Allah Ta’ala has created out of nothing all the things that we see and that we do not see. By means of His divine decree, He has wanted to favour some over others. The prophet (saw) has concluded, in respect of the various grades in existence, thus: It is the divine mercy. He grants to whom He wills. (Muslim). And it is thanks to that appointment of Allah that man has been favoured above all creation.
Allah Ta’ala has stated: “And indeed We have honoured the children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea, and have provided them with lawful good things, and have preferred them above many of those We have created with a marked preference.” (17: 70)
Among those privileges, He has provided man with two calendars. Allah Ta’ala has stated: “It is He who has made the sun a shining thing and the moon as a light and measured out its (their) stages, that you might know the number of years and the reckoning.” (10: 5)
Therefore, we have two calendars, both conceived by Allah Ta’ala in order to facilitate the reckoning of months and years. “The sun and the moon run on their fixed courses (exactly) calculated with measured out stages for each.” (55: 5)
Prior to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), leaders used to alter calendar dates in order to launch surprise attacks on their rivals. In his speech at Arafat, the holy Prophet (saw) gave official sanction to the calendar and comforted the Muslim world, only four months prior to his death: “The calendar has returned to the exact position it was on the day Allah created the heavens and the earth. They year is made up of twelve months, four of which are sacred.” (Bukhari). Hence, the essential calendar is the Hijri calendar. However, it is permissible to make use of the solar calendar for worldly activities. We should know that the lunar year is more accurate, simpler to reckon and requires no adjustment. Whereas, the solar calendar needs to be adjusted every four years and also every century. Hence, the lunar calendar is the more privileged one.
Twelve months, four of which are sacred
For man, there are several prescribed duties to be performed at different times. Certain places certain months, days and hours are more sacred and hold more benefits than others. The Qur’an declares: “Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein.” (9: 36)
And it is precisely in the hadiths that we find the names of those four months. Prophet Muhammad (saw) has stated: “A year is made up of twelve months. Four of them are sacred. Three of them follow each other: Zil Qadah, Zil Hijjah and Muharram; and then there is Rajab.” (Bukhari). The sacred nature of these four months requires from us that we refrain from initiating military offensives against enemies as indicated in the above verse (9: 36). And then, during these four months, it is possible for warriors to get married and be at home. And also to proceed on pilgrimage for Hajj. You see, previously, the journey for Hajj used to be undertaken by ship or on camel ride. It was a long journey. Hence, an Indian national as a pilgrim had to leave his country some three months in advance in order to proceed for Hajj. When the pilgrims reach Arabia, there should not be any military hostilities which can hamper the movement and the security of those pilgrims. Hence, the three successive months which are sacred are Zil Qa’adah, Zil Hijjah and Muharram. All these three months revolve around the Hajj. Therefore, one can say that the worldly importance of Hajj has brought about the sacredness of these three months. By the way, the month of Zil Hijjah is not only a sacred month, but it also enjoys a very important position in the Islamic calendar. The Qur’an considers Hajj as the major event of the Hijri calendar: “They ask you about the new moons. Say: They are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage.” (2: 189)
Hence, the month of Zil Hijjah is very important among the twelve months of the Hijri Year.
The first ten days of the month of Zil Hijjah
Allah’s statement is holy and majestic. But it takes on a greater magnitude when He takes an oath. On many occasions, Allah has taken an oath in the Qur’an. On one of these, He has taken an oath on the first ten nights of Zil Hijjah: “By the dawn! By the ten nights (of Zil Hijjah).” (89: 1-2). According to the hadith of Mustadrak Hakim and alos according to the tafseers, the ten nights refer to the first ten nights of Zil Hijjah as well as the first ten days of that month. By the way, a sahih hadith of Abu Dawood has reported that the Prophet (saw) has stated: There is no other day on which one performs good deeds which Allah loves more than the ten days of Zil Hijjah on which good deeds are performed. (Abu Dawood). Imam Bukhari has reported the same hadith in a different wording. All this indicates the religions worth attached to the first ten days of the month of Zil Hijjah. Tirmizi has reported a hadith, supported by Ibn Majah, where the holy Prophet (saw) hhas stated: “There are no days on which Allah loves to be worshipped more than the ten days of Zil Hijjah. Fasting on each day is equivalent to one year’s fasting in reward. And spending one whole night in prayer is akin to spending the night of Lailatul Qadr in ibadat.” (Tirmizi, Ibn Majah, Suyuti). It should be noted that Allah’s oath has been made on the ten nights of Zil Hijjah (Surah Fajr). There therefore no cause for surprise in the above mentioned report.
But the most invaluable day is the ninth of Zil Hijjah. Fasting on that day results in the forgiveness of sins of the past year and of the current year together. (Sahih Muslim). By the way, these sacred days are revered by means of fasting. It has been reported that the holy Prophet (saw) used to fast during the first nine days of Zil Hijjah. (Abu Dawood). However, fasting is prohibited on the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, and thirteen days of Zil Hijjah, the reason being that these days are devoted to the consumption of the meat of Qurbani.
Raising the voice for the praise of Allah
Allah Ta’ala likes to be remembered with humility and in a low voice. “And remember your Lord by your tongue and within yourself, humbly and with fear without loudness in words in the mornings and in the afternoons.” (7: 205). It has been reported by Muslim that the Prophet (saw) forbade the Sahabah (ra) from raising their voice for Zikrullah: “You are not invoking someone who is deaf.” (Muslim). However, the days of Zil Hijjah are of such a far-reaching nature that Allah Ta’ala wants us to remember Him in a loud voice. Allah Ta’ala has stated: “And remember Allah during the appointed days.” (2: 203). Imam Bukhari has reported that the ‘appointed days’ are the days of Tashreek. Therefore, it is wajib during five days (from Fajr of 9th Zil Hijjah till Asr of 13the Zil Hijjah) to recite the Takbeer after every salah. The men will recite it in a loud voice, whereas the women will do so in a low voice. (Mustadrak Hakim)
Since the injunctions of the month of Zil Hijjah are numerous in the Qur’an, let us not be indifferent to Allah’s oath on the ten nights of Zil Hijjah and let us increase our invocations and our remembrance of Allah: Laa ilaaha illallaah, Allahou Akbar, Alhamduolillah and let us also fast during these days, more especially the 9th of Zil Hijjah, which is the eve of Eid ul Adha.