Posted by: bbburnley | October 17, 2012

10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah

Dhul-Hijjah is the twelfth and final month of the Islamic Calendar. The Arabic name translates as “Possessor of the Pilgrimage” as this is the month that millions of Muslims from around the world travel to the Holy City of Makkah (Mecca) to perform the Hajj.

Dhul-Hijjah is held as the second holiest month of the Islamic year (Ramadan being the first). An authentic Hadith (narrated tradition) relates that the  Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: “On no days is the worship of Allah (God) desired more than in the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. The fast of each of these days is equal to the fast of a whole year, and the worship of each of these nights is equal to the Night of Power.” (Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

Muslims are encouraged to fast during the daylight hours for the first nine days of the month. The tenth day is a day of celebration, Eid-ul-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice), the second Eid of the year. It is prohibited for a Muslim to fast on Eid day. As well as fasting, Muslims should also refrain from bad deeds and excel in performing good deeds (as they would during Ramadan). They should also spend as much time as possible remembering God and attempt to spend the nights engaged in acts of worship. This is also a time to reflect on one’s actions over the past year and seek forgiveness from God and the people they have wronged.

The Hajj

The Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and involves making a pilgrimage to a number of sites in and around Makkah. The pilgrimage dates back to the time of Abraham (around 2000 BC).  All able-bodied Muslims are expected to perform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime, providing they have the means and mental faculty to do so without leaving their dependants in hardship. The 2011 estimates of people attending Hajj ranged from 3 to 5 million, with this year likely to exceed those estimates. Already, around 1.8 million people have arrived in the holy city. The Hajj proper starts on 8th Dhul-Hijjah and concludes on 12th Dhul-Hijjah.

Upon arriving, pilgrims walk anti-clockwise around the Kabah (built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael, peace be upon them) seven times, which is known as Tawaf, and then offer a short prayer near Makam-e-Ibrahim (the Place of Abraham, the rock upon which Abraham stood whilst building the Kabah). Then, the pilgrims run and walk up and down the mountains of Safa and Marwa seven times, to re-enact Hagar’s (Ishmael’s mother) desperate search for water after Abraham was commanded by God to abandon his wife and child at a crossroad in the desert, which concluded with God sending an angel to strike open the well of Zamzam.

On 8th Dhul-Hijjah, the pilgrims head out to the world’s largest tent city, Mina, and spend the day and night there in prayers. On the morning of the 9th, they walk to Arafat and spend the afternoon on the plain, the spending the time in remembrance of God and reciting the Qur’an. Then, as the sun sets, they head for Muzdalifah, where they must spend the night sleeping rough under the stars. On the morning of the 10th, they gather pebbles from Muzdalifah and return to Mina after the morning prayer, to stone Satan at the Jamarat (stone edifices). There are three Jamarat, marking the three attempts Satan made to dissuade Abraham from carrying out God’s command to sacrifice Ishmael. Following the stoning, the pilgrims will sacrifice their animals, purchased for this purpose in an act to mark the day when Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son on God’s command before the All-Mighty intervened and sent a sheep to be sacrificed in his place. This sacrifice is carried out by Muslims across the world and is why the day is celebrated as Eid-ul-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice. The meat is distributed amongst the poor and shared with family, friends and neighbours.

Pilgrims spend another night at Mina, returning for the following two days to stone Satan each day, before returning to Makkah on the 12th to perform another Tawaf of the Kabah, concluding the Hajj. Many pilgrims decide to spend several more days in the Holy City, but before leaving will perform Tawaf-al-Wida, the farewell visit to the Kabah.

Although it is not integral to the Hajj, pilgrims visit the Holy City of Madinah, the city of the Prophet Muhammad. This is done either before or after the Hajj. It is considered extremely bad manners to perform Hajj or Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) and not visit the Prophet’s resting place. Muslims making a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Madinah will attend the Prophet’s Mosque and perform prayers in the places he instructed and give salutations to the Prophet at his blessed resting place. It is also advisable to visit the graves members of his family and his Companions (may God be pleased with them all).

 

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