Dhul Hijjah Mubarak!!! How are you upping your game these blessed ten days? Well, I’ve actually entered a “game” to up my anty. I don’t even know what the prize is. Well, I do, actually. An increase in ibadah and inshAllah, with the proper intentions, reward from Allah.
Yeah, I’m serious about competing this Dhul Hijjah. In ibadah. With myself. Along with four other ladies on my team, who have crossed paths with me in life and who hold some of the same aspirations I do…and all of them holding some trait that I aspire to. But get this, we aren’t in it to win it.
Let’s just say that I was late in catching the hajj seasonal wind and needed a little motivation. Maybe a lot of motivation. I was seriously only planning to fast the 9th of Dhul Hijjah and the rest of the days would be filled with my regular ibadah, even though they are the most blessed ten days of the year. Enter Rabata Retreat’s “Pilgrims at Home” annual competition, which was set up to facilitate sisterhood and help individuals come together to take advantage of the blessed days of Dhul Hijjah, meanwhile cheering each other on. I think we as sisters need that. It’s so easy to get caught up in the routines of every day life and forget to work and flex our superior superwoman ibadah muscles…and connect with others outside of our family-work-home-life bubbles. In this competition, we get points for each super ibadah muscular thing we do, such as praying tahajjud or reciting long adhkars, just like we get rewarded on a daily basis for our actions by Allah. And in the end, the points are tallied up and the winning team announced.
I know, it sounds awful, doesn’t it? Competing in the dunya for something that’s really akhira related? And then we have the nerve to not really be in it to win it? But in actuality, isn’t that what we are all doing anyway? Competing in a race to Allah? With ourSELVES as our opponents more than anyone else? This competition has made me seize upon this spiritual season in ways that I never would have before. Take for instance my last Dhul Hijjah. Hassan was away at hajj. I was pregnant, worried sick that my children would be left orphans given the accidents that occur at hajj when swarms of people trample swarms of people… But back to the fact that I was pregnant–no one knew. Actually we told two people–I was throwing up too much for them to not notice my state. And on that throwing up, yeah, I wasn’t in the mood for supererogatory fasts and prayers that weren’t a part of my strict wird. So I just did my regular lineup of ibadah. I’m not saying last Dhul Hijjah was awful, but in comparison with this Dhul Hijjah, it pales. On the first day of the competition, I just did my regular wird. I earned 29 points out of a possible 100. Yeah. Talk about failure. And that’s counting in doing all of the fards and sunnah muakkadas of prayers, and a few nafl actions! 29! I know, right?! Now, they don’t take into consideration the fact that you cooked, cleaned, tamed a tantrum without having one yourself, and fed your family from the goodness of your heart, all while breastfeeding an infant, but when it comes to the harder ibadahs like standing during the day and night to pray, reciting long surahs of the Qur’an, fasting, and doing all of this in a timely fashion, most of us probably would fail or be at the mediocre point. I know that isn’t how it all adds up as far as Allah is concerned, but if He, azza wa jal, didn’t multiply our good deeds by ten, then how heavy would our scales be? And we don’t even know if our “good” deeds were actually good at all! Sometimes our prayer curses us for our lack khushu’ or ostentation gets in the way! So you see, 29 points really is an accurate picture of how I probably spend my day…heedless of the mountains I could be climbing in spiritual states simply by doing more of the stuff that I don’t make myself do.
So, yeah we aren’t in it to win the whole shbang, but we are in it to win ourselves over to our better selves. And that’s kind of our policy. We are “Team Ikhlas”, trying to do more than we normally do with sincere and pure intentions, rather than getting caught up in the competitive aspect of it. Besides we kind of know we can’t win. It’s rigged, as all games are. Or maybe I’m just making an excuse because I haven’t diligently worked at being a hafiz or anything–I mean, we are up against women who could probably recite the entire Qur’an while asleep (you can get bonus points for reading Surah Al Baqarah, and reading the whole Qur’an in a week)! So, yeah…um, I don’t think we will “win”, but as far as the akhira goes, I think we are all winning. Already, yesterday, on the second day, we’ve earned more points than we did on the first day…most of us at least doubling our previous scores! This makes me happy! Sometimes, we need to see that we can do it to know that we can do it, and and honestly, actually thinking of my ibadah on a points system does make me want to do more of it. Looking at the scoresheet and the areas where we could’ve gotten reward makes you feel guilty that you didn’t spend your time with that category that day, and realize that you need to work harder on making a constant practice of that ibadah be it Qur’an recitation, qiyam at night, fasting, or what have you.
Besides, this satisfies a dunya urge I’ve always had to take part in something like The Amazing Race. LOL. But I’m not a very physical person (I can’t even ride a bike, nor do I have a driver’s license…yet!), so I don’t know how our team would ever win a challenge like that with me on it. But doing some more ibadah, well that’s something I can do, inshAllah. And maybe next year, they’ll put some fard kifayahs in the competition so we can really be winning for TEAM UMMAH–there are definitely some areas that need to be addressed in communities around the world. And buffing up our ibadah muscles is a great practice for when we actually do get the opportunity to make the physical pilgrimage, inshAllah. For others out there not in the competition (including you men!), you can learn and earn from this, too. Make a daily scoresheet for yourself, your family, or you and a couple of friends. Support each other in the areas where you need improvement. Is someone always missing prayers (there’s a penalty for that, by the way)? Is someone missing out on the barakah of reciting or reading Qur’an daily? Think of it as a reckoning before the Day of Reckoning and an opportunity to reflect on how you spend your days, months, and years…what’s your scoresheet going to say on the Day of Judgement?
So here’s to Team Ikhlas! We’re in it to win jannah, inshAllah. And you can play, pray, and win along with us, too, by taking yourself into account! May Allah accept our ibadah, increase us in it, and purify our intentions for Him in everything we do! May He always make us winners in this life and the next! Amin!
Ibn’Abbas reported that the Prophet (saw) said: “There are no days during which righteous action is as pleasing to Allah than these days (first ten days of Dhul Hijjah).” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, not even jihad in the cause of Allah?” He (saw), replied: “Not even jihad in the cause of Allah, except in the case that one goes forth with his life and his property and returns with nothing.” (Bukhari)
Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said: “There are no days that the worship of Allah is as beloved to Him as the ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Fasting in each of these days is equivalent to fasting for a year. Standing in prayer in each of these nights is equivalent to standing in prayer on the night of power.” (Tirmidhi)
Ibn Abbas (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said: “There are no days which are greater in the sight of Allah, nor are there days in which good deeds are more beloved to Allah than the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Therefore, engage in abundant tasbeeh, tahmeed, tahleel and takbeer.” (Bazzaar)