The Sacred Month of Zul-Hijjah:
The Month of Zul-Hijjah is the last month of the Islamic calendar. It means ‘the month of Hajj’. This name of the month indicates that the great annual worship of ‘Hajj’ is performed in this month. For this reason, it has a peculiar significance as compared to the other months of the year.
The first ten days of Zul-Hijjah are extremely sacred and good deeds are most beloved to Allah in these ten days.
The Prophet said, “No good deeds done on other days are superior to those done on these (first ten days of Dhal Hajja).” Then some companions of the Prophet said, “Not even Jihad?” He replied, “Not even Jihad”, except that of a man who does it by putting himself and his property in danger (for Allah’s sake) and does not return with any of those things.”(Bukhari 15: 86)
For those not performing Hajj, it is Mustahabb (desirable) to fast on this day according to their own calendar. It sometimes occurs that the date of 9th Zul Hijjah falls on different days in different countries according to the sighting of the moon.
The fast of ‘Yaumal Arafah’ has been emphasized by the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) as a Mustahabb (desirable act). According to a Hadith, the fast of this day becomes a cause, Inshallah, of forgiveness for sins committed in one year.
When asked about the fast of 9th ZulHajjah (Yaum e Arafah) Rasool Allah saw said: “It expiates the sins of the preceding year and the coming year” (Muslim 6: 2603)
From the Fajr of the 9th of Zul Hijjah upto the Asr prayer of the 13th, it is obligatory on each Muslim to recite the Takbir-ut-Tashreeq in the following words:
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,
La Illaha Illallahu, Wallahu Akbar,
Allahu Akbar wa Lillahilhamd.
(Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest,
There is no God except Allah and Allah is the greatest,
Allah is the Greatest and to Him belongs all praise.)
Ibn ‘Umar and Abu Hurayrah, two of the Prophet's Companions, used to go out in the marketplace during the first ten days of Zul-Hijjah, reciting Takbeer, and the people would recite Takbeer individually when they heard them.
Generally, all good deeds are rewarded highly at this blessed time. These actions include praying, reading Quran, making Dua (supplication), giving in charity and being good to our families.
In addition, seeking Allah's forgiveness at this time is also encouraged. This means more than just a verbal expression of sorrow for past misdeeds. It also requires a firm resolution to avoid making the same mistakes in the future by giving up bad habits and behavior while sincerely turning to Allah.
Hajj - Pilgrimage to Makkah:
The fifth pillar of Islam is to make a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in one's lifetime. This pillar is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, provided that he/she is physically and financially able to do so.
Prerequisites for performing the Hajj are to be a Muslim, to be free, to be an adult or mature enough, to be of sound mind, and to have the ability to afford the journey and maintain one's dependents back home for the duration. The reward for the Hajj is nothing less than Paradise.
The Hajj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals and demands of the believer great sacrifice. On this unique occasion, nearly two million Muslims from all over the globe meet one another in a given year. A total of 160,000 pilgrims from Pakistan will come for Hajj this year, 130,000 of them arriving on Pakistan International Airlines, Khurram Mushtaq, PIA General Manager, told Saudi Gazette.
The airline is bringing pilgrims from Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore and Sialkot, he said, adding that 24,000 pilgrims will travel on Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Regardless of the season, pilgrims wear special clothes (Ihram) - two, very simple, unsown white garments - which strips away all distinctions of wealth, status, class and culture; all stand together and equal before Allah (God).
The rites of Hajj, which go back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim who built the Ka'bah, are observed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth day of the last month of the year, named Zul-Hijjah (pilgrimage). These rites include circumambulating the Ka'bah (Tawaf), and going between the mountains of Safa and Marwah, as Haajra (Ibrahim's wife) did during her search for water for her son Isma'il. This act is called “Sa’ai”. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafah and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. The pilgrims also cast stones at a stone pillar which represents Satan. The pilgrimage ends with a festival, called Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers, the sacrifice of an animal, and the exchange of greetings and gifts in Muslim communities everywhere.