I love every minute of the last ten nights of Ramadan. As a family, we go to the masjid in comfortable clothes, remembering to take snacks to keep us going through the night. The masjid usually has a nice surprise: some chicken tenders and potato wedges, or some late night chai and samosas. There’s a low hum in the masjid, as everyone reads from the final pages of their mushaf. I delight at how easily some verses of the last juz roll off my tongue. There’s a lingering excitement the next morning as people share pictures of the sunrise – was it Laylatul Qadr last night?
I never really get the same feeling during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, even though the Prophet ﷺ told us that they are the best days to do good deeds. The masjid isn’t full on these days like it is during Ramadan, and I personally don’t do as much ibadah as I do during those Ramadan nights.
So why are we so disconnected from Dhul Hijjah? I know that in Dhul Hijjah (June 29-July 29, 2022), a sacred month that comes only two months after Ramadan, Allah increases the reward of our good deeds. I know that Allah swears by these first ten days of Dhul Hijjah in the Qur’an, thus emphasizing to us their importance. I know that the Prophet ﷺ fasted the first nine days and recommended we increase in our recitation of tahleel (La ilaha illa Allah), takbeer (Allahu akbar), and tahmeed (Alhamdulillah) and the overall remembrance of our Creator. I know that Dhul Hijjah is important because all of the good deeds (Hajj, fasting, sadaqah, shahadah and of course prayer) are combined in these ten days unlike at any other time.
And just like Ramadan has Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power) which is the greatest night in the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah has Yawm Arafah (the day of Arafah) which is the greatest day in the Islamic calendar. Both of these occasions are marked with tremendous forgiveness and mercy that Allah sends upon His servants.
Yet, with all of the virtues mentioned, many of us still don’t “feel” Dhul Hijjah. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that during Ramadan, there are so many communal aspects to our worship. We gather together for taraweeh and iftar, for instance. What is highly recommended during Dhul Hijjah, however, is to spend time alone, reflecting and remembering our Lord and Creator. Maybe during Ramadan we sometimes participate to be part of the group—so in Dhul Hijjah the question is: Will I turn to Allah alone? Are we sincere in pursuing Allah’s grace and mercy even when no one is watching?
Allah alone knows our rank, and without the crowd of Ramadan, He notices the worshippers who worship alone. Perhaps this is how Allah creates hierarchies even within Jannah: elevating the worshippers who take advantage of every special time Allah has specified.
Ibn Abbas (ra), who narrated a hadith about the virtues of this time, would actually disappear in these ten days. He would exert himself so much so that no one could reach him.
I worship Allah for Allah, not for the “feeling” of spirituality.
Maybe that’s it: I worship Allah for Allah, not for the “feeling” of spirituality. I worship even when the days are long and busy. I worship even when I’m alone doing certain ibadah to show Allah my sincerity. We should remember what the pilgrim is instructed to say during their Hajj: “Labayk Allahuma labayk”— “Here I am, O Allah, here I am.” It’s as though they are saying, “O Allah, I came here only for You.”
That’s a message for all of us to take forward during Dhul Hijjah: O Allah, I’m here for You…not for the crowd or for other people, and not even for a ‘feeling’ to satiate myself. I’m just here for You.