Here are 10 things you should do to earn the best possible rewards in these blessed days:
1. Perform abundant dhikr.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “There are no days greater in the sight of Allah or in which good deeds are more beloved to Him than these 10 days. So recite a great deal of tahlīl, takbīr and taḥmīd).” (Aḥmad)
These words should be said in the Masjids, in the homes and in the streets. Men should proclaim them loudly.
ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar and Abū Hurayrah (radiy Allāhū ‘anhumā) would go out in the marketplaces and recite takbīr loudly in these 10 days. Upon hearing them, the people would follow in suit and recite takbīr.
These should be recited loudly throughout the 13 days. Along with this, the takbīrāt of tashrīq are to be recited audibly after each farḍ ṣalāh, starting from the Fajr of the 9th of Dhul Ḥijjah till the ʿAṣr of the 13th Dhul Ḥijjah.
“I came across people who would say the takbir in the 10 days of Dhul-Ḥijjah (so frequently and loudly) that I would compare it to the crashing of waves.” (Maymūn b. Mahrān (raḥimahullāh))
2. Fast, especially on the day of Arafah.
When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked about the fast of the day of ʿArafah, he said: “It wipes away the (sins) of the past and upcoming year.” (Muslim)
One of the wives of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul Ḥijjah; the day of ʿĀshūrā’ and three days of each month…” (Nasā’ī)
3. Be punctual with the prayers in congregation (jamaʿah) and aim to be there before the first takbir.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The reward of the prayer offered by a person in congregation is twenty-five times greater than that of the prayer offered in one’s home or in the market (alone). This is because if he performs wuḍū and does it perfectly, and then leaves for the Masjid with the sole intention of praying; then for every step he takes, he is raised a level and his one sin is forgiven.
Once he has prayed, the angels continue to ask Allah to have mercy on him as long as he remains in his place of prayer (by saying) ‘O Allah, bestow Your blessings upon him. O Allah, bestow Your mercy upon him.’ You are considered to be in prayer as long as you are waiting for the prayer.” (Bukhārī)
4. Make duʿa, especially on the day of Arafah.
Allah says: “When My servants ask you about Me, truly I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me…” (2:186)
Pour out your heart to Allah and beg him earnestly.
5. Complete the Qur’an in these blessed days.
Make an intention of finishing at least one khatmah (completion) and ask Allah to help you with this. Recite as much Qur’ān, with reflection (tadabbur), as you can in these days .
6. Perform the night prayer (tahajjud).
Aim to be punctual with the night prayers. If it is difficult to wake up, pray a few rakʿahs after ʿIshā’ with the intention of tahajjud.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever stands at night, having recited 10 verses, he will not be recorded among the negligent. Whoever stands at night, having recited 100 verses, he will be recorded among those who are obedient to Allah. And whoever stands at night, having recited 1,000 verses, he will be recorded amongst those who receive huge rewards.” (Abū Dāwūd)
N.B. The 29th and 30th Juz combined contain more than 1,000 verses.
When Saʿīd b. Jubayr (raḥimahullāh), reached the first ten days of Dhul Ḥijjah, he would exert himself in worship to the extent that he would almost overwhelm himself. He would say: ‘Do not put out your lamps in these 10 nights.’
7. Give in charity and help anyone in need.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever gives in charity something equivalent (even) to a date from his honestly earned pure income – for only the pure ascends to Allah – then Allah accepts it with His Right Hand, and then nurtures it for the person as one of you nurtures his baby horse, until it becomes like a mountain.” (Bukhārī)
8. Stay away from sins and do abundant istighfar (seeking forgiveness) and tawbah (repentance).
Renew your repentance in these 10 days, and make a firm pledge to Allah to stop sinning, starting off with these days.
Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh) said: “Beware of sins, because they deprive one from being forgiven in the seasons of mercy. Whilst sins push the slave far away from Allah, acts of obedience draw him near to Allah and His love.”
The severity of sins in virtuous times and places increases, and their punishment is proportionate to the virtue of the time and place. (Ibn Taymiyyah (raḥimahullāh))
9. Send salawat upon the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The closest of people to me on the Day of Judgement will be those who send the most ṣalāh upon me.” (Tirmidhī)
10. Perform qurbani (udhiyah).
The Prophet ﷺ said: “There is nothing more beloved to Allah that a slave can do on the day of Naḥr than spill blood (i.e. qurbānī). On the Day of Judgement, it will be brought forth with its horns, hair, and hooves. Indeed, the blood will be accepted by Allah even before it spills on the ground, so whole-heartedly delight in (performing the sacrifice).” (Tirmidhī)
The Prophet ﷺ said: “I used to forbid you to store the meat of the sacrificed animals for more than three days so that there would be enough for everyone. But now Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, has bestowed plenty upon us, so eat some, give some in charity and store some. Indeed, these days are the days of eating, drinking and remembering Allah.” (Nasā’ī)
N.B. If you plan on sacrificing an animal and you need to cut your hair or nails, then do so before the start of the 10 days. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “When the 10 days (of Dhul Ḥijjah) begin and one of you intends to sacrifce, then he should not remove anything from his hair or nails until he has performed the sacrifice.” (Muslim)
Some scholars explain that the wisdom behind not cutting one’s hair and nails is to resemble the pilgrims of ḥajj in some way. Others consider that it constitutes part of the completion of the sacrificial rite.
Amass huge gains by seizing the opportunity of doing good in these great days (of Dhul Ḥijjah), for they are irreplaceable and priceless. Be quick in doing good and hurry before death strikes; before the transgressor will regret his doing and beg to return to do good, but will be refused; before death comes between the hopeful and his hopes; before man is held hostage in his grave by the actions he set forth. (Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh))