Monday, March 10, 2008

Ten Days of Dhul Hijja

Even for those not performing the pilgrimage, Hajj, the first ten days of this month are considered very sacred and a time for increased reflection, seeking Allah's forgiveness, doing good and various other forms of worship.

Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) has said about the first ten days of Dhul Hijja: "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days. " The people asked, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?" He said, "Not even Jihad 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 (Bukhari).

While any good deed done for the sake of Allah according to the way He approves will be rewarded immensely during the first ten days, Insha Allah, some of the more specific actions mentioned in the Traditions of the Prophet are as follows:

1. Fasting

In terms of fasting, it is particularly encouraged to fast on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijja, known in Arabic as Yawm Arafa. The Prophet used to fast on this day (al Nisai and Abu Dawud). Fasting on this day will expiate a Muslim's sins for two years.

2. Dhikr

The verbal remembrance of Allah is another meritorious act during these first ten days of Zul Hijjah. The Prophet upon him) encouraged Muslims to recite a lot of Tasbeeh ("Subhan-Allaah"), Tahmeed ("Al-hamdu Lillaah") and Takbeer ("Allahu akbar") during this time.

The Takbeer may include the words "Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, la ilaha ill-Allah; wa Allahu akbar wa Lillahi'l-hamd (Allah is Most Great, Allah is Most Great, there is no god but Allah; Allah is Most Great and to Allah be praise)," as well as other phrases.

Men are encouraged to recite these phrases out loud and women quietly.

3. Sacrifice

One of the good deeds that will bring a person closer to Allah during these ten days is offering a sacrifice, by choosing a high-quality animal and fattening it, spending money for the sake of Allah.

4. Sincere repentance

One of the most important things to do during these ten days is to repent sincerely to Allah and to give up all kinds of disobedience and sin. This means more than just a verbal expression of sorrow for past misdeeds. It also requires a firm resolution to avoid making the same mistakes in the future by giving up bad habits and behavior while sincerely turning to Allah.

Generally, all good deeds are rewarded highly at this blessed time. These actions include praying, reading Quran, making Dua (supplication), giving in charity and being good to our families.

" The first 10 days of Zul Hijjah: why they matter" -
" Virtues of the Ten Days of Dhul Hijjah" - Salih Al Munajjid

Meaning of Animal Sacrifice

Sacrificing certain types of animals during Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha are part of Islamic rites. Islam is not the only religion which prescribes animal sacrifice. In recent times, due to influence of the animal rights movement, the sacrifice of animals has come under attack. Below is Muslim American Michel Jansen's experience of apprehension towards Islamic animal sacrifice during Hajj and how she reconciled herself to the rite.

Before I had embarked on the Pilgrimage, its rituals seemed to me just so many curious exercises. But as I participated in the event of the Pilgrimage, the meaning of these rites unfolded, my understanding of Islam was deepened and I learned more fully what it meant to be a Muslim. Indeed, this is why God had commanded Muhammad to issue the call for the pilgrimage: "That they (the pilgrims) may witness things that are of benefit to them..." (Quran 22:28).

(For example, towards the end of the Hajj when the time of making the [animal] Sacrifice came), I began to feel uneasy. Since I have not completely outgrown the tender-heartedness I had known as a child, I had balked at the idea of the Sacrifice long before being confronted with it and now the time had come to do it. What was I to do? As a girl I had cared for lost dogs or stray cats, adopting any fledgling that had fallen from its nest, splitting a bird's broken leg with match stick and feeding injured butterflies on sugar syrup. But a companion had been adamant. "You must do the Sacrifice."

Back at our building in Mina I turned to the Quran. I found that the Sacrifice has many meanings: it commemorates Abraham's (peace be upon him) offering of his son's life and God's rejection of this sacrifice in exchange for Abraham's submission to God's will ; it marks the end of idolatry among Arabs; it is an offering of thanksgiving to the God of Creation Who has been so benevolent to mankind ; and it teaches the well-to-do to share their blessings to "eat thereof (the Sacrifice) and feed the beggar and the suppliant" (Quran 22:36).

As I pondered what I had read, a great weight was lifted from my conscience. I suddenly saw that the Sacrifice upholds the sacredness of life, that it, in fact, constitutes a pledge by the pilgrim that he will slay for sustenance only. And where I had felt reluctance before, I now felt eagerness to fulfill all the requirements of my pilgrimage.

"ISLAM- The Natural Way", by Adbul Wahid Hamid, pg. 127-128

Living the Quran, Luman, Chapter 31: Verse 32,

Honourable Nature

"Whenever the waves, like giant shadows, engulf them, they pray to God in all sincerity and devotion. But no sooner does He bring them safe to land, some of them hold back their belief. None will deny our revelations except the treacherous and the ungrateful."
Human beings are overwhelmed by God's grace and generosity. We live off the earth He has created; we breathe the air He has made available; we eat the nutritious food He has provided. Many, of course, forget all this and behave towards God as if He does not exist at all. Nevertheless, these very people would run to God in times of hardship, but as soon as they are out of danger, they revert to their disgraceful attitudes.
Gratitude is a sign of common sense and an honourable nature. When God praised Noah, He described him as "a thankful servant" (al-Isra: 3), and He praised Abraham as "grateful for his Lord's favours." (al-Naml: 121).
When Prophet Muhammad was asked why he devoted so much time to prayer and dedication to God, he replied: "Should I not be grateful servant of my Lord?" We must be made aware of these facts and exhorted not to abuse the favours God has bestowed upon us.

"Thematic Commentary on The Quran" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, pp. 504, 505

Mental Preparation before the Prayer

The planning of your daily activities should revolve around the five daily Salah. Do not plan everything else and then try to fit Prayer into your busy schedule. Allah deserves a greater place in our lives than that!

Ensure that you are conversant with all the rules and regulations governing your Prayer. Research in depth the Quranic verses and ahadith relating to the virtues of Salah. Uncertainty in how to perform one's prayer perfectly is a major cause of distraction.

Be punctual with your Prayer. Get into the habit of praying at the earliest hour. Do not procrastinate. The Prophet said, "The deed most loved by Allah is Prayer performed on time." (Muslim) and "only the hypocrites intentionally delay their prayers"!

Pray as much of your obligatory Salah in congregation as is possible. This is not 'just a good thing' but an obligation on every Muslim male. According to the Prophet, if we knew the good in praying in jama'ah we would not miss it even if we had to crawl to the masjid!

Avoid praying in a state in which you are mentally and physically fatigued.

Keep your mind free of worldly worries, evil thoughts, and ideas.

Plan what verses/duas you are going to recite.

If you do not understand Arabic learn the meaning of what you recite in your Prayer.

Remind yourself that engaging in Prayer offers you an opportunity to release yourself from the tensions of this world. The Prophet has said that in Prayer was placed the comfort of his eyes. Therefore cherish the opportunity to remove the burdens of this world from your shoulders.

Use your Prayer to remain focused on your mission in life, which is to bring your entire being to serve only Allah.

Use your Prayer as a source of strength, inspiration and enthusiasm for your life and activities.
"Salah - The State of Mind" - Young Muslims Publications.

Living the Quran, Al-Naziat (The Setting Stars), Chapter 79: Verses 40-41

True Remembrance
"But unto him who shall have stood in fear of his Lord's presence, and held back his inner self from base desires, paradise will truly be the goal."
How numerous the tongues that move with the name of Allah! But how meagre the benefit! An how rare the hearts that become genuinely humble at the mention of Allah! Yet how desperate the need of the world for those rare hearts!
Undoubtedly, the ruin of religion comes about when it digresses into empty words and forms. And the mission of religion will not have been accomplished until the day it creates in all men living conscience, pure mind and hearts that aim in awe at countenancing the divine. That is what true dhikr is!
Accounted among the influences of this kind of dhikr is that it curbs man's appetite for wealth. Thus, those who remember Allah are never obsessed by greed for more and more, and are certainly never demeaned by greedy or covetous constitutions. Rather, they earn their money honorably, and spend it on their legitimate needs without ever thinking to hoard or accumulate it.

"Remembrance And Prayer" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, p. 159