Among the special seasons of worship are the first 10 days of Dhu’l-Hijjah – the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, which Allah has preferred over all the other days of the year.
Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these 10 days.”
The people asked, “Not even jihaad for the sake of Allah?”
He said, “Not even jihaad for the sake of Allah, 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-Bukhaari, 2/457).
The first 10 days of Dhul-Hajj, which this year is from September 25 to October 4, are better than all the other days of the year, with no exceptions, not even the last ten days of Ramadan. But the last 10 nights of Ramadan are good, because they include Laylat al-Qadr –the Night of Power –which is better than a thousand months. Thus the various reports may be reconciled. (See Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 5/412).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) testified that these are the best days of this world.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) encouraged people to do righteous deeds because of the virtue of this season for people throughout the world, and also because of the virtue of the place, for the Hujjaaj –pilgrims –to the sacred house of Allah.
What Muslim must try to avoid if he wants to offer a sacrifice
The Sunnah –the Prophet’s deeds –indicates that the one who wants to offer a sacrifice must stop cutting his hair and nails and removing anything from his skin, from the beginning of the 10 days until after he has offered his sacrifice, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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)
The Prophet’s instruction here makes one thing obligatory and his prohibition makes another haraam, according to the soundest opinion, because these commands and prohibitions are unconditional and unavoidable. However, if a person does any of these things deliberately, he must seek Allah’s forgiveness but is not required to offer (an extra) sacrifice in expiation; his sacrifice will be acceptable. Whoever needs to remove some hair, nails, etc because it is harming him, such as having a broken nail or a wound in a site where there is hair, should do so and there is nothing wrong with that. The state of ihraam is so important that it is permitted to cut one’s hair if leaving it will cause harm. There is nothing wrong with men or women washing their heads during the first 10 days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) only forbade cutting the hair, not washing it.
The wisdom behind this prohibition against the one who wants to offer a sacrifice from cutting his hair etc. is so that he may resemble those in ihraam in some aspects of the rituals performed, and so that he may draw closer to Allah by offering the sacrifice. So, he leaves his hair and nails alone until the time when he has offered his sacrifice, in the hope that Allah will save him in his entirety from the fire. And Allah knows best.
If a person has cut his hair or nails during the first 10 days of Dhu’l-Hijjah because he was not planning to offer a sacrifice, then he decides later, during that period, to offer a sacrifice, then he must refrain from cutting his hair and nails from the moment he makes this decision.
Some women may delegate their brothers or sons to make the sacrifice on their behalf and then cut their hair during these ten days. This is not correct because the ruling applies to the one who is offering the sacrifice; whether or not he (or she) delegates someone else to carry out the actual deed. The prohibition does not apply to the person delegated, only to the person who is making the sacrifice, as is indicated in the hadeeth. The person, who is sacrificing on behalf of someone else, for whatever reason, does not have to adhere to this prohibition.
This prohibition appears to apply only to the one who is offering the sacrifice, not to his wife and children; unless any of them is offering a sacrifice in his or her own right. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to sacrifice “on behalf of the family of Muhammad,” but there are no reports that say he forbade them to cut their hair or nails at that time.
If a person was planning to offer a sacrifice, then he decides to go and perform Hajj, he should not cut his hair or nails if he wants to enter ihraam, because the Sunnah is only to cut hair and nails when necessary. However, if he is performing Tamattu’ –whereby he performs Umrah, comes out of ihraam and enters ihraam anew for Hajj –he should trim his hair at the end of his Umrah as this is part of the ritual.
Concerning the types of worship to be performed during these 10 days, one must understand that these days are a great blessing from Allah to His servant, which is appreciated properly by the actively righteous. It is the Muslim’s duty to appreciate this blessing and make the most of the opportunity, by devoting these 10 days to praying and striving harder in worship.
Among the good deeds which the Muslim should strive to do during the first 10 days of Dhu’l-Hijjah are:
Fasting: It is Sunnah to fast on the 9th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) urged us to do good deeds during this time, and fasting is one of the best of deeds. Allah has chosen fasting for Himself, as is stated in the hadeeth qudsi: “Allah says,‘All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except for fasting, which is for Me and I am the One Who will reward him for it.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1805).
Takbeer: It is Sunnah to say Takbeer (Allaahu akbar), Tahmeed (Al-hamdu Lillaah), Tahleel (La ilaha ill-Allaah) and Tasbeeh (Subhaan Allaah) during the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, and to say it loudly in the mosque, the home, the street and every place where it is permitted to remember Allah and mention His name out loud; as an act of worship and as a proclamation of the greatness of Allah, may He be exalted.
There is sound evidence that Ibn Umar and Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with them) used to go out in the marketplace during the first 10 days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, reciting Takbeer, and the people would recite it along with them. The idea behind reminding the people to recite Takbeer is that each one should recite it individually, not in unison, as there is no basis in Sharee’ah for doing this.
Takbeer, at this time, is an aspect of the Sunnah that has been forgotten, especially during the early part of this period; so much so that one hardly ever hears Takbeer, except from a few people. This Takbeer should be pronounced loudly in order to revive the Sunnah and as a reminder to the negligent.
Reviving aspects of the Sunnah that have been virtually forgotten is a deed that will bring an immense reward, as is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
“Whoever revives an aspect of my Sunnah that is forgotten after my death, he will have a reward equivalent to that of the people who follow him, without it detracting in the least from their reward.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 7/443; this is a hasan hadeeth because of corroborating asaaneed).
Performing Hajj and Umrah: One of the best deeds that one can do during these 10 days is to perform Hajj to the sacred house of Allah. The one whom Allah helps to go on Hajj to His house and to perform all the rituals properly is included in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “An accepted Hajj brings no less a reward than Paradise.”
Doing more good deeds in general: Good deeds are beloved by Allah and will bring a great reward from Him. Whoever is not able to go to Hajj should occupy himself at this blessed time by worshipping Allah, praying (salaat), reading Qur’an, remembering Allah, making supplication (du’aa’), giving charity, honouring his parents, upholding the ties of kinship, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, and other good deeds and acts of worship.
Sacrifice: One of the good deeds that will bring a person closer to Allah during these 10 days is offering sacrifice, by choosing a high-quality animal and fattening it, spending money for the sake of Allah.
Sincere repentance: One of the most important things to do during these 10 days is to repent sincerely to Allah and to give up all kinds of disobedience and sin. Repentance means coming back to Allah and foregoing all the deeds, open and secret, that He dislikes; out of regret for what has passed, giving it up immediately and being determined never to return to it, but to adhere firmly to the truth by doing what Allah loves.
If a Muslim commits a sin, he must hasten to repent at once without delay; firstly, because he does not know when he will die, and secondly, because one evil deed leads to another.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “But as for him who repented, believed and did righteous deeds, then he will be among those who are successful.” [al-Qasas 28:67]
The Muslim should make sure that he does not miss any of these important occasions because time is passing quickly. The time of departure is at hand, the journey is frightening, delusions are widespread, and the road is long, but Allah is ever watchful, and to Him will we return and render account. As the Qur’aan says (interpretation of the meaning):
“So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it, and whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it.” [al-Zalzalah 99:7-8]
Additional information – Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid