Last Wednesday marked the start of the last month of the lunar calendar, Dhu Al-Hijjah. This is the month in which Muslim pilgrims travel to the holy city of Mecca to perform Hajj, fulfilling the fifth pillar of Islam. During the last few days of October, my inbox was buzzing with emails reminding us to fast and pray as much as possible during the first nine days of this sacred month. I referred to this brief, yet informative video laying out the virtues of Dhu-Hijjah:
Allah has ordained the first 10 days of this month to be extraordinary, a special time to repent and to be forgiven by Allah's mercy. Also, during this period good words and kind deeds are of utmost importance. "Whoever is not able to go to Hajj should occupy himself at this blessed time by worshipping Allaah, praying (salaat), reading Qur’an, remembering Allaah, making supplication (du’aa’), giving charity, honouring his parents, upholding the ties of kinship, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, and other good deeds and acts of worship." For this reason, I've been making a point to fast, read Quran and devote energy on a daily basis to serve or help strangers, friends, and family alike.
Among the special seasons of worship are the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, which Allaah has preferred over all the other days of the year. Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allaah than these ten days." The people asked, "Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah?" He said, "Not even jihaad for the sake of Allaah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing." (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 2/457).
The most important day to fast is the 9th day of Dhu Al-Hijjah (fasting the 10th day - Eid - is completely prohibited), the Day of Arafah. However, if the Muslim is performing Hajj, then they are not required, nor permitted to fast the Day of Arafah.
"Fasting on the Day of 'Arafah absolves the sins for two years: the previous year and the coming year, and fasting on 'Ashura, (the tenth day of Muharram) atones for the sins of previous years." [Reported by all except al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi]
Some women may be disappointed to find that they are menstruating on the Day of Arafah, and are not able to fast or pray that day. Take heart! In the following narration (Hadith), we notice that Aisha (radi allahu anha) [wife of the Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alayhi wa salaam] was crying due to receiving her period during her attempt to perform Hajj. Nevertheless, she is not chastised, as menstruation is ordained by Allah and in my view, a gift from Allah to women.
Volume 001 :: Book 006 (Menstrual Periods) :: Hadith 293
Narrated By Al-Qasim :
‘Aisha said, “We set out with the sole intention of performing Hajj and when we reached Sarif, (a place six miles from Mecca) I got my menses. Allah’s Apostle came to me while I was weeping. He said ‘What is the matter with you? Have you got your menses?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is a thing which Allah has ordained for the daughters of Adam. So do what all the pilgrims do with the exception of the Taw-af (Circumambulation) round the Ka’ba.” ‘Aisha added, “Allah’s Apostle sacrificed cows on behalf of his wives.”
If a woman cannot fast the Day of Arafah due to her menses, it is not possible to make up the fast, as the reason (day) for the fast will have passed. It is recommended that she fast the 10th day of Muharram (Day of Ashura). InshaAllah she will be rewarded with forgiveness for the sins of an entire year. The most comforting point to mention is that Allah subhana wa ta'ala the All-Merciful has taught us that the woman who usually fasts the Day of Arafah or intended in her heart to fast the Day of Arafah will still be rewarded as if she fasted that day, because of her good intention. We base this knowledge on the report narrated by al-Bukhaari (2996) from Abu Moosa (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If a person falls sick or travels, he will have a reward recorded for him like that of what he used to do when he was at home and was healthy.” And Allah knows best.
May Allah accept our fast and worship. Amin.