The first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah have been classified as the best 10 days of the year, and the Day of ‘Arafat, on which Allah perfected His religion has been classified as the best day of the year according to some scholars.
Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728H) said: “The most excellent day of the week is the day of Jumuah (Friday), by the agreement of the Scholars. And the most excellent day of the year is the day of an-Nahr. Some of them said that it is the day of Arafat. However, the first opinion is the correct one, since it is related in the Sunan collections that the Prophet ﷺ said: “The most excellent days with Allah is the day of an-Nahr, then the day of al-Qarr (the day that the Muslims reside in Mina).” [(Saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee in Irwa al-Ghaleel (no: 2018). Related by Abu Dawood no: 1765].” [Majmoo al-Fatawa vol: 25, pp. 288]
The ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah (the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar) is the Day of ‘Arafat, since it is on this day that millions of pilgrims set out for the plains of Arafat after sunrise to attend the Khutba of Arafat and perform their Dhuhr and Asr salat combined as was the Sunnah of Rasool Allah (ﷺ). Thereafter they engage in supplication to Allah from Dhuhr to Maghrib, seeking forgiveness of their Lord before setting off for Muzdhalifah.
On this day of Arafat, Muslims all over the world who do not witness the annual Hajj should spend the day in fasting as it is mustahabb (highly recommended), in preparation for the three-day festivity following ‘Eid ul-Adha (the celebration marking the end of the Hajj commemorating the Prophet Ibrahim’s (willingness of sacrifice). When asked about the fasting on the day of ‘Arafah, the Prophet Muhammad said,
“It expiates the sins (Minor) of the past year and the coming year.” [Muslim (no. 1162)]
Abu Hafsah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“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.” [Reported by all except al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi]
But, this does not mean that one can continue to commit sin in the upcoming year, rather it portrays the virtue of fasting on the day of ‘Arafat, and the blessings to be obtained therein.
In another saying the Prophet’s wife Hafsah, may Allah be pleased with her, said:
“Four things the Messenger of Allah never neglected: Observing fast on the day of ‘Ashura,‘Arafat, three days every month, and offering fajr sunnah prayers early in the morning.” [Muslim]
These statements are proof that fasting on the ninth of Dhul-Hijjah, the day before ‘Eid ul-Adha was a lifelong practice of the Prophet (ﷺ) as his wife reported.
There are some reports that fasting is prohibited on the Day of ‘Arafah. However, it must be understood that this refers to a person performing the Hajj. If a person is on the Hajj, there is no fast for him or her on the day of ‘Arafah. That is undoubtedly a blessing for him because of the hardships of the pilgrimage. In a saying reported by Umm al-Fadl, may Allah be pleased with her, she said:
“The companions doubted whether the Prophet (ﷺ) was fasting on ‘Arafah or not. She decided to prove to them that he was not, so she said, ‘I sent to him milk, which he drank while he was delivering the khutbah (sermon) on ‘Arafah.'” [Recorded by al-Bukhari]
Prohibiting the pilgrims from fasting on these days is a great mercy for them, for fasting will exert undue hardship on the person performing the Hajj, while they are primarily concerned with their pilgrimage. Above all, the pilgrim would not be fasting anyway because he is travelling.
The fact that not all of the Muslims are required to go to Hajj every year is a mercy and source of ease from Allah to His servants. He has made Hajj binding once in a lifetime and not binding every year. However, it is a communal obligation occurring every year. This is different from fasting, which is an individually binding obligation on every Muslim, every year.
Because the month of Dhul-Hijjah is a season of worship, it bring along blessings, benefits and opportunities to correct one’s faith and make up for shortcoming. This special opportunity involves a kind of worship, which brings the slave closer to his Lord. And Allah bestows His blessings and Favours on whom He wills. The fortunate person is he who makes good use of these special months, days, and hours, while worshiping Allah. He is most likely to be touched by the blessings of Allah. Rewards of good deeds are multiplied in these days. [Ibn Rajab, al-Lataa’if pp. 8]
For non-pilgrims, it should be remembered that not only should you fast on this day, but make sure to ask Allah for all of your prayers. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The best dua is the dua of Arafat.” (Tirmidhi)