“That they might witness that which are of benefit to them and remember the name of the Almighty on the appointed days, over the beast of cattle that He has provided for them (for sacrifice)” (Quran 22:28)
Yes. In about three days from now, the days of blessings that are immanent in the month of Dhul Hijjah (the first to the tenth) shall be here. There are numerous reports from the Prophet (s.a.w) that emphasise their importance and virtues. For example, he is reported to have said: “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to the Almighty than these ten days.” His companions consequently asked him: “Not even jihad for the sake of the Almighty?” He said: “Not even jihad for the sake of the Almighty, 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.” He says again: “There are no days that are greater in the sight of Almighty and in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great deal of Tahleel (Glorifications of the Almighty).
In other words, one of the virtuous acts of worship expected of every believer during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah is remembrance of the Almighty through constant repetition of His name with full concentration and contemplation. This brings to mind the eternal injunction that in every statement or utterance of glorification lies great reward for the believer here on earth and in the hereafter.
Aside from the above, there are reports credited to the Prophet to the effect that Muslims who are not on Hajj and are desirous of sacrificing animals on the day of Id are required to observe some rituals including abstinence from cutting the hair on the body and the nails on the fingers and foot till after the day of sacrifice.
Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings of the Almighty) once said: “When you see the new moon of Dhu’l-Hijjah, if any one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, then he should not cut his hair and nails until he has offered his sacrifice. In fact, some jurist have gone further to posit that whoever does this deliberately has committed an infraction and shall be required to seek forgiveness though his sacrifice on the Id shall remain valid.
Scholars of Islam including Imam al-Shafi, al-Nawawi, al-Suyuti among others, have explored different perspectives to this ruling. While some have suggested that the reason for the prohibition is the necessity for the believer to enter into a spiritual realm as if he is on hajj where the totality of his being and essence become consecrated to the service of the Almighty, others have posited that it suffices for the believer to not go against any injunction of the Prophet no matter how insignificant they may appear. Once he commands an action or forbids something, the touchstone of faithfulness for the believer would be in his compliance with same without question.
The above ruling, it has been argued, appertains to all Muslims no matter their gender. Now if a believer has cut his hair or nails during the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah because he was not planning to offer a sacrifice, then he decides later, during the ten days, to offer a sacrifice, then the ruling becomes effective. He must refrain from cutting his hair and nails from the moment he makes this decision.
The Almighty says: “ 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.”
Apart from the acts or actions that are forbidden during the month, it is highly recommended for believers to dedicate the first nine days of the month for Fasting.
Fasting during the days comes under the category of what is known in Islamic Jurisprudence as Mustahabb particularly for those who are not performing Hajj.
The Prophet used to fast on the ninth of Dhu’l-Hijjah. Hunaydah ibn Khaalid reported from his wife that some of the wives of the Prophet said: “The Prophet used to fast on the ninth of Dhu’l-Hijjah, on the day of ‘Ashura’, on three days of each month, and on the first two Mondays and Thursdays of each month.”
Brethren, it is common knowledge in our faith that all the above acts of worship stand greater chance of being accepted when they are capped with acts of benevolence, when the believer remembers the poor and the needy, when we go out of our way to put smiles on the faces of those living on the margin of life. Indeed, these days, the days of Hajj are meant to remind us all of these- that the real meaning of Islam lies in the extent to which add value to people’s life. These are some of the latent meanings in these days; it is to their celebration we must dedicate our lives.
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria