Q1: Is it true that the first 10 days of Dhu’l-Hijjah are the best days of the year?
This is likely to be true. In fact there is an explicit Prophetic tradition narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) in which the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “The best days of this world are the ten days (meaning the ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah).” The hadith was reported by al-Bazzar and many traditionalists considered it authentic. There are also a number of other Prophetic traditions that confirm that these ten days are the best days of the year.
Ibn ‘Abbaas (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhuma) reported that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) 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 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.”
Ibn Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhuma) narrated that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “There are no days that the good deeds are beloved and preferable to Allah than the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, so increase and double your tahleel and takbeer and tahmeed.”
The last day among those ten days is the day of nahr (slaughter), or the great hajj. It is also the second and biggest Eid of Islam.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote, ‘The best of days before Allah is the Day of Slaughtering, which is the greatest day of Hajj as is recorded in Sunan Abi Dawood where it is narrated that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
However, it was narrated that Friday is the best and the master of the days. “It is greater in the sight of Allah than the day of Ad’ha, sacrifice (slaughtering), and the day of Eid al-Fitr. It includes five merits…” In an attempt to explain this apparent contradiction, Ibn Taymiyyah said “the Best day of the week is Friday unanimously, followed by the day of sacrifice (slaughtering) –according to the correct opinion which is the opinion of Imam Malik, al-Shafi, and Ahmad. It included number of deeds that can’t be done in any other day.” This also means that the following best day is the day of Arafat as some scholars consider it better than the day of sacrifice (slaughtering).
It was also narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhuma) said, “The Prophet (Sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) stood between the Jamaraat on the Day of Sacrifice during his Hajj and said, “This is the day of the greatest Hajj.” In another narration the Prophet said, “The greatest day in the sight of Allah the Almighty is the Day of Nahr and then the Day of Qarr (the 11th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah).”
Based on this, the Day of Nahr is better than Eid al-Fitr because it includes prayer and slaughtering sacrificial animals which are better than prayer and charity. It is on the Day of Arafah that Allah ransoms from the Hellfire those who stood at Arafah as well as those Muslims who did not. Hence the day that follows it is a festival for all Muslims all over the world, of those who attended Hajj and those who did not. Hence the tenth day of Dhu’l-Hijjah is the best of days before Allah, the day of greatest Hajj and the best of Islam’s Eids.
Q2: Are they better than the last ten days of Ramadan?
Abu Uthman al-Nahdi, one of the great scholars of the second generation said, “They used to glorify three groups of ten days; the last ten days of Ramadan, the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah and the first ten days of Muharram.” The same question was forwarded to Ibn Taymiyyah and his answer was, “the last ten nights of Ramadan are better in terms of the night and the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah are better in terms of the days. Ibn al-Qayyim confirmed this and added that the last ten nights of Ramadan includes the best night, Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power), which is better than a thousand months. The great exegete Ibn Kathir accepted this conclusion as well as bringing together seemingly contradictory reports.
It is reported that once the Ten Days started, Sa’eed bin Jubair, the famous scholar of the second generation would exert himself in excessive worship of Allah.
Q3: What good deeds should we do in these ten days?
Generally speaking any act that Allah is pleased with should be done in these days. The primary act to be done abundantly is the tahleel, takbeer and tahmeed as these were the first to be mentioned in the narration of Ibn ‘Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhuma) where the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“There are no days that are greater before Allah or in which good deeds are more beloved to Him, than these ten days, so recite a great deal of tahleel (saying Laa ilaaha ill-Allah), takbeer (saying Allahu akbar) and tahmeed (saying al-hamdu Lillah) during them.”
These words should be recited loudly, openly, and may be also said silently. Persons in positions of authority should encourage people to practice this forgotten sunnah. Even in Muslim societies it is hardly heard – it should be recited out loudly in order to revive the sunnah and encourage others to act upon it as well. It was authentically narrated that Ibn ‘Umar and Abu Hurayrah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhum) used to go out to the marketplace during the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, saying the takbeer loudly, and accordingly the people would remember to do so and say it loudly as well. It should be noted that this does not mean that they all would say it together in a rhythmic way.
Reviving sunan that have been forgotten or forsaken brings about a great deal of reward. We all know the statement of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam),
“Whoever revives one of my Sunnahs that has died out after I am gone will have a reward like that of everyone who does it without that detracting from their reward in the slightest.”
Q4: Should we fast all ten days?
Fasting is one of the most virtuous deeds. Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said that Allah says,
“Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward; each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said: ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me’. For the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time of joy when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of Musk.”
Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“The fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say: ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.”
It is narrated from Hunaydah ibn Khaalid from his wife, that one of the wives of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhu’l-Hijjah and the day of ‘Ashoora’, the three days each month, the first Monday of the month and two Thursdays.”
In another narration reported by al-Nasaaʽi, Hafsah, the wife of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “the Prophet never left four things; fasting Ashura, the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, three days every month and the two rak’ats before the Fajr prayer.”
However, these two narrations are not clear cut evidences that the Prophet used to fast the first nine days of Dhu’l-Hijjah every year for two main reasons. Firstly, some scholars disputed the authenticity of them. Secondly, these reports were contradicted by another report in Sahih Muslim that Aisha, the wife of the Prophet confirmed that she never saw the Prophet fasting the ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah. The scholars have different ways of reconciling between these contradictory reports and it was concluded by the vast majority of scholars that fasting them is a much recommended act as it combines between fasting which is a very virtuous act during a very blessed time.
Q5: Have these days been mentioned in the Quran?
Yes they are mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah says,
“That they may witness things that are of benefit to them (i.e. reward of Hajj in the Hereafter, and also some worldly gain from trade), and mention the Name of Allah on appointed days, over the beast of cattle that He has provided for them (for sacrifice).”
The majority are of the view that the “appointed days” are the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah as narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu). Moreover, Allah swears by them – “By the dawn, by the ten nights.” Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn al-Zubayr, Mujahid and others from among the earlier and later generations said that this refers to the ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah with Ibn Kathir positing that this is the correct view.
Q6: What is the best format of takbeer and when?
One version of takbeer, according to some of the early generation scholars, is as follows:
“Allah akbar, Allahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill-Allah, Allahu akbar, wa Lillaah il-hamd”
(Allah is Most Great, Allah is Most Great, there is no God but Allah; Allah is Most Great and to Allah be praise).
Takbeer is of two types during these days – one general and the other specific and restricted.
With regards to the general takbeer, it is prescribed from the beginning of the month, which starts by the sunset of the last day of month Dhu’l Qa’dah – the month preceding Dhu’l-Hijjah, until the sunset of the 13th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah.
Allah says, “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them (i.e. reward of Hajj in the Hereafter, and also some worldly gain from trade), and mention the Name of Allah on known appointed days.” The known appointed days are the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah according to the scholars of tafsir. Moreover, Allah says, “And remember Allah during the few appointed Days.” The few appointed days are the 11th, 12th and 13th days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) also said, “The days of Tashreeq are the days of eating, drinking and remembering Allah.” It was reported that Umar ibn al-Khattaab and his son Abdullah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhuma) used to declare Takbeer during the days of Mina in the mosque and in the camps, and they would raise their voices until Mina echoed with their Takbeer.
Q7: What about the Restricted Takbeer?
Restricted takbeer is the same form of takbeer but it is to be said specifically after the five compulsory prayers, especially if they are performed in congregation. It also can be said either after finishing the prayer or after that normal dhikr that ought to be recited after the prayer. It starts for those who are not doing Hajj either after Fajr or Dhuhr on the day of Arafah. For people doing Hajj it starts after Dhuhr of the tenth day. In both cases it continues until the Asr prayer on the 13th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah which is the last day of tashreeq. This range is what the vast majority of Companions agreed to. Women may engage in this act if they pray in quarters separate from non-mahram men.
Thus according to the most correct scholarly view, unrestricted takbeer and takbeer restricted to certain times are combined on five days – the Day of ‘Arafah, the Day of Sacrifice, and the three days of Tashreeq.
Q8: Which calendar should we follow for the announcement of Dhu’l-Hijjah?
Generally speaking, the local calendar is the one that should be followed by local people provided that most Muslims in that country accept it even if it differs from Makkah. The basis of this is the hadith of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), “The fast is the day you all fast; the breaking of the fast is on the day that you all break the fast; and the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.” al-Tirmidhi, having narrated the hadith said, “Some scholars explained this hadith to mean that fasting and breaking the fast should be done with the Muslim body [jama’ah] or the majority of people.”
Q9: What can we do if we could not identify the first day of Dhu’l-Hijjah as it is normally announced late?
The person should put himself on the safe side and hence on the 29th of Dhu’l Qa’dah, which is the lunar month just before Dhu’l-Hijjah, the person should prepare himself assuming that the next day is the first day of Dhu’l-Hijjah. For example, he should cut his hair, nails, moustache and pubic hair if he is planning to sacrifice an animal. In Sahih Muslim, Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet peace be upon him, narrated that the Prophet said, “When the month of Dhu’l-Hijjah starts, if one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him refrain from (cutting) his hair and nails.”
According to another version of the hadith, “When the ten days (of Dhu’l-Hijjah) begin, if one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, let him not touch his hair or skin with anything.”
The person should also start fasting and increasing in good deeds. If it is confirmed that this was the first day then the goal was achieved, and if not this worship will not harm him in any way.
Q10: Do you recommend that we take off work and study for the duration of the 10 days in order to increase our deeds?
People take holidays to travel and enjoy worldly benefits. Why do they not take vacations to enjoy eternal benefits that they will get in their eternal life? Some people make more use of their time in worship if they are off work. Others find it extremely difficult to fast on the job. For such people, they should seriously consider taking leave.
Q11: Is it true that the person should abstain from sexual relations (with one’s spouse) during these ten days?
This is not true. However, if a person is fasting, he should abstain from sexual activities due to fasting and not due to the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah.
Sources: www.islam21c.com al-Bukhari  Ahmad  Zaad al-Ma’aad (1/54)  al-Bukhaari  Ahmad  al-Tirmidhi  al-Bukhari and Muslim  Ahmad  al-Nasaa’I and Abu Dawood  al-Hajj 22:28  al-Fajr 89:1  al-Hajj 22:28  al-Baqarah 2:203  Muslim