encouraged as it expiates the sins of the previous and coming year (Muslim).
- Dhikr and Takbeer: Engaging in remembrance and glorification of Allah (SWT) is highly meritorious. This includes saying 'Allahu Akbar,' 'Alhamdulillah,' and 'La ilaha illallah.'
- Charity: Dhul Hijjah is an excellent time for giving. Sharing your blessings and resources with those in need embodies the spirit of generosity and unity that the month is all about. Giving charity also helps us detach from that which is worldly, and practice mindfulness and empathy.
- Prayer: Extra prayers, especially during the night, are another way to take advantage of these special days.
- Repentance: These ten days provide a unique opportunity for repentance and seeking Allah's forgiveness.
- Engaging with the Quran: Reading and reciting the Quran, whether it be in prayers or tying it into your repentance, is a great way to ensure closeness with the words of Allah (SWT). The Quran is rich with Prophetic duas, some of which you can learn more about here.
- Perform Hajj and Umrah: If circumstances allow, performing the Hajj is among the best deeds one can do in Dhul Hijjah. Umrah, another form of pilgrimage, can also be performed.
As we journey through Dhul Hijjah, let's seize this opportunity to grow spiritually, be generous, and make the most out of this blessed month. Whether you’re embarking on the pilgrimage or spending these days at home, the true essence of Dhul Hijjah lies in submitting to the will of Allah and trusting in His decree. Let's use this time to reflect on the lessons and values the Prophet Ibrahim imparted all those years ago, embodying his steadfast faith and unwavering obedience.