As the Islamic calendar draws to a close, the faithful worldwide prepare to welcome the month of Zulhijjah, a period of profound spiritual significance. Revered as the “Month of the Pilgrimage”, Zulhijjah is a time of deep reflection, devotion, and charitable acts. As the tenth and final month of the Islamic calendar, it signifies a time of completion and the culmination of the spiritual journey embarked upon throughout the year. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the importance of Zulhijjah, its rich history, and the various acts of worship associated with it.

When are the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah?

The first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah 2023 begin on 20th June 2023. The 9th of Dhul Hijjah (Day of Arafah) will be on 28th June 2023 and 10th Dhul Hijjah (Eid al Adha) will be on 29th June 2023. 

The Sacred Significance of Zulhijjah

Zulhijjah holds a unique position in the Islamic calendar. Its name, which translates to “The Month of the Pilgrimage” in Arabic, underlines its importance. It is during this month that the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, takes place, drawing millions of Muslims from around the world to the holy city of Makkah. The pilgrimage, a symbol of unity and faith, is a testament to the enduring legacy of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his unwavering devotion to Allah (SWT).

Allah (SWT) swears an oath by the first ten days of Zulhijjah in the Holy Qur’an, attesting to their importance and sanctity. In Surah Al-Fajr (89:1-2), Allah (SWT) states, “By the dawn and by the ten nights,” with many scholars interpreting the “ten nights” as the first ten days of Zulhijjah. This divine oath signifies the importance of these days and demands our attention and reflection.

 

The First Ten Days of Zulhijjah: A Time for Intensified Worship

The first ten days of Zulhijjah are days of heightened worship and good deeds. They are days when the rewards for righteous actions are multiplied manifold. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said: “No good deeds done on other days are superior to those done on these (first ten days of Dhul Hijjah)” (Bukhari). The first ten days of Zulhijjah thus present an ideal opportunity to increase one’s acts of worship and seek divine mercy and blessings.

During these auspicious days, Muslims are encouraged to fast, pray, give Sadaqah, and engage in Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah (SWT). Fasting is particularly recommended, especially on the Day of Arafah. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Fasting on the day of Arafah is an expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it” (Ibn Majah). This signifies the immense reward of fasting on this day, promising the forgiveness of sins for two years.

 

The Legacy of Prophet Ibrahim (AS)

At the heart of the rites and rituals associated with Zulhijjah lies the enduring legacy of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). The Hajj and the act of Qurbani (sacrifice) performed on Eid al-Adha are both rooted in the life and devotion of Prophet Ibrahim (AS).

The Hajj reenacts the journey undertaken by Prophet Ibrahim (AS), his wife Hajira (AS), and their son Ismail (AS). It is a powerful display of faith, echoing their unwavering obedience and submission to Allah (SWT). On the other hand, Qurbani commemorates the moment when Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail (AS) upon Allah’s command. Allah (SWT) replaced Ismail (AS) with a ram at the last moment, symbolizing that it is the intention and submission to Allah’s will that matters.

 

The Day of Arafah: A Day for Repentance and Forgiveness

The ninth day of Zulhijjah, known as the Day of Arafah, is of exceptional significance. It is the day when pilgrims gather on the plain of Arafah, standing in prayer and supplication from noon till sunset. This is the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage and a powerful symbol of unity and equality among Muslims.

Fasting on this day holds great reward as well. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “It (fasting on the Day of Arafah) expiates the sins of the past year and the coming year” (Muslim). This emphasizes the tremendous mercy and forgiveness that Allah (SWT) bestows upon His servants on this blessed day.

 

Eid al-Adha: The Festival of Sacrifice

Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, commences on the tenth day of Zulhijjah and lasts until the sunset of the 13th. This festival commemorates the profound act of sacrifice made by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and serves as a reminder of the importance of faith, obedience, and self-sacrifice in the life of a Muslim.

Muslims worldwide observe Eid al-Adha by offering a sacrificial animal (Qurbani), emulating the act of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). The meat from the sacrifice is divided into three parts: one for the family, one for relatives and friends, and one for the needy and less fortunate. This practice fosters a sense of community, sharing, and compassion among Muslims.

 

The Ritual of Qurbani

Qurbani, or the act of sacrificing an animal, is a key ritual performed during Zulhijjah. This act symbolizes the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his son Ismail (AS) in obedience to Allah (SWT). Today, Muslims perform Qurbani by slaughtering a sheep, goat, cow, or camel, and distributing its meat among family, friends, and the needy.

Qurbani serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of sacrifice in the life of a believer. It underscores the principles of generosity, compassion, and gratitude, and fosters a sense of community and solidarity among Muslims. Moreover, it is an act of worship that brings the believer closer to Allah (SWT).

 

Ayyām-u Ma’lūmat: Special Days in Zulhijjah

Zulhijjah is also marked by the observance of Ayyām-u Ma’lūmat, special days that hold particular significance in Islam. These include the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, which comprise yawmu tarwiyah, yawmu Arafah, and yawmu nahr.

Yawmu tarwiyah is the eighth day of Dhul-Hijjah and marks the beginning of the Hajj rituals. On this day, pilgrims leave Makkah for Mina. Yawmu Arafah, the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, is the day when pilgrims gather on Mount Arafah, engaging in fervent prayer and supplication. Yawmu nahr, the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah, is the day of sacrifice or Qurbani. It is also the day when Eid al-Adha is celebrated.

Ayyāmu Ma’dūdāt and Ayyāmu Tashrīq are other special days observed during Zulhijjah. Ayyāmu Ma’dūdāt refers to the days when Muslims recite the tashrīq takbirs, from the Fajr prayer on the day of Arafah to the Asr prayer on the 13th of Dhul-Hijjah. Ayyāmu Tashrīq, on the other hand, are the days when Muslims sun-dry the meat from their Qurbani offerings, from the 11th to the 13th of Dhul-Hijjah.

 

The Virtues of Dhikr during Zulhijjah

Among the recommended acts of worship during Zulhijjah is the practice of Dhikr, or the remembrance of Allah (SWT). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised his followers to recite Tahmeed (Al-hamdu lilLah), Tahleel (Laa ilaaha ill-Allah), and Tasbeeh (Subhaan-Allah) frequently during this period.

In addition to these, Takbeer (Allahu Akbar) is also recited, especially after each obligatory prayer from the Fajr prayer on the day of Arafah to the Asr prayer on the 13th of Dhul-Hijjah. This practice, known as the Takbirs of Tashriq, is a form of glorifying and praising Allah (SWT) and serves as a reminder of the greatness of Allah.

 

A Call to Sedekah

Zulhijjah, like other sacred months in the Islamic calendar, is a time for increased generosity and giving. Muslims are encouraged to give Sedekah, or voluntary charitable acts, during this period. These acts of kindness can take various forms, including monetary donations, food distribution, or even simple acts of service towards one’s community.

Sedekah is an integral part of a Muslim’s faith and practice. It is a way of expressing gratitude for Allah’s blessings, helping those in need, and purifying one’s wealth and soul. By giving Sedekah, Muslims not only help the less fortunate but also earn rewards and blessings from Allah.

 

Conclusion

Zulhijjah is indeed a month of immense blessings and opportunities for spiritual growth. It is a time for Muslims to renew their commitment to their faith, perform acts of worship, and strive for moral and spiritual excellence. Whether it’s fasting, praying, giving Sedekah, performing Hajj or Qurbani, or simply engaging in Dhikr and reflection, every act of devotion during this month brings us closer to Allah (SWT). As we welcome Zulhijjah, let us seize this opportunity to deepen our faith, strengthen our bonds of brotherhood, and strive for the betterment of our communities and humanity at large.