The last ten nights of the month of Ramadan are well known as the most sacred and blessed of the year. Similarly, the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are commonly referred to as the best of days.
In the Holy Quran, Allah swears an oath by these first days; and swearing by something is often used to indicate great importance and benefit.
It is widely accepted by scholars of Islam, that the verse above refers to these blessed first days of Dhul Hijjah – the 12th month in the Islamic calendar. Why though, are these days so important? A narration from the Noble Messenger (SAW) states:
“There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than in these (ten) days”. [Abu Dawud]
These virtues are equally applicable for those Muslims undertaking the Hajj, as well as those experiencing Dhul Hijjah at home. For those who have journeyed to perform the pilgrimage – which is obligatory once in a lifetime for those who can afford the trip – they are offered an even greater reward: all previous sins and transgressions will be erased, leaving them innocent as a newborn baby.
Such a great reward however, comes with great sacrifice. The Hajj is a test of both patience and spirituality, as well as an emotional and physical challenge. The pilgrim leaves their home during the first days of the month and aims to arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia before the rites begin on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah. By this time they will have performed Umra, the minor pilgrimage, and will have re-entered the spiritual state of ‘Ihram’ for Hajj, by making a definitive intention to perform it and adorning themselves with the specific Ihram clothing of two white, unstitched pieces of cloth.
Have a look below, at a brief overview of the days of Hajj:
1. Once they have entered the state of ‘Ihram,’ the pilgrims recite a prayer called the ‘Talbiyah’ as much as possible, over the next few days. Translated, it means:
“Here I am, O Allah, here I am, here I am. You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty. You have no partner.”
2. Day 1 : The pilgrims leave Mecca for the tent city (neighbourhood) of Mina. The Hajj begins!
3. Day 2 : After sunrise in Mina, the pilgrims head to the mountainous plains of ‘Arafah, reciting Istighfar (asking for forgiveness) and making supplications.
The Beloved Messenger (SAW) said in a narration: "The Hajj is 'Arafat, the Hajj is 'Arafat, the Hajj is 'Arafat.” Staying there until sunset is mandatory, after which the pilgrims will move on to Muzdalifah – an open plain between Mina and ‘Arafah.
4. The night is spent in Muzdalifah under the stars. The pilgrims can collect their pebbles here for use back in Mina, where they will pelt the stone pillars.
5. Day 3 is the 10th of Dhul Hijjah and is the first day of Eid. It is celebrated on a lesser scale for those on Hajj, as they still have many rites to perform in the coming days.
Heading back to Mina, the pilgrims continue to recite the Talbiyah and are preparing for both their Qurbani – the ritual sacrifice of an animal – as well as the first day of ‘Rami,’ or pelting the pebbles towards Satan.
6. The stoning of the ‘Jamarat’ is to be done over the next three days. Each day the pilgrims will head towards stone pillars erected at specific spots, which represent places that Abraham (AS) pelted stones at the devil. Shaytan appeared to him in these spots, wishing to try and deceive him from Allah’s command to sacrifice his son.
7. After their animal slaughter has been completed, the male pilgrims’ heads are shaved and the womens’ hair can be trimmed to signify the end of the state of ihram.
8. The pilgrims go to Mecca to perform Tawaf al-Ifadha and then complete another circuit of Saai’ as part of their Hajj rituals.
9. After this – it’s back to Mina, staying in the tents for the next few days.
10. On the 12th of Dhul Hijjah, after the final stoning, the pilgrims return to Mecca for a farewell Tawaf. This is the last of the Hajj rites for the pilgrims and they can now congratulate each other on their amazing achievements!
“And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way.” [Ale ‘Imran 3:97]