There are four months that are sacred and honourable according to the law of Islam, and one of these sacred months is Zilhaj. Zilhaj is very important for worship. First ten days of this month are most beautiful and dignified period. Because, the first ten days are the great season of worship, which Allah (SWT) has favoured over other days of the year. For these reasons these days are better than the other days of the month, even some scholars have ruled that these ten days are better than the final ten days of Ramadan, although the nights of Ramaḍan are superior to these nights.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “ 'There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah (SWT) than these ten days.' They said, 'Not even jihad for the sake of Allah (SWT)?' He said, 'Not even jihad for the sake of Allah (SWT), unless a man goes out himself for jihad taking his wealth with him and does not come back with anything.'” (Sahih Bukhaari, 2/457).The Prophet (pbuh) also said, “'There is no deed that is better before Allah (SWT) or more greatly rewarded than a good deed done in the (first) ten days of al-Adha.' It was also said, 'Not even jihad for the sake of Allah (SWT)?' He said, 'Not even jihad for the sake of Allah (SWT), unless a man goes out himself for jihad taking his wealth with him and does not come back with anything.'” (Sunane Darimi, 1/357; its isnad is hasan as stated in al-Irwa’, 3/398).
These hadiths indicate that these ten days are better than all other days of the year, with no exception, even the last ten days of Ramadaan. But the last ten nights of Ramadan are better than the first ten nights of Zilhaj, because they include Laylatul Qadr, which is better than a thousand months. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 5/412).
Allah Himself swears by 'the ten nights' in Surat al-Fajr, which is a sufficient evidence of their greatness. (Sura Fajar, Ayat 1-2).
According to Hazrat Abdullah bin Abbas, Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair and Mujahid (Ra), most of the Companions, the Tabayee and the Mufassir, the nights of this sura are the first ten nights of the month of Zilhaj. Hafez Ibne Qasir (Ra) said, "This is pure." (Tafsire Ibn Kasir 4/535-536).
So the Muslim should start these days with sincere repentance to Allah, then he should do a lot of righteous deeds in general, then he should pay attention to doing the following deeds:
Fasting in nine days except day of EidOne of the special righteous deeds of Zilhaj is to observe the fast on the first nine days without the day of Eid-ul-Azha. Because the Prophet (pbuh) used to fast on these nine days (the first nine days of the month of Hijjah). It was narrated from Hunaydah ibn Khaalid that one of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) said, "The Prophet (pbuh) used to fast on the first nine days of Zilhaj and the day of ‘Ashoora’, and three days each month, the first Monday of the month and two Thursdays." (Sunane Nasaa’i, 4/205 and Sunae Abu Dawoo, 2/462, Hadith: 20; Musnad Ahmad, Hadith: 2229; Sunan Nasai, Hadith: 28). So it is Sunnah for the Muslim to fast on these days. In this hadith the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged us to do righteous deeds in the first ten days of Zilhaj, and fasting is one of the best of form of worship, which Allah (SWT) has chosen for Himself as it says in the hadith qudsi: “Allah (SWT) says, ‘All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except fasting, which is for Me and I shall reward for it.'” (Sahih Bukhaari, 1805).
Hazrat Hafsa (Ra) said in another Hadith: "The Prophet (pbuh) never left the four righteous deeds: fast of Ashura, fast on first ten days of Zilhaj, fast on three days every month, and two rak'at Sunnah prayers before Fajr." (Sunane Nasai, Hadith: 28; Sahih ibne Hibban, Hadith: 122; Abu Yala, Hadith: 12; Musnad Ahmad, Hadith: 20).
If we are unable to fast the first nine days of the month, we should at least fast on the Day of Arafah. Among the first nine days of Zilhaj, the fasting on the ninth day is most rewarding. A sahih hadith describes the benefits of fasting on this day.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "About the fasting on the Day of Arafah (nine days), I hope to Allah (SWT) that He will clear the sins of the past one year and next year by this." (Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 1162; Abu Dawood, Hadith: 2425; Jame Tirmizi, Hadith: 749; Sunnah Ibn Majah, Hadith: 1730).
According to another hadith, "The person who fasts on the day of Arafah his sins will be forgiven for two consecutive years." (Musnad Abu Yala, Hadith: 7548; Majmaw Jawid, Hadith: 5141). Those who will not be able to fast on the first ten days of Zilhaj they should not be deprived of at least this day's fasting.
Reciting tahmeed, tahleel and takbeer a great deal
It is Sunnah to recite takbeer (saying Allahu akbar (Allaah is most great)), tahmeed (saying al-hamdu Lillah (praise be to Allah)), tahleel (saying Laa ilaha ill-Allah (there is no god but Allah)) and tasbeeh (saying Subhan-Allah (glory be to for Allah)), during the first ten days of Zilhaj; saying these words out loud in mosques, homes, streets and every place in which it is permissible to remember Allah is a great act of worship to proclaim the greatness of Allah.
The last ten days of Zilhaj are days in which we should remember Allah abundantly. Allah says: "They remember the name of Allah on well-known days." (Sura Al-haj, 22-28). In this verse these “well-known days” according to the majority of scholars, refer to the ten days of Zilhaj.
This is why the Prophet (pbuh) said, "We should make abundant tahlil, takbir and taḥmid." (Narrated by Aḥmad).
Sayyiduna Abdullah Ibn Umar (Ra) and Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (Ra) would go into the marketplace in these days and raise their voices with the takbīr. The people in the marketplace would then raise their voices with the takbīr in response. Thus the most hated place to Allah, a place where most people are heedless of Him, was filled with His remembrance.
Do not cut hair, nails and any part of skin
If the onset of Dhu’l-Hijjah has been proven and a person wants to offer a sacrifice, it is haraam for him to remove anything from the body.
It is mustahab for every Muslim not to remove anything from the body; to cut hair, nails or any part of his skin. It is not forbidden for them to wear new clothes or to put on henna or perfume, or to be intimate with their wives or have intercourse. It is mustahab after seeing of the moon until they offer a sacrifice.
It was narrated from Umm Salamah (Ra) that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “When you see the new moon of zilhaj, and one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him refrain from (removing anything) from his hair or nails.” (Narrated by Muslim, 1977. According to another hadith, “Let him not remove anything of his hair or skin.").
Those who are not able to offer the sacrifice should also follow these instructions. Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Amar (Ra) said that the Prophet (pbuh) said,
"'I have been told about the Day of Sacrifice. Allah (SWT) has fixed it as a Eid for the Ummah.' One person asked, 'O Allah's Messenger! What if I only have one maniha which means only for drinking?' The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, 'No; do not offer sacrifice on that day. Rather cut your hair, your nails, clean the wool and the lower wool of the navel on that day. This will be considered as your complete sacrifice to Allah.'" (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith: 6575; Sahih Ibn Hibban, Hadith: 773; Abu Dawood, Hadith: 2789; Sunan Nasai, Hadith: 4365).
That is, those who are not able to offer a sacrifice should share with other Muslims the celebration of Eid and happiness. They will be entitled to have full reward if they follow the instructions.
The writer is the Editor of monthly Al-Hera (An Arabic Magazine) and Assistant Mufti at Jamia Rahmania Sautul Hira, Tongi, Gazipur.