The texts of the Qurʾān and Sunnah show that the first ten days of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah are blessed days, holding great importance with Allāh. Indeed, many scholars state that these ten days are the best days of the year, with the last ten nights of Ramaḍān being the best nights of the year.
Allāh’s Messenger (SAW) said, “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allāh than these ten days.” The people asked, ‘Not even Jihād for the sake of Allāh?’ He replied, “Not even Jihād for the sake of Allāh, 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.” (Bukhārī)
The Prophet (SAW) also said, “There is no deed more precious in the sight of Allāh, nor greater in reward, than a good deed done during the ten days of Sacrifice.” He was asked, ‘Not even Jihād for the sake of Allāh?’ He replied, “Not even Jihād for the sake of Allāh, 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.” (Dārimī)
Dhū’l-Ḥijjah is one of the Sacred Months, Allāh’s Messenger (SAW) said, “The year is twelve months, of which four are sacred: three are consecutive, Dhū’l-Qaʿdah, Dhū’l-Ḥijjah and Muḥarram, and Rajab of Muḍar which comes between Jumāda and Shaʿbān.” (Bukhārī, Muslim)
These months are called sacred for two reasons: 1) Fighting is forbidden during these months unless initiated by the enemy 2) Transgression of Allāh’s sacred limits in these months is worse than at other times.
The Muslim should capitalise on the opportunity granted him or her in these days and increase in servitude to Allāh as much as possible. The Muslim should increase in optional prayers, reciting the Qurʾān, duʿā, repentance, helping others and so on. Other acts of worship that should be done are,
The Prophet (SAW) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah, the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, and three days each month. (Abū Dāwūd, Nasāʾī)
It is specifically recommended to fast on the Day of ʿArafah, the ninth of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah. The Prophet (SAW) was asked about fasting the day of ʿArafah and he said, “It will expiate the sins of the previous and upcoming years.” Then he (SAW) was asked about fasting the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ and he said, “It will expiate the sins of the past year.” (Muslim)
The Prophet (SAW) said, “There are no days greater in the sight of Allāh and in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great deal of tahlīl (Lā ilāha illAllāh), takbīr (Allāhu Akbar) and taḥmīd (Alḥamdulillah).” (Aḥmad) He (SAW) also said, “The Days of Tashrīq are days of eating and drinking and dhikr of Allāh.” (Muslim)
It is Sunnah to say the takbīr during the first ten days of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah and the days of Tashrīq (i.e. until sunset of the 13th), and to say it loudly in the Masjid, the home, the street and every place where it is permitted to remember Allāh. Ibn ʿUmar and Abū Hurayrah would go to the marketplace and recite the takbīr loudly and the people would then recite it when they heard them.
Men should recite these phrases out loud, and women should recite them quietly.
There is leeway in form that this takbīr may take as stated by Imām Aḥmad and others, however here are some that are reported from the Salaf (the first three from ibn Masʿūd and the last from Salmān)
الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، لا إله إلا الله ، الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، ولله الحمد
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, lā ilāha illAllāh wa’Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, wa lillāhi’l-ḥamd
الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، لا إله إلا الله ، الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، ولله الحمد
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, lā ilāha illAllāh, Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, wa lillāhi’l-ḥamd
الله أكبر كبيراً، الله أكبر كبيراً ، الله أكبر وأجلّ ، الله أكبر ولله الحمد
Allāhu akbar kabīra, Allāhu akbrak kabīra, Allāhu akbar wa ajall, Allāhu akbar wa lillāhi’l-ḥamd
الله أكبر ، الله أكبر ، الله أكبر كبيراً
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar kabīra
This refers to saying the takbīr at certain times. The period for specific takbīr begins from Fajr on the day of ʿArafah and lasts until the sun sets on the last Day of Tashrīq, and it is said after each obligatory prayer. This is in addition to the general takbīr referred to earlier. When a person completes the prayer, he should ask for forgiveness and say, “Allāhumma anta al-salām wa minka al-salām, tabārakta yā dha’l-jalāli wa’l-ikrām,” and then start the takbīr.
This is for those who are not on Ḥajj. The pilgrims should start the specific takbīr after Ẓuhr on the Day of Sacrifice (the 10th of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah).
One of the good deeds that will bring a person closer to Allāh during these ten days is offering a sacrifice. The head of the household offers one animal or share of an animal on behalf of the entire household. He does not offer a sacrifice for each member of the family.
Abū Ayyūb was asked, ‘How was the sacrifice done at the time of the Messenger of Allāh (SAW)?’ He replied, “A man would offer a sheep on behalf of himself and the members of his family, and they would eat some and feed others with some.” (Tirmidhī)
ʿĀʾishah said that the Prophet (SAW) ordered that a ram with black legs, black belly and black (circles) round the eyes should be brought to him, so that he could sacrifice it. He then slaughtered it saying, “In the name of Allāh, Allāh, accept this sacrifice on behalf of Muḥammad and the family of Muḥammad and the nation of Muḥammad.” Then he sacrificed it. (Muslim)
Ibn al-Qayyim said, ‘The teaching of the Prophet (SAW) was that a sheep is sufficient on behalf of a man and the members of his household, even if they are many in number.’
The Sunnah is that anyone who wants to offer a sacrifice must stop cutting his hair and nails and removing anything from his skin. This applies from the start of the month until after he has offered his sacrifice. The Prophet (SAW) said, “When you see the new moon of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah, if any one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, he should stop cutting his hair and nails until he has offered his sacrifice.” (Muslim) This ruling applies only to the person who is doing the sacrifice.
If a person has cut his hair or nails during the first ten days of Dhū’l-Ḥijjah because he was not planning to offer a sacrifice and then decides later, during the ten days, to offer a sacrifice, he must refrain from cutting his hair and nails from the moment he makes his decision.
The wisdom behind this injunction is so that he may resemble those in iḥrām in some aspects of the rituals performed.
* It was called Rajab of Muḍar because the tribe of Muḍar did not tamper with its timing, unlike the rest of the Arabs, who used to tamper with the months and change their order depending on whether they were in a state of war or not.