The sacred month of Dhul-Hijjah

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
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Mseesquare Shahiq | Unsplash

Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, stands out as one of the sacred months in Islam. When we reflect on this month, we immediately think of the obligation of Hajj, the celebration of Eid al-Adha, and the blessedness of its days. Upon closer examination, we see that all the Islamic pillars are highlighted during this period. As Muslims, the shahadah is deeply ingrained in our hearts, while salat is a daily practice performed five times a day. In Dhul-Hijjah, Zakat is given abundantly, and fasting is observed. And of course, Hajj, one of the five pillars, is exclusively performed during this time. Thus, Dhul-Hijjah holds a special distinction as the month where all five pillars of Islam converge, emphasising its significance in the Islamic calendar.

Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is the fifth pillar of Islam. Muslims from around the world make this journey every year to Mecca during this month. It is compulsory for Muslims who meet the conditions of Hajj to perform it at least once in their lives. Hajj takes place between the 8th and 12th of Dhul-Hijjah, being a sunnah of the Holy Prophetsa, who performed Hajj once in his life.

Importance of understanding Islamic calendar months

To truly understand Islam and effectively implement its teachings, it is crucial to comprehend the various ways one can attain maximum benefits from our acts of worship. The Islamic months, from their names to the deeds performed within them, carry significant importance. Simply having knowledge about them can profoundly impact one’s relationship with God and serve as a means of maximising their worship.

For example, if we look at fasting, we recognise Ramadan as the holiest month. When asked which month, after Ramadan, is most beloved to Allah for fasting, oftentimes people would say Shawwal – alluding to the 6 days of fasting during that month. However, we know that the Holy Prophetsa has said that after Ramadan, the most beloved month for fasting is Muharram (Sahih Muslim, Kitab as-siyam, Hadith 1163). And so, if we know the significance of the Islamic months, the meaning of their names, and their importance, we can then absorb all the blessings that come with them.

Sacred months (Ashhur al-Hurum)

In the Islamic calendar, there are four months known as the sacred months: (1) Dhu al-Qadah; (2) Dhul-Hijjah; (3) Muharram; and (4) Rajab.

These sacred months have a connection with the seasons of warfare. During these months, fighting was prohibited, even prior to Islam. Fighting during the sacred months was considered a serious violation and was generally condemned. These months, known as “Ashhur al-Hurum” or sacred months, held special religious significance in Arabian culture even before the advent of Islam.

In ancient Arabia, civil wars ravaged the land, turning trivial disputes into torrents of blood. Each faction, callous to the suffering of the other, coexisted in a state of perpetual tension, where even the slightest provocation could spark deadly conflict. This strife stemmed from a primal urge to protect one’s interests, particularly their herds, which were essential for survival. The Holy Prophetsa ushered in an era of enlightenment, addressing the twin evils of idolatry and internecine warfare that plagued the nation. His teachings, enshrined in the Quran, provided guidance for a harmonious society built on compassion and justice. (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, Vol. 1, p. 353)

Here, it’s important to know what the months mean and why fighting was prohibited during these months.

(1) Dhull-Qadah: It literally means the month of sitting. Meaning to take a step back and refrain from fighting. Also known as a month of truce. It was so that in the pre-Islamic age, those wanting to travel for the pilgrimage may do so freely without fear of war or fighting.

(2) Dhul-Hijjah: Month of Hajj pilgrimage, the month of Hajj. Even prior to Islam, pilgrims would gather in Mecca outside the Holy Ka‘bah and perform their rituals.

(3) Muharram: It literally means forbidden. A sacred month during which fighting was prohibited. Also observed for fasting. It was the month when those who travelled for pilgrimage could make their journey back home safely.

(4) Rajab: Month of removing and refraining from fighting, historically observed as a sacred month for peace.

Prior to Islam, Arabs would shift these months around so that they could ultimately carry out their wars and battles. Just as a Muslim’s day revolves around their prayers, the pre-Islamic Arabs’ year revolved around their battles. They would shift the months and place them in a way that allowed them to continue their activities and go about their business.

In Arabia, the Ka‘bah was the centre of idol worship, attracting idolatrous pilgrims from across the country. Though rooted in Abrahamic tradition, these pilgrimages adopted many idolatrous customs, later abolished by Islam. Mecca and its vicinity, known as the Haram, were strictly non-violent zones. To ensure safe travel for Ḥajj and Umrah, four months – Muharram, Rajab, Dhul-Qa‘dah, and Dhul-Hijjah – were deemed sacred, halting all violence and bloodshed to allow peaceful passage for pilgrims.

Abu Bakrahra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa gave a sermon during his hajj and said that time has completed a cycle and assumed the form of the day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year contains twelve months, of which four are sacred, three of them consecutive: Dhul-Qa‘dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, and also Rajab, which comes between Jumadah and Shaban. (Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-manasik, Hadith 1947)

The significance of the 10 blessed days of Dhul-Hijjah

A matter that makes these blessed days special is the fact that Allah swears by them. In Surah al-Fajr, Allah states:

وَالۡفَجۡرِ ۙوَلَيَالٍ عَشۡرٍ

“By the Dawn, And the Ten Nights” (Surah al-Fajr, Ch.89: V.2-3)

In his commentary, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states that Ibn Abbas, along with Abdullah bin Zubair, Mujahid, and numerous scholars from among the salaf, asserts that the “Ten Nights” mentioned refer to the nights of Dhul-Hijjah preceding Eid. This interpretation finds support among later scholars as well. Ibn Abbas, as narrated in Tirmidhi, emphasises the significance of these days, stating that the righteous deeds performed during them are particularly beloved to Allah. While any day can witness acts of goodness earning divine favour, these 10 days hold special importance, marked by heightened value for righteous deeds in the eyes of Allah. Among them, the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah stands as a pinnacle, with no day more cherished by Allah for the performance of good deeds. When asked if Jihad in the path of Allah is superior, the Messenger of God clarified that Jihad does not surpass the actions of these days. The only exception lies in the case of a person sacrificing their life and wealth in the path of God, in which case their sacrifice equals the righteous deeds of their youth. Otherwise, no other deed can match the merit of deeds performed during these ten days. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 12, pp. 161-162)

This has also been alluded to in various commentaries, such as Tafsir al-JalalaynTanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn AbbasTafsir al-Tustari, under this verse. 

The blessings and virtues of Dhul-Hijjah

It is said that good deeds are more blessed these days and its rewards are multiplied. The Holy Prophetsa is reported to have said that these days, referring to the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah, are the most beloved to Allah in terms of righteous deeds. The Companionsra asked that not even Jihad in the cause of Allah? The Prophetsa replied, “Not even Jihad in the cause of Allah.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab as-siyam, Hadith 1727)

The above-mentioned hadith sheds light on the significance and blessings of performing good deeds during the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah.

Further, we read that Hazrat Ibn Abbasra reported that the Holy Prophetsa said: “No deeds are purer in the Sight of Allah Almighty, nor greater in reward than good deeds performed in the ten days of the month of sacrificing.” (Sunan ad-Darimi, Hadith 1727)

As Muslims, we always hear about the importance and significance of Ramadan and the last 10 days when we search for Laylatul Qadr. In the same light, we read:

Abu Hurairahra narrated that Allah’s Messengersa said: “There are no days in this world during which worship is more beloved to Allah, Glorious is He, than the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah. Fasting on any of these days is equivalent to fasting for a year, and one night among them is equal to Lailatul-Qadr.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab as-siyam, Hadith 1728)

Thus, the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah are exceptionally sacred in Islam. Worship during these days is especially beloved to Allah. To understand this further, one can say that the blessed nights for a Muslim are undoubtedly the last 10 nights of Ramadan, and the blessed days are the 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah.

What makes Dhul-Hijjah so special

It’s essential that we ponder on these days and understand why it’s so beloved to Allah. When we look at the history of Islam, we see that many notable events took place in this month such as the second Bai‘at at Aqabah, Ghazwah of Sawiq, the marriage of Hazrat Fatimahra, the Holy Porphet’ssa letter inviting Caesar to Islam, Bai‘at-e-Ridwan, Sulah-e-Hudaibiya, etc. Further, we read that the Din, the religion of Islam was made complete during these days. The famous verse of the Holy Quran:

اَلۡيَوۡمَ اَکۡمَلۡتُ لَکُمۡ دِيۡنَکُمۡ وَاَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡکُمۡ نِعۡمَتِيۡ وَرَضِيۡتُ لَکُمُ الۡاِسۡلَامَ دِيۡنًا

“This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.4)

Thus, we find in a hadith narration that the Jews remarked to Hazrat Umarra: “You Muslims recite a verse, and had it been revealed to us, we would have designated the day of its revelation as a day of celebration.” Hazratra responded: “I am well aware of the precise time and location of its revelation, as well as where Allah’s Messengersa was at that moment. It was revealed on the day of Arafat (the Hajj Day), and indeed, I was present at Arafat.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab at-tafsir, Hadith 4606)

We also read that the Holy Prophetsa came to Mecca on the morning of the fourth of Dhul-Hijjah. (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Kitab manasiki l-Hajj, Hadith 2872; Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab iqamati wa s-sunnah, Hadith 1074)

Best prayer and  Prophet’ssa message

We have already mentioned how the Holy Prophetsa highlighted the significance of remembrance of Allah during the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah, stating that no other day is greater in the sight of Allah for performing good deeds.

Our Master is also reported to have said:

أَفْضَلُ الدُّعَاءِ دُعَاءُ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ وَأَفْضَلُ مَا قُلْتُ أَنَا وَالنَّبِيُّونَ مِنْ قَبْلِي لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللّٰه وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ

“The best supplication is the supplication made on the Day of Arafah, and the best statement that I or the Prophets before me have said is: ‘There is no god but Allah, alone, without any partner’” (Muwatta Malik, Kitab al-Quarn, Hadith 34)

Further, during Hajjat-al-Wada, the Holy Prophetsa asked, “Which month do you consider the most sacred?” The people replied, “This current month of ours (Dhul-Hijjah).” He then asked, “Which town do you consider the most sacred?” They answered, “This city of ours (Mecca).” He asked again, “Which day do you consider the most sacred?” The people said, “This day of ours.” The Prophetsa then said, “Allah, the Blessed, the Supreme, has made your blood, your property, and your honour as sacred as this day of yours, in this town of yours, in this month of yours.” He then asked three times, “Have I conveyed Allah’s message to you?” The Companionsra responded each time, “Yes.” The Prophetsa added, “May Allah be merciful to you! Do not revert to disbelief after me by killing each other.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Hudud, Hadith 6785)

The 40 days of Prophet Mosesas

Not only is Dhul-Hijjah important to us Muslims because of Hajj, but this month also bears a close connection to a Prophet who is said to be likened to the Holy Prophetsa, i.e., Prophet Mosesas.

In the Holy Quran, we read:

“And We made Moses a promise of thirty nights and supplemented them with ten. Thus the period appointed by his Lord was completed – forty nights. And Moses said to his brother, Aaron, ‘Act for me among my people in my absence, and manage them well, and follow not the way of those who cause disorder.’” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.143)

In Tafsir Tafsir al-Jalalayn and Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, under the above quoted verse, it is stated that 30 nights were appointed for Prophet Mosessa. This timeframe fell within the month of Dhul-Qa’da. God then instructed him to fast for an additional 10 nights. This extension of time occurred during the month of Dhul-Hijjah. Thus, the period designated by his Lord for communication was fulfilled, as promised by God, totaling 40 nights. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Ch.7: V.142; Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas)


The word “Adha” means sacrifice, while “adhiya” refers to that which is sacrificed. The Eid in this month is known as Eid-ul-Adha, meaning the Eid of the sacrifice in which we remember Abrahamas.

This festival is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah throughout the Islamic world. On this Eid, in addition to salat, which is the true celebration for a true Muslim, it is obligatory for every Muslim with the means to sacrifice a four-legged animal and distribute its meat among their relatives, friends, neighbours, and also partake of it themselves. As a result, on the day of Eid-ul-Adha, and the following two days, hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of animals are slaughtered for the sake of Allah throughout the Islamic world. This practice commemorates the magnificent sacrifice made by Abrahamas, Ishmaelas, and Hagaras.

In the Revealed Sermon, Hazrat Ahmadas, with regards to Eid and slaughtered animals, states: “these slaughtered animals have been given the name qurban [means of drawing nearness to Allah] because it is mentioned in the ahadith that they are a means of acquiring qurb [nearness] and communion with God Almighty for all those who offer these sacrifices with sincerity, devotion, and faithfulness. These sacrifices are among the most exalted acts of worship in the Shariah. Hence, the sacrificial animal is called nasikah. In the Arabic language, the word nusuk denotes submission and worship. Similarly, the word nusuk is also used in the aforementioned language to refer to the sacrifice of those animals whose slaughter has been enjoined by the Shariah.” (Khutbah Ilhamiyyah – Revealed Sermon [English], p. 4)

In light of sacrifice, we read in the Holy Quran:

“Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Surah al-An`am, Ch.6: V.163)

The verse beautifully describes the religion of the Holy Prophetsa, linking “my life” and “my death” to “my prayer” and “my sacrifice.” It declares that all aspects of our existence – prayer, sacrifice, life, and death – is dedicated solely to God.

Haircuts and nail clipping during Dhul-Hijjah

Often, it is asked whether it is necessary for the person performing the sacrifice on Eid al-Adha to refrain from cutting their hair and clipping nails from the sighting of the moon of Dhul-Hijjah until the sacrifice is made.

Answering this, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa states:

“It is narrated in the Hadith that one who intends to offer a sacrifice should not cut their hair or clip nails from the sighting of the moon of Dhul-Hijjah until the sacrifice is made. According to the narration of Hazrat Umm Salamahra, the Holy Prophetsa said, ‘Anyone who desires to sacrifice [on Eid al-Adha] should not get his hair cut or nails clipped after observing the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah until [the sacrificial animal] has been sacrificed.’ (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-adahi, Bab man dakhala ‘alayhi ‘ashr dhu l-hijjah)

“Moreover, it is reported from Hazrat Aishara that when Allah’s Messenger sent the sacrificial animal from Medina, I used to weave garlands for his sacrificial animals, and then he would not avoid those things that a person in the state of ihram avoids. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-hajj, Bab fatli al-qala’id li l-budni wa l-baqar)

“Based on these two types of Hadith, Islamic jurists [fuqaha] have different opinions on this issue. Some jurists consider it forbidden [haram] for someone who is sacrificing to cut their hair or clip their nails. According to the Shafi‘i school of thought, doing so is disliked [makruh] but not haram. One narration from Imam Malik considers it makruh, and another says it is not makruh, while according to Imam Abu Hanifa, it is not makruh at all. (Sharh an-Nawawi ‘ala Muslim, Kitab al-adahi, Bab man dakhala ‘alayhi ‘ashr dhu l-hijjah)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:

“‘Those who intend to perform the sacrifice should not shave from the first of Dhul Hijjah until they have made the sacrifice. Our Community should pay special attention to this matter because the practice of this sunnah has become neglected among the general populace.’ (Al Fazl, Qadian Dar al-Aman, No. 24, Vol. 5, 22 September 1917, p. 4)

“In summary, it is preferred [mustahabb] and desirable for one who intends to sacrifice not to cut their hair or clip their nails; however, it is not obligatory or essential. Therefore, if a person intending to offer a sacrifice cuts their hair or clips their nails, it does not affect the validity of their sacrifice. The same ruling applies whether one performs the sacrifice themselves or has it performed by someone else.” (Is it required to avoid haircuts and nail clipping during Dhul Hijjah if offering an Eid al-Adha sacrifice (qurbani)?

And so, we must understand that following this helps us connect with the Sunnah and the Holy Prophetsa and also with those people who are doing hajj, it is essentially the Sunnah and following the practice of the Holy Prophetsa that really makes us an ummah

Day of Arafah

The core of Hajj is, as explained by the Holy Prophetsa:

الْحَجُّ عَرَفَاتٌ الْحَجُّ عَرَفَاتٌ الْحَجُّ عَرَفَاتٌ

“Hajj is Arafah, Hajj is Arafah, Hajj is Arafah.” (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab tafsiri l-qur’an ‘an rasulillahsa, 2975)

This means that the essence of Hajj is embodied in the day of Arafah. The Holy Prophetsa emphasised the merit of fasting on the Day of Arafah (9th of Dhul-Hijjah) and the Day of Ashura (10th of Muharram), Ashura, being the day Mosesas became victorious over Pharaoh. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab at-tafsir, Hadith 4737)

Further, in another narration, we read that Hazrat Abu Hurairara reported that the Holy Prophetsa: “The promised day is the Day of Resurrection, the witnessed day is the Day of Arafah, and the witnessing day is Friday. There is no day on which the sun rises or sets that is more excellent than Friday. It includes a moment when any believing worshipper who supplicates to God for something good will have their prayer answered, and if they seek refuge from something, God will grant them refuge.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, Kitab as-salat, Hadith 1362)

Abu Qatadah narrated that Allah’s Messengersa said: “By fasting on the Day of Arafah, I hope for Allah’s forgiveness for the sins of the previous year and the coming year.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab as-siyam, Hadith 1730)

The fasting of Arafah and Ashura was prescribed before Ramadan. Abu Qatadah narrated that when asked about fasting on the day of Arafah (the 9th of the month of Dhul-Hijjah), Allah’s Messengersa replied that it serves as an expiation for the preceding year and the following year. Similarly, when asked about fasting on the day of Ashura (the 10th of Muharram), he replied that it serves as an expiation for the preceding year. Additionally, when asked about fasting on Monday, he responded that it is significant as it marks the day of his birth, the day of his mission, and the day of receiving revelation. (Bulugh al-Maram, Kitab as-siyam, Hadith 31)

And thus, this is another reason why we should know our religion, for fasting on certain days can result in having all of one’s sins forgiven. Knowing these days, months, etc., can be the best opportunity we all need to reconnect with Allah. Muslims are encouraged to fast on these significant days and engage in other good deeds, with the assurance of Allah’s mercy and justice in rewarding their intentions and efforts.

Hazrat Imam Mahdi’sas prayer in the field of Arafat, Mecca

In early 1885, Hazrat Ahmadas wrote to Hazrat Sufi Ahmad Jan, expressing his happiness about Sufi Sahib’s upcoming Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The Promised Messiahas requested that Hazrat Sufi Ahmad Jan recite a specific prayer upon seeing the Holy Ka‘bah for the first time:

’’اے ارحم الراحمين ايک تيرا بندہ عاجز اور ناکارہ پر خطا اور نالائق غلام احمد جو تيري زمين ملک ہند ميں ہے اسکي يہ عرض ہے کہ اے ارحم الراحمين تو مجھ سے راضي ہو اور ميري خطيات اور گناہوں کو بخش کہ تو غفور و رحيم ہے اور مجھ سے وہ کام کرا جس سے تو بہت ہي راضي ہو جائے مجھ ميں اور ميرے نفس ميں مشرق اور مغرب کي دوري ڈال اور ميري زندگي اور ميري موت اور ميري ہريک قوت اور جو مجھے حاصل ہے اپني ہي راہ ميں کر اور اپني ہي محبت ميں مجھے زندہ رکھ اور اپني ہي محبت ميں مجھے مار اور اپنے ہي کامل متبعين ميں مجھے اٹھا۔ اے ارحم الراحمين جس کام کي اشاعت کے لئے تو نے مجھے مامور کيا ہے اور جس خدمت کے لئے تو نے ميرے دل ميں جوش ڈالا ہے اس کو اپنے ہي فضل سے انجام تک پہنچا اور اس عاجز کے ہاتھ سے حجت اسلام مخالفين پر اور ان سب پر جو اب تک اسلام کي خوبيوں سے بے خبر ہيں پوري کر اور اس عاجز اور اس عاجز کے تمام دوستوں اور مخلصوں اورہم مشربوں کو مغفرت اور مہرباني کي نظر سے اپنے ظل حمايت ميں رکھ کر دين و دنيا ميں آپ ان کا متکفل اور متولي ہو جا اور سب کو اپني دارالرضاء ميں پہنچا اور اپنے نبي صلي اللہ عليہ وسلم اور اس کي آل اور اصحاب پر زيادہ سے زيادہ درود و سلام و برکات نازل کر۔ آمين يا ربّ العالمين۔‘‘

“O Most Merciful of those who show mercy, one of your servants – a humble, unskilled, sinful and incompetent [servant], dweller of Your land of India, Ghulam Ahmad – would like to say: O Most Merciful of those who show mercy, be pleased with me and forgive my shortcomings and mistakes, for You are the Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful. And enable me to carry out those works as do please you and place between myself and my ego the distance of the East and the West. And lay my life, my death, my every strength and whatever I possess in Your way and keep me alive in Your love and give me death in Your love and raise me among Your most perfect followers. O Most Merciful of those who show mercy, with Your grace, bring the promulgation of the task that You have appointed me for and the service for which You have bestowed within my heart a fervour, to its completion. And through my hand, manifest the truthfulness of Islam to the opponents and to all those who are unaware of Islam’s splendours. And with Your forgiving and favouring hand, provide Your shade of support to this humble one and this humble one’s friends, sincere ones and companions and be their guardian and protector in faith and in the world and enter everyone in Your abode of pleasure. And descend as much durood [salutations], peace and blessings upon Your Prophet – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him – his people and his companions, as possible. Amin, O Lord of all the worlds.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 1, pp. 264-265; Tadhkirah [English,], 2019, pp. 566-567)

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