Muslims spend a lot of time gearing up for Ramadan and when the month comes, they often focus on amplifying their spirituality, ridding themselves of bad behaviors, and achieving a special God-consciousness. Truly, it’s a very special month that unites Muslims around the world around a very holy endeavor. But I think a lot of Muslims forget that the first ten days of Dhul Hijja, which is the last month on the Muslim hijri calendar and which lead up to the Hajj pilgrimage and the holiday of Eid-ul-Adha, is also a very special, holy time (akin to Ramadan).
Fasting is a requirement of Ramadan, while fasting is recommended during the first ten days of Dhul Hijja leading up to the Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha. Ibn ‘Abbaas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, reported that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” (Bukhari). Indeed, the first ten days of Dhul Hijja are a time when Muslims should try to fast if they can, make special prayers, read more Qur’an, and reflect more on the mercy and power of Allah.
But, maybe because there is no fasting requirement, no special taraweeh prayers that happen at night, no community iftaars, we tend to forget that these days are quite important as well, that any sincere prayers we make have a greater likelihood of Insha’Allah being granted by Allah, if He deems it to be right for us.
We shouldn’t forget.
Last Friday, when it was the first day of Dhul Hijja, I awoke with a heavy feeling in my heart. Where I live in central Virgina, an eight-year-old nonverbal autistic boy had wandered away from his father and family on Sunday, October 25 at a national battlefield park. By Friday morning, the boy had been missing for six days and five nights, and on the sixth day, the temperatures were growing cold, it was raining, and there was snow in the forecast.
More than 6,000 volunteers had shown up over the course of four days to search for the boy. When it was announced that volunteers could join the search, I leapt at the chance, but despaired at how I would do so. My husband was out of town, and I was single parenting our three kids. But I had to do something. It felt like my own son, who also is autistic and nonverbal, was lost out there. And, I would do anything to get him back.A dear friend offered to watch my kids for me, and so for two days I joined the search. It was like a scene from a movie. We were organized in groups, we stood in straight lines, and we combed grids marked out by area law enforcement officers. We walked through briar patches, tall grasses (where I was told to watch for snakes), bogs, woods, underbrush, and up and down steep ravines. It was tough work. But everyone did whatever they could do. But by Friday morning, the boy was still missing, and though we all kept up our hopes, I didn’t know what to think anymore.
My husband had come back home, and on Friday, I realized that it was the first day of Dhul Hijja. So I prayed what I had been praying all week – for the boy to be found, safe and sound. And, after we returned home from Jummah prayers, my son’s therapist called me to tell me that a miracle had happened – the boy had been found.
It was truly a miracle – one of two miracles I have personally witnessed in my life. I put up this update on Facebook: “Whether you’re religious or not, whatever faith you prescribe to, this is a miracle. For me, this is the first day of Dhul Hijja – and Muslims believe the next 10 days leading up to the Hajj are very special, that prayers are worth extra. And [the boy] was found today. Often I despair of my prayers, but today God answered mine and the prayers of thousands of others.”
As a dear friend of mine, who participated in the search as well and also has two autistic sons (one of whom is nonverbal), said, we were all saved when the boy was found. Saved in different ways. I was reminded that sometimes God answers our prayers exactly how we want them to be answered. That sometimes, what we desperately want to happen actually happens.
I was reminded of the importance of the first ten days of Dhul Hijja.