Praise be to Allaah Who has created Time and has made some times better than others, some months and days and nights better than others, when rewards are multiplied many times, as a mercy towards His slaves. This encourages them to do more righteous deeds and makes them more eager to worship Him, so that the Muslim renews his efforts to gain a greater share of reward, prepare himself for death and supply himself in readiness for the Day of Judgment.
This season of worship brings many benefits, such as the opportunity to correct ones faults and make up for any shortcomings or anything that one might have missed. Every one of these special occasions involves some kind of worship through which the slaves may draw closer to Allaah, and some kind of blessing though which Allaah bestows His favour and mercy upon whomsoever He will. The happy person is the one who makes the most of these special months, days and hours and draws nearer to his Lord during these times through acts of worship; he will most likely be touched by the blessing of Allaah and will feel the joy of knowing that he is safe from the flames of Hell. (Ibn Rajab, al-Lataaif, p.8)
The Muslim must understand the value of his life, increase his worship of Allaah and persist in doing good deeds until the moment of death. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty." [al-Hijr 15:99] The mufassireen (commentators) said: "The certainty means death."
Ibn Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allaah, nor greater in reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice." He was asked, "Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah?" He said, "Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah, 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." (Reported by al-Daarimi, 1/357; its isnaad is hasan as stated in al-Irwaa, 3/398).
These texts and others indicate that these ten days are better than all the other days of the year, with no exceptions, not even the last ten days of Ramadaan. But the last ten nights of Ramadaan are better, because they include Laylat al-Qadr ("the Night of Power"), which is better than a thousand months. Thus the various reports may be reconciled. (See Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 5/412).
The virtue of these ten days is based on many things:
Allaah swears an oath by them, and swearing an oath by something is indicative of its importance and great benefit. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "By the dawn; by the ten nights" [al-Fajr 89:1-2]. Ibn Abbaas, Ibn al-Zubayr, Mujaahid and others of the earlier and later generations said that this refers to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. Ibn Katheer said: "This is the correct opinion." (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 8/413)
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) encouraged people to do righteous deeds because of the virtue of this season for people throughout the world, and also because of the virtue of the place - for the Hujjaaj (pilgrims) to the Sacred House of Allaah.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded us to recite a lot of Tasbeeh ("Subhan-Allaah"), Tahmeed ("Al-hamdu Lillaah") and Takbeer ("Allaahu akbar") during this time. Abdullaah ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "There are no days greater in the sight of Allaah and in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great deal of Tahleel ("La ilaaha ill-Allaah"), Takbeer and Tahmeed." (Reported by Ahmad, 7/224; Ahmad Shaakir stated that it is saheeh).
These ten days include Yawm Arafaah (the Day of Arafaah), on which Allaah perfected His Religion. Fasting on this day will expiate for the sins of two years. These days also include Yawm al-Nahar (the Day of Sacrifice), the greatest day of the entire year and the greatest day of Hajj, which combines acts of worship in a way unlike any other day. These ten days include the days of sacrifice and of Hajj.
Concerning the types of worship to be performed during these ten days: one must understand that these days are a great blessing from Allaah to His slave, which is appreciated properly by the actively righteous. It is the Muslims duty to appreciate this blessing and make the most of the opportunity, by devoting these ten days to paying more attention to striving hard in worship. Among His blessings to His slaves, Allaah has given us many ways in which to do good and worship Him, so that the Muslim may be constantly active and consistent in his worship of his Lord.
Among the good deeds which the Muslim should strive to do during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah are:
Fasting. It is Sunnah to fast on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) urged us to do good deeds during this time, and fasting is one of the best of deeds. Allaah has chosen fasting for Himself, as is stated in the hadeeth qudsi: "Allaah says: All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except for fasting, which is for Me and I am the One Who will reward him for it." (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1805).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah. It was narrated from Hunaydah ibn Khaalid from his wife, that one of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah and the day of Ashoora, and three days each month, the first Monday of the month and two Thursdays. Narrated by al-Nasaai, 4/205 and by Abu Dawood; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 2/462.
Takbeer. It is Sunnah to say Takbeer ("Allaahu akbar"), Tahmeed ("Al-hamdu Lillaah"), Tahleel ("La ilaha ill-Allaah") and Tasbeeh ("Subhaan Allaah") during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, and to say it loudly in the mosque, the home, the street and every place where it is permitted to remember Allaah and mention His name out loud, as an act of worship and as a proclamation of the greatness of Allaah, may He be exalted.
Men should recite these phrases out loud, and women should recite them quietly.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "That they might witness things that are of benefit to them (i.e., reward of Hajj in the Hereafter, and also some worldly gain from trade, etc.), and mention the name of Allaah on appointed days, over the beast of cattle that He has provided for them (for sacrifice)..." [al-Hajj 22:28]
The majority of scholars agree that the "appointed days" are the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, because of the words of Ibn Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father): "The appointed days are the first ten days (of Dhul-Hijjah)."
The Takbeer may include the words "Allaahu akbar, Allaahu akbar, la ilaaha ill-Allaah; wa Allaahu akbar wa Lillaahil-hamd (Allaah is Most Great, Allaah is Most Great, there is no god but Allaah; Allaah is Most Great and to Allaah be praise)," as well as other phrases.
Takbeer at this time is an aspect of the Sunnah that has been forgotten, especially during the early part of this period, so much so that one hardly ever hears Takbeer, except from a few people. This Takbeer should be pronounced loudly, in order to revive the Sunnah and as a reminder to the negligent. There is sound evidence that Ibn Umar and Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with them) used to go out in the marketplace during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, reciting Takbeer, and the people would recite Takbeer when they heard them. The idea behind reminding the people to recite Takbeer is that each one should recite it individually, not in unison, as there is no basis in Shareeah for doing this.
Reviving aspects of the Sunnah that have been virtually forgotten is a deed that will bring an immense reward, as is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): "Whoever revives an aspect of my Sunnah that is forgotten after my death, he will have a reward equivalent to that of the people who follow him, without it detracting in the least from their reward." (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 7/443; this is a hasan hadeeth because of corroborating asaaneed).
Performing Hajj and Umrah. One of the best deeds that one can do during these ten days is to perform Hajj to the Sacred House of Allaah. The one whom Allaah helps to go on Hajj to His House and to perform all the rituals properly is included in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): "An accepted Hajj brings no less a reward than Paradise."
Doing more good deeds in general, because good deeds are beloved by Allaah and will bring a great reward from Him. Whoever is not able to go to Hajj should occupy himself at this blessed time by worshipping Allaah, praying (salaat), reading Quran, remembering Allaah, making supplication (duaa), giving charity, honouring his parents, upholding the ties of kinship, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, and other good deeds and acts of worship.
Sacrifice. One of the good deeds that will bring a person closer to Allaah during these ten days is offering a sacrifice, by choosing a high-quality animal and fattening it, spending money for the sake of Allaah. (more information to follow, in sha Allaah).
Sincere repentance. One of the most important things to do during these ten days is to repent sincerely to Allaah and to give up all kinds of disobedience and sin. Repentance means coming back to Allaah and foregoing all the deeds, open and secret, that He dislikes, out of regret for what has passed, giving it up immediately and being determined never to return to it, but to adhere firmly to the Truth by doing what Allaah loves.
If a Muslim commits a sin, he must hasten to repent at once, without delay, firstly because he does not know when he will die, and secondly because one evil deed leads to another.
Repentance at special times is very important because in most cases peoples thoughts turn towards worship at these times, and they are keen to do good, which leads to them recognizing their sins and feeling regret for the past. Repentance is obligatory at all times, but when the Muslim combines sincere repentance with good deeds during the days of most virtue, this is a sign of success, in sha Allaah. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "But as for him who repented, believed and did righteous deeds, then he will be among those who are successful." [al-Qasas 28:67]
The Muslim should make sure that he does not miss any of these important occasion, because time is passing quickly. Let him prepare himself by doing good deeds which will bring him reward when he is most in need of it, for no matter how much reward he earns, he will find it is less than he needs; the time of departure is at hand, the journey is frightening, delusions are widespread, and the road is long, but Allaah is ever watchful, and to Him will we return and render account. As the Quraan says (interpretation of the meaning):
"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." [al-Zalzalah 99:7-8]
There is much to be gained, so make the most of the opportunity afforded by these invaluable and irreplaceable ten days. Hasten to do good works, before death strikes, before one can regret ones negligence and failure to act, before one is asked to return to a place where no prayers will be answered, before death intervenes between the hopeful one and the things he hopes for, before you are trapped with your deeds in the grave.
O you whose hard heart is as dark as the night, is it not time that your heart was filled with light and became soft? Expose yourself to the gentle breeze of your Lords mercy during these ten days, for Allaah will cause this breeze to touch whomever He wills, and whoever is touched by it will be happy on the Day of Judgement. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and all his Family and Companions.