The month of Dhul Hijjah is once again fast approaching and those fortunate enough to be performing the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca) will have long been making preparations for this blessed time This ground-work will have included the external often frustrating tasks of obtaining visas and making travel arrangements, and the more important - and certainly more difficult - internal spiritual preparations.
But those of us who are unable to perform the Hajj this year can still partake in this blessed month. For Prophet Muhammad (may God's peace and blessings be with him) encouraged us to work harder in the pursuit of good during this time, saying of the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, in particular:
"There are no days in which righteous deeds
are more beloved to God than these ten days."
This is the period, which precedes the festival of Eid al Adha (The Feast of the Sacrifice) commemorating the monumental sacrifice in which Abraham (may God's peace and blessings be with him), Patriarch of the Semitic faiths, willingly obeyed his Lord's command to sacrifice his beloved son. And as all will know, neither Abraham nor his son were found wanting, and the human sacrificial offering was replaced with a ram.
Each year, in commemoration of this pinnacle of human submission to the will of God, Muslims sacrifice an animal, the meat of which is distributed amongst the poor, friends and family. Of course, the ritual is merely symbolic of an inner ascent that we are all asked to make. The Holy Qur'an reminds us:
`It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches God:
it is your piety that reaches Him