Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 November 2019

Hajj 2019: why the entire month of Dhu Al Hijja is holy

Even prior to the Hajj journey itself, Muslims observe other holy days. Here is our guide:

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque. Reuters
Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque. Reuters

When we speak of Hajj, one imagines huge crowds circling the Kaaba at Makkah, a sea of people in white ihrams and the stoning of the devil in Mina.

Spectacular images of the faithful captured from Mount Arafat are beamed across the globe.

But the entire month of Dhu Al Hijjah is holy, with a series of days important to the Muslim faith.

Even prior to the Hajj journey itself, Muslims observe other holy days. Here is our guide:

What is Dhu Al Hijjah?

The 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar is considered one of the four sacred months for Muslims, called Al Ashhour Al Hurom.

These months are Rajab, (the 7th month), Dhu Al Qaeda (11th), Dhu Al Hijjah (12th), and Muharram (1st).

During these months, war is prohibited unless out of necessity and only self-defence. Performing as many as possible of forms of worshipping is greatly encouraged.

The Noble Quran affirms it: “Lo! The number of the months with Allah is twelve months by Allah’s ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred.” (Surat At-Tawbah 36).

Dhu Al Hijjah consists of 29 or 30 days and its literal translation means 'Possessor of the Pilgrimage' or 'the Month of the Pilgrimage'.

The month has been associated with Hajj even before the Islamic religion was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. In pre-Islamic times, Arabs used to refrain from raids and wars and devote themselves to pilgrimage.

After Islam was established and the people of Makkah accepted the faith, the Prophet and his companions performed Hajj. During that pilgrimage, Muslims witnessed the perfect application of its rituals and until the present time, they follow the Prophet’s lead and benefit from his hadiths, which clarify many of Hajj practices.

Ashr Dhu Al Hijjah

The first 10 days of Dhu Hijjah, starting on the eve of the month, is of great reverence for Muslims as Allah swears with them: “By the Dawn. And Ten nights.” (Surat Al-Fajr).

In their interpretations, Muslim scholars have placed a tremendous weight on good deeds performed during this period. They even have declared it of greater importance than jihad. Fasting comes on the top of the list. Unlike Ramadan, this fasting is not mandatory, but it is mustahab, or recommended.

During the first one-third of Dhu Al Hijjah, Muslims recite Quran, dhikr (praising Allah), giving alms, and for those residents in Makkah, providing supplies for the pilgrims are among the virtuous initiatives called for.

The most important day to fast is day 9th of Dhu Al Hijjah, which marks the start day of the journey of Hajj, this day is called Arafah day, as pilgrims start their day by heading to Arafat and stay there until sunset.

Prayers are believed to be answered on this day and it is the holiest day on the year for Muslims.

During Hajj, pilgrims are not encouraged to be fasting because they need full energy and capacity for the worship of Hajj.

All Muslims who were not lucky enough to be in Arafat on that day can still enjoy much of its blessings by fasting.

Eid Al Adha

Day 10th of the month of Dhu Al Hijjah marks the first day of Eid Al Adha.

The name Eid Al Adha is derived from the Arabic word Al Udhiya, which means animal sacrifice.

Each year, during these days, Muslims who have the financial means, sacrifice their best halal domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep, or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son, Ismail.

Some parts of the meat then will be used for the consumption of the family of the donor and their neighbours, while most of it will be distributed to those in need. If the area where someone is living there is not many poor people, it can be arranged that the sacrifice be held in another region or country where meat is usually unaffordable.

Thus, this Eid is also known in Egypt as Eid Al Lahma, which means the 'meat Eid'. Another name, which is commonly used in some Arabic countries, is Al Eid Al Kabeer. It means the Grand Eid. That is because this Eid differs from Eid Al Fitr, which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, in the number of days.

In religious terms, Eid Al Fitr is one day, the first day after Ramadan. The Eid prayer is performed in the morning then followed by celebrations and family visits.

Eid Al Adha is four days. The first day holds the Eid prayers in the morning, after which the sacrifice is held (Muslims can delay offering the sacrifice up to the three days).

Then next three days which are also considered Eid, are called Ayyam Al Tashreeq.

What are the Ayyam Al Tashreeq?

The prophet Mohammed called these days as “the days of eating, drinking and praising of God."

For those performing Hajj, during Ayyam Al Tashreeq they will sleep in Mina, and perform the ritual of stoning each day, also praying and enjoying food.

For those not performing Hajj, days are spent enjoying food of the slaughtered meat, visiting families and remembering God as it is a three-day official holiday all over the Muslim world.

Another social custom which is traditional during both Eids in most Arab countries is Eidiyyah.

Eidiyyah is a small amount of money sometimes offered with some candies and is distributed to children after Eid Prayer or also to young relatives during all Eid visits.

Updated: August 2, 2019 10:57 AM

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