The Best Days of the Year
the day of `arafah & `eid al-adha
god has created some times better than others in the sense that the reward for good deeds done during these times is multiplied many times. this encourages his servants to do more righteous deeds and to worship him more in order to ready themselves for death and the day of judgment.
muslims believe that the best such season of worship is the first ten days of the islamic month of dhul-hijjah. these days, which include the day of `arafah and `eid al-adha, bring the muslims an opportunity to correct their faults and make up for any shortcomings.
the blessings of hajj spill over to those who are not making the pilgrimage if they fast on dhul-hijjah 9, the day of `arafah. on this day, also known as the waqfah (standing), the pilgrims stand on and around the mount of mercy to ask allah’s forgiveness. when the sun sets that day, all their past sins are forgiven. if those who are not making hajj fast on that day, the sins of two years (the past and the coming one) are forgiven.
the following day, dhul-hijjah 10, begins a three-day islamic public celebration known as `eid al-adha, the `eid of the sacrifice. in some places it is known by the turkish name bairam; `eid al-adha is the greater bairam.
this `eid commemorates the willingness of prophet ibrahim (abraham) to sacrifice his son isma`il (ishmael—peace and blessings be upon them both). muslims should reflect on their own commitment to allah and strive to strengthen their relationship with their creator.
muslims celebrate this `eid by attending special congregational prayers followed by a sermon (khutbah) in the morning. it is a confirmed sunnah to attend these prayers, which are usually held outside the mosque. the form of the prayer is the same as that of `eid al-fitr prayer and is also preceded by the takbir. muslims are recommended to perform ghusl (complete ritual bathing) and put on their best clothes beforehand. women who cannot perform the ritual prayer should attend and sit on the sides or in back so that they may share in the joy of that day.
afterwards, or on either of the next two days, many muslims sacrifice a sheep or goat, or seven people may share in sacrificing a cow. the sunnah is to give one-third of the meat to the poor, one-third to friends and relatives, and to keep one-third for one’s own family. the majority of scholars agree that this sacrifice is not obligatory (for those who can afford it), but is a confirmed sunnah.
pilgrims in the state of ihram (consecration) are forbidden—among other things— to clip their nails or cut or pluck their hair. those who do not perform hajj but who plan to sacrifice an animal on `eid should likewise abstain from clipping their nails or cutting or plucking their hair from the first day of dhul-hijjah until they sacrifice. the majority of scholars agree that this abstention is not obligatory, but it is a confirmed sunnah and highly recommended.
during these ten days, muslims should also recite allah’s praises often with the phrases “subhan allah” (glory be to allah), “al-hamdu lillah” (all praise to allah), “allahu akbar” (allah is greatest), and “la ilaha illa allah” (there is no god but allah).
the day of `arafah is an excellent time to repent and return to allah. `eid al-adha, the best day of the year, combines two great acts of worship, salah (ritual prayer) and sacrifice. together, they offer muslims the chance to become closer to their creator and lord.