All praise is due to Allah Who has created time and has made some periods of time superior to others. He made some days, nights and months to be of greater value than others; when rewards are multiplied many times over. This is part of His mercy towards His slaves. This encourages them to do more righteous deeds and makes them more eager to worship Him, so that the Muslim renews his efforts to gain a greater share of reward and prepares himself for death and the Day of Judgement.

This season of worship brings about many benefits to sincere Muslims; it gives them another opportunity- after Ramadan– to correct one’s faults and make up for any shortcomings. Each of these special occasions involves some form of worship through which true servants of Almighty Allah can draw closer to Him, and obtain unique blessings through which He bestows His favour and mercy upon whomsoever He wishes.

Ibn Rajab in his book Al-Lataa’if says

The successful and exultant person is the one who makes the most of these special hours, days and months and draws nearer to his Lord during these times through acts of worship; and will most likely be moved by the blessings of Almighty Allah and feel the joy being safe from the flames of Hell.

The Muslim must understand the value of his life, increase his worship of Almighty Allah and persist in doing good deeds until the moment of death. Almighty Allah says,

(And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty.) (Al-Hijr 15 :99)

Qur’anic interpreters said: “The ‘certainty’ refers to death.”

Among these special seasons of worship are the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah which Almighty Allah has preferred over all other days of the year. Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “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 replied: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah, except for the case of a man who went out to fight giving himself and his wealth up for the cause – and returned with nothing.” (Al-Bukhari)

In his tafseer Ibn Kathir says,

This text and others indicate that these ten days are better than all the other days of the year, without exception, not even the last ten days of Ramadan. However, the last ten nights of Ramadan are better than the first ten nights of Dhul-Hijjah because they include Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power) which is better than a thousand months. Thus, the various reports may be reconciled.

Almighty Allah confirms the virtue of these days by swearing an oath by them, and swearing an oath by something is indicative of its importance and great benefit. He, the Almighty says:

(By the dawn; and by the ten nights.) (Al-Fajr 89: 1-2)

Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn Az-Zubayr, Mujaahid and others of the earlier and later generations of scholars of tafseer said that this refers to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. Ibn Kathir said: “This is the correct opinion.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commanded us to abundantly pronounce tasbeeh (glorifying and praising Allah), al-hamdu lillah (all praise be to Allah) and Takbir ( Allahu Akbar) during this time.

Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“There are no days greater in the sight of Allah and in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great deal of Tahlil (La ilaha ila-Allah), Takbir and Tahmid.” (Ahmad).

These ten days include the Day of `Arafah on which Almighty Allah perfected His Religion. Fasting on this day will expiate the sins of two years. These days also include the Day of Sacrifice, the greatest day of the entire year and the greatest day of Hajj, which combines different acts of worship in a way unlike any other day.

Drawing Closer to Allah in the Best Days

Among the good deeds that the Muslim should strive to do during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah are:

Fasting. It is a sunnah to fast on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged us to do good deeds during this period, and fasting is one of the best of deeds. Almighty Allah has chosen to reward fasting directly, as is stated in a hadith Qudsi,

“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.’” (Al-Bukhaari).

Some of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) narrated that: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to fast on the ninth of Dhul-Hijjah, on the day of ‘Ashurah, on (the mid) three days of every month, and on the first two Mondays and Thursdays of every month.” (An-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud, and authenticated by Al-Albani).

Takbir. It is sunnah to say Takbir ( Allahu Akbar), al-hamdu lillah (all praise be to Allah), La ilaha illa-Allah, and tasbeeh (gloifying and praising Allah) during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah and to say it loudly in the mosque, at home, in the street and every other place where it is permitted to remember Almighty Allah and mention His name loudly. This is an act of worship and a proclamation of the greatness of Allah the Exalted.

Almighty Allah says,

(That they might witness (i.e. attend) benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known (i.e. specific) days over what He has provided for them of (sacrificial) animals…) (Al-Hajj 22: 28)

The majority of scholars agree that the “specific days” are the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, due to the statement of Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: “The ‘appointed days’ are the first ten days (Dhul-Hijjah).”

The Takbir may include the words “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaaha illa-Allah; wa Allahu Akbar wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allah is Most Great, Allah is Most Great, there is no deity except Allah; Allah is Most Great and to Allah is due all praise),” as well as other phrases.

Takbir at this time is an aspect of the sunnah that has been forgotten by many people, especially during the early part of these ten days, so much so that one hardly ever hears Takbir, except from a few people. This Takbir should be pronounced loudly for men and quietly for women, in order to revive the sunnah and as a reminder to those who are negligent. Ibn Umar and Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with them) used to go out to the marketplaces during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, reciting Takbir, and the people would recite Takbir when they heard them. The idea behind reminding the people to recite Takbir is that each one should recite it individually, not in unison, as there is no basis in Shariah for doing this.

Reviving aspects of the sunnah that have been virtually forgotten is a deed that will bring an immense reward. This is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

“Whoever revives an aspect of my sunnah that is forgotten after my death, will have a reward equivalent to that of all the people who follow him, without it detracting in the least from their (individual) rewards.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Performing Hajj and `Umrah. One of the best deeds that a person can do during these ten days is to perform Hajj to the Sacred House of Allah. The person whom Almighty Allah enables to perform Hajj to His House and to perform all the rituals correctly is included in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “An accepted Hajj brings no less a reward than Paradise.”

Doing more good deeds in general. Good deeds are beloved by Almighty Allah and will bring a great reward from Him. Whoever is not able to perform Hajj should occupy himself at this blessed time by increasing his worship of Allah by praying, reading Qura’n, remembering Allah, supplicating Allah (du`aa’), giving in charity, honouring parents, upholding the ties of kinship, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, and all other good deeds and acts of worship.

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

Sincere repentance. One of the most important things to do during these ten days is to sincerely repent to Almighty Allah and to give up all kinds of disobedience and sins. Repentance means returning to Almighty Allah and abandoning all the deeds, open and secret, that He dislikes, out of regret for what has passed. It also entails giving it up immediately and being determined never to return to it and thereafter to adhere firmly to the truth by doing all that Almighty Allah loves.

If a Muslim commits a sin, he must hasten to repent at once, without delay, first, because he does not know when he will die and second, because one evil deed leads to another.

Repentance at special times is very important because in most cases people’s thoughts turn towards worship at these times and they are keen to do good deeds. This leads them to recognise their sins and feel regret for the past. Repentance is obligatory at all times, but when the Muslim combines sincere repentance with good deeds during the most virtuous days, this is a sign of success, in sha’ Allah.

Almighty Allah says,

(But as for him who had repented, believed, and done righteousness, it is expected (i.e. promised by Allah) that he will be among the successful.) (Al-Qasas 28: 67)

As time passes quickly, Muslims must make sure that they do not miss any of these important occasions. We must prepare ourselves by doing good deeds that will bring us rewards when we are most in need of them, for no matter how much reward we earn, we will find it inadequate. The time of departure is at hand, the journey is frightening, distractions are widespread, and the road is long, but Almighty Allah is ever watchful, and to Him we will return and render our account. Almighty Allah says,

(So whosoever does an atoms weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atoms weight of evil shall see it.) (Az-Zalzalah 99: 7-8).

There is much to be gained, so let’s make the most of the opportunity afforded by these invaluable and irreplaceable ten days. Hasten to do good deeds before death comes; before we regret our negligence and failure to act; before we are asked to return to a place where no prayers will be answered; before death intervenes between those who are hopeful and the things we hope for and before we are trapped with our deeds in the grave.

O you whose hard heart is as dark as the night! Is it not time that your heart was filled with light and became soft? Expose yourself to the gentle breeze of your Lord’s mercy during these ten days, for Almighty Allah will cause this breeze to touch whomever He wills. Whoever is touched by it will be exultant on the Day of Judgement.

*Excepted and Abridged from the book “Virtues of the Ten Days of Dhul Hijjah”. Published by The Islamic Propagation Office in Rabwah