How eager we were seeking reward during Ramadan, and how quickly its days left us. Yet as we hear of friends and relatives departing for the pilgrimage to Makkah, another blessed time approaches. The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.
It is regarding these treasured days, that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said:
“There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” 
A dear friend of mine put it beautifully when she said “The days and nights of Dhul Hijjah have come to honour every beggar whose heart ached for Ramadan, race to the rahma (mercy) of Allah”. One cannot complain that the days of Ramadan have passed us whilst ignoring the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah – the reward available is too great to ignore. One cannot help but be grateful for this immense opportunity; where this is often a time where many of us are now slacking in our ibadah after Ramadan, this an opportunity to refocus our mind and spirit on the worship of Allah.
As we enter the first of these blessed days, here are some tips to reap the extra rewards.
Fasting on the day of ‘Arafah
On the day of ‘Arafah, the 2nd day of Hajj, the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, pilgrims stand on the plain of ‘Arafah to pray. Meant to symbolise Judgement Day, when all of mankind will be gathered on this plain to account for our deeds, the pilgrims spend their day supplicating to their Lord, begging His favour and mercy.
This is also the day our religion was perfected for us, as Umar (ra) narrated that the following verse from Surah al Maa’idah was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) upon his farewell Hajj:
“This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” 
On this blessed day, the believers who are not making the pilgrimage are encouraged to fast between sunrise and sunset in return for great reward:
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.” 
To put it into perspective, fasting for simply one day can absolve the minor sins of more than 700 days. This is a reminder meant to draw the believers closer to their Lord; He desires our forgiveness more than we wish it for ourselves.
Supplicating to Allah
Making supplications directly to God is a blessing we do not always appreciate. Unlike many other faiths, Islam stipulates no intermediary or screen between the worshipper and his Lord. The call of the slave on earth to Allah is heard in the heavens, by a God who wants to grant them what they desire.
Whatever our hearts yearn, this is the time to implore Allah directly, in full hope and having positive expectations of His mercy.
It was narrated from Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas) that the Prophet (saw) said:
“The best of du’aa’ is du’aa’ on the day of ‘Arafah, and the best that I and the Prophets before me said is ‘Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah wahdahu la shareeka lah, lahu’l-mulk wa lahu’l-hamd wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadeer” 
Making Tahleel, Takbeer, Tahmeed and Tasbeeh
Making dhikr (remembrance) of Allah is the type of worship that requires the least amount of effort, but weighs heavy on our scale of good deeds. Glorifying Allah on your tongue should be a consequence of you glorifying Him in your heart. And if the heart is sincere and eager in its remembrance of Allah, this purifies our soul and deeds.
“There lies within the body a piece of flesh. If it is sound, the whole body is sound; and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted. Verily this piece is the heart.” 
The Prophet (saw) commanded us to recite a lot of Tasbeeh (Subhan-Allaah), Tahmeed (Al-hamdu Lillaah) and Takbeer (Allaahu akbar) during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (ra) reported that the Prophet (saw) said:
“There are no days greater in the sight of Allaah and in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so during this time recite a great deal of Tahleel, Takbeer and Tahmeed.” 
4. Reciting Quran
The Quran should be a frequent part of our life, regardless of the time of the year. It is our guidance and criterion in this world, and is constantly referred to by Allah as the greatest blessing bestowed upon mankind. The reward for reading even one letter is immense, let alone the extra blessings for the one who struggles to perfect their recitation.
During these ten days, allocating even a small amount of time in the day to read and reflect upon the verses will bring harmony to your mind and soul.
“Indeed the one who recites the Quran beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. As for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have twice that reward.” 
Maintaining ties of kinship
As Muslims, we must take the time to remind ourselves that our worship is not solely restricted to ritual acts of worship such as salah, siyam (fasting), and du’a. Islam demands changes in our character and that we abide with ihsan, excellence, in our dealings with wider society.
One of the greatest obligations Islam calls for is the upholding of the ties of kinship. The family is the cornerstone of society and taking time to invest in relationships has a multiplier effect on broader social cohesion and perpetuates cooperation and love among the Muslims.
“… and fear Allaah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of ) the wombs (kinship)…” 
During these blessed days, taking the time to call distant relatives or mend broken relationships can be a well of barakah.
Giving in charity
Whilst many will rightly spend some time in these days planning their Eid outfits, amidst this excitement, do not forget our Ummah who are struggling. Even if its just some loose change give at least something on this day for the sake of Allah. Let it be an expiation for your sins, and a proof in your favour on the day of Judgement.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah RA that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“There is no day on which the people get up but two angels come down and one of them says, ‘O Allah, give in compensation to the one who spends (in charity),’ and the other says, ‘O Allah, destroy the one who withholds.’” 
And for those who are not able to do Hajj this year, reflect on the beautiful words of Imām Rajab al-Hanbali (RA) who said:
“Whoever is not able to stop at Arafah, then stop at the limits Allah has set. Whoever is not able to spend the night at muzdalifah, let him spend the night in obedience to Allaah to come close and attain nearness to Him. Whoever is not able to slaughter at Mina, then let him slaughter his desires so by it he can reach his objective. Whoever was not able to reach the house because it is far, then proceed towards the Lord of the Ka’bah, for He is closer to him than his jugular vein.” 
1 – Sahih Bukhari 969
2 – Al-Quran [5:3]
3 – Sunan Ibn Majah 1730
4 – Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (3585)’ classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb (1536).
5 – Sahih Muslim 1599
6 – Ahmad, 7/224
7 – Sunan Abi Dawud 1454
8 – Al-Quran (4:1)
9 – Sahih Bukhaari, 1374; Sahih Muslim, 1010.
10 – Lataa’if al-Ma’aarij, p.g. 6
Iman Amin is an alimah student at Al Salam Institute, and a youth worker at Bayaan Youth Group for young Muslim girls. She takes a great interest in current affairs and the role of Islam in society today. She hopes to pursue further studies in the Arabic language and the Quran. You can follow her on Twitter: @hearandweobey