As a new Muslim, you’re most likely familiar with the month of Ramadan. However, there is another month in the Islamic calendar that is also a sacred time of year: Dhul Hijjah.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days”
, meaning the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah
. Not only is this when Hajj
, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (i.e., the 5th pillar of Islam) takes place, but it is also a special time for worship.
As we enter these blessed 10 days, we spoke with Sh. Abdullah Oduro on his Dhul Hijjah experiences, reflections, and advice for new Muslims observing it for the first time.
What should a Muslim do during Dhul Hijjah?
The ultimate act of worship to perform during this month is the Hajj (pilgrimage)
. However, it is only required to do once in a lifetime. For those of us who are not performing Hajj, we should spend this special time engaging in prayer, fasting, giving charity, and reading the Qur’an. Yaqeen has a great checklist
for the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, along with many resources
on why this time of year is important. Also, take some time to learn about the Prophet Abraham
(PBUH)’s story, as the rituals of Hajj
are based on the events of his life.
As a convert, what lessons do you take from the life of Abraham (PBUH)?
There are so many lessons for new Muslims to take from the story of Abraham
First, patience. Like Abraham (PBUH) with his father, you may not see eye to eye with your family. They may not understand your new faith, and they may be belligerent in expressing that to you. Be patient with them and continue to treat them with kindness. Also, be patient with Allah and in developing your connection with Him. Be patient in what He has decreed for you. Abraham (PBUH) endured many difficulties throughout his life. But he overcame them with patience and trust in Allah.
Another lesson we can learn from Abraham (PBUH)’s story is sacrifice. Sacrifice is a big theme and ritual of Hajj and Dhul Hijjah, based on God’s order to Abraham (PBUH) to sacrifice his son Ishmael. But even before that, Abraham sacrificed so much for God and for his faith. He sacrificed his reputation with society. He sacrificed his community because they didn’t accept him. He was alone, and many of us can relate to what that feels like. You may feel like no one hears you, understands you, or supports you. But like Abraham (PBUH) trusted in Allah and obeyed His command time and time again, we must do the same. Hold on to your certainty like he did, and keep your trust in Allah firm.
With trust comes hope. Hope that Allah will make things better, as things got better for Abrahim (PBUH). Have hope that Allah will bring you through the loneliness and the difficulty of learning a new way of life. Have hope in His mercy and forgiveness, both when it comes to your shortcomings before Islam and the mistakes you may make as a new Muslim. Have hope in others. Even when faced with criticism and hurtful words from those you love, reply with good manners and high expectations. Hold on to your faith without compromising integrity. That is what Abraham (PBUH) did.
What was the first Hajj as a convert like?
My first Hajj…this was the first time I even dealt with a passport. So when I went to get one, that’s when it started for me. “I really am going overseas. I am going to the desert.” It meant a lot to me. I heard so much about what Hajj was going to be like, and I needed to mentally prepare for it in the same way I was preparing my suitcase.
A big part of it was explaining the trip to my family. “I’m going to the desert to worship God.”
It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around. I showed them The Illustrated Guide to Islam
, which explains the Abrahamic connection to all of the Hajj rituals. That made it easier for them to understand. We also watched the Hajj scenes reenacted in Malcolm X,
which helped too.
They were able to see the value in detaching from the world to attach to God, with the goal of coming back to live a righteous life. They were very supportive of it after that.
I met so many different kinds of people, all leaving their lives behind to worship God. I’ll never forget seeing the Kaaba for the first time. I thought, “Wow, this is what I hear people talking about.” It was an incredible experience and I pray that all of my Muslim brothers and sisters are able to experience it for themselves.
What was your first Eid like as a new Muslim?
I remember my first Eid like it was yesterday. I stood in the mosque parking lot after prayer, seeing everyone in their best clothing–many of them cultural, which I had never seen before. Unsure of what to do next, I asked some people what they were going to do for the rest of the day. Most of them had plans with their family. And that’s when it hit me: “This isn’t what I thought it would be.” I was expecting to go hang out or go to a party. I thought Eid was supposed to be fun. But there I was, driving back home alone to watch TV. And it wasn’t even 10 am yet.
When the next Eid rolled around, I decided to just go to work. I thought, “why should I take the day off to be alone, when I could go to work and make money?” It wasn’t until several years later that I began making my own traditions, and really feeling the spirit and celebration of Eid.
What advice would you give to new Muslims who feel that disconnect?
Try to make the best of it. Start your own traditions. Make it an opportunity to get together with family members–your favourite cousin, a distant uncle–or a good friend. Explain to them that this is a special day and that you want to spend it with someone you love and care about. Creating your own traditions will help you feel the spirit of the holiday. It may take some time, but eventually you will feel it. And when you do, remember that initial feeling of loneliness, and try to work within your community to plan special Eid gatherings to help other new Muslims feel welcome.
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