For a practicing Muslim, nothing seems more spiritually fulfilling in this month than traversing the streets of Madina, following the footsteps of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, reliving the story of Prophet Ibrahim, and holding on to the cloth of the Kaba and weeping for Allah to forgive all sins, all while joined by millions of other Muslims.
The day of Arafah, the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah, is crucial to the completion of Hajj. So much so that the Prophet said, “Hajj is Arafah” (Tirmidhi). Without completing this step, Hajj is not valid. It is on this vast plain that all of mankind will be gathered on the Day of Judgement.
The Prophet also explained the significance of the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah.
“There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” The people asked, “Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?” He said, “Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out, giving himself and his wealth up for the cause (of Allah), and came back with nothing” (Bukhari).
But for those of us for whom Allah hasn’t planned Hajj this year, how can we reap the benefits of this blessed month, these blessed ten days, and most importantly, the day of Arafah?
Growing up, most of us probably witnessed our elders fasting during the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, and especially on the day of Arafah. According to a Hadith, one who fasts sincerely on the day of Arafah will receive forgiveness of his/her sins for the previous and following year.
Avoiding food, drink, useless activities, and focusing on your relationship with your Rabb, for at least one day, seems like an extremely good bargain in return for two years of forgiveness.
But one crucial aspect to keep in mind is to not ritualize any act of worship, as is common in many cultures. This applies to any sincere act we do in this life, but especially for fasting on this day, make sure that you keep your full intention to please Allah, and educate yourself of the significance of this action, and not just to continue any ongoing tradition.
2. Make Dhikr (remembrance of Allah)
On this blessed day, any act of worship you do will result in more good deeds, so step up your remembrance of Allah, which you can do at any time of the day, during virtually any activity.
Repeat the specific Dhikr prescribed in the Sunnah. An especially blessed phrase is, “SubhanAllahi wa bihamdihi, SubhanAllahil Adheem” (Glory be to Allah and all praise is due to Him).
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Two words (subhanAllah wa bihamdihi) are light on the tongue, weigh heavily in the balance, and are loved by the Most Merciful One.”
3. Recite/study/listen to the Quran
Not one day should go by that we forget about the Quran, and especially on this day, we should at least make an effort to open the book and drink up some wisdom.
If every good deed is multiplied, then just imagine how many good deeds you’re getting by just making an intention to listen to the words of your Rabb?
You can even listen to lectures of Tafseer. There are countless videos on YouTube, even small, two-minute videos, that you can benefit from.
4. Be a people person
You don’t need to embark on a humanitarian mission. Just visit your neighbor and ask how they’re doing. Bake a pie for them. Or better yet, invite them over for Iftar. Just don’t overdo the dishes, or else you’ll lose the spirit of the day. Just serve what you would eat on an average day.
If you have the energy while fasting, check out local volunteer opportunities that aren’t physically draining.
Don’t forget those at home. Spend time with your family. Have productive discussions, share something new that you learned, teach the youngsters, and just listen to what they have to say.
If you haven’t called a specific relative in many days, make a short, five-minute call. Don’t make it long and end up wasting your time and theirs. Keep it sweet and simple, ask how they’re doing, and share something beneficial.
The possibilities are quite endless. Be creative and just keep the intention of pleasing Allah in your mind.
5. Get in touch with nature
What better time to enjoy the creations of Allah than this season of colors? Step outside and witness the fall foliage. Worship is not limited to sitting inside and praying all day. Soak in the beauty all around you and glorify Allah.
And please, keep that phone in your pocket. Pictures accumulate in our devices, and we rarely even look at them again. Immerse yourself in the experience directly with your eyes, not through the camera lens.
These are all suggestions, and you may think of countless more ways to make this day more productive. Just don’t allow yourself to regret that you wasted time and missed out on two years of forgiveness, thousands of good deeds, and not to mention a rejuvenation of the body and soul.
And as with everything else, make this day meaningful.