Referring to the first ten days of the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said; “There are no days grander or more loved for good deeds in the estimation of Allah, than the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. So, increase tasbeeh, tahleel, takbeer and tahmeed (glorification, adoration, magnification, and appreciation of the Almighty). [Sahih Bukhari]
Such exaltation and (dhikr) remembrance of the Divine brings (qurb) increased attachment and closeness to the Creator; as intimated in a Hadith Qudsi; “I am with the thought of My servant and am with him when he remembers Me. …If he remembers Me in an assembly, I remember him in an assembly better than his assembly.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Special Days of 'Amal-us-saalihaat
According to this prophetic statement, “There are no days grander or more loved for ('amal-us-saalihaat) good deeds than these ten days of Dhul Hijjah,” 'Amal-us-saalihaat include every worthy endeavor, any pure action that contributes towards moral upliftment, spiritual development, individual improvement or social enhancement; all efforts that are performed sincerely in a good cause and for the sake of Allah.
Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani states that the possible reason for the excellence of the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah is that a person can perform in them all the main kinds of worship that include prayer, fasting, charity as well as hajj; while all these kinds of worship can not be gathered together in the other days of the year. [Fath-ul-Bari] This period incorporates the grandest day of the year, the Day of ‘Arafah. For non-pilgrims, the Prophet said, “Fasting on the day of ‘Arafah wipes away sins of the year.” [Sahih Muslim]
It is also the period of qurban or udhiyah/sacrifice; a perpetuation of the tradition initiated by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail (PBUT). The father visioned a dream in which he sacrifices his son and both were willing to fulfill the dream and make the ultimate sacrifice (zibhin ‘azeem); father sacrificing son and son willing to be sacrificed; a test of faith for both of them; to comply with what they believed to be the will of Allah. Allah accepted Prophet Ibrahim’s intention, and the father and son’s symbolic fulfillment of the test and therefore symbolically provided them a ram to be sacrificed.
This tremendous act of willing submission to the Divine Will moved father and son (PBUT) to qurbu il-Allah (closer to Allah), from which the notion qurban at the ‘Eid-ul-Adha is derived. Qurban basically implies taking an action with the intention of drawing nearer (qareeb) to Allah. Through this level of dedication and submission, Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Isma’il (PBUT) were able to transcend the limitations of the self and attachment to the material world by prioritizing devotion to Allah.
Qurb and Qurban
It is the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of Allah that is most significant and reflected during the qurban, as Allah reminds us [Qur’an 22:37]; “It is neither the meat nor the blood of the sacrificed animal that reaches Allah, but the piety of the one who sacrifices.” This verse eloquently highlights the fact that sacrifice in Islam is a natural expression of reverence for the Almighty and gratitude to the Creator. Sacrifice manifests the spirit of willful dedication, sincere devotion, and humble obedience to Allah.
The whole notion of qurban, therefore, is not confined to the ritual of udhiyah/slaughter or sacrifice of the animal, but rather a person’s commitment to submit righteously to the Divine in an attempt to gain qurb/proximity to Allah. Proximity here does not imply physical closeness, as Allah is qareeb/ever near. Allah encompasses all things and is not (ba’eed) distant from anything. Allah reminds us in the Holy Qur’an: “…. And when my servants ask you concerning me, tell them I certainly am (qareeb) near.” [Qur’an 2:186]. “We are closer to a person than even his jugular vein.” [Qur’an 50:16]
This should conscientize us to the reality that Allah is near, it is perhaps we who may be distant from Him.
Drawing Closer to Allah
Let these days be the days of increased dhikr and good deeds; increased attentiveness to finding avenues of qurb-il-Allah (closeness to Allah). Sayyidna ‘Ali said that the avenue to (taqarrub) divine proximity is through (ikhlaas-un-niyyah) sincerity of intention.
In this challenging era of trial and tribulation, in this period of a global pandemic; we ask for the protection of Allah and we pray the benevolent supplication of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); “O Allah! I ask You to give me the ability to do good deeds, avoid bad deeds and that I have love for the poor. I ask that You forgive me and have mercy on me. I ask You for Your love, for the love of those who love You, and for the love of those actions which (yuqarribu) will draw me closer to Your love.” [Tirmidhi]