Could you kindly explain what does Islam require from a muslim, who is not performing Hajj, during the first 10 days of Zul-Hajj? Are all the suggested practices, like not clipping nails and cutting hair, obligatory?
A religious practice becomes obligatory only if there is a clear directive in the Quran or it has been transmitted as an established practice (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), on which there is a consensus of the Ummah. As far the practice of not clipping your nails and not trimming your hair during the first 1o days of Dhul-Hajj is concerned, we should bear in mind that even the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a difference of opinion about it, therefore, there is no way it can be considered obligatory. Whether it is a religious tradition of any significance, the following arguments will explain our point of view;
There are Ahadith in the Sahih Muslim, Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Abu Daud and Nissai that the Prophet (PBUH) did advise Muslims to abstain from clipping their nails and trimming their hair during the first 10 days of Dhul-Hajj until their sacrificial animal was slaughtered. This advice was meant only for those Muslims who intended to sacrifice an animal on ‘Eid ul Adha. The majority of the Muslim jurists and clerics, throughout the centuries, have based their opinion on these Ahadith, however, there is a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari which completely contradicts this practice. Here is the English translation of that Hadith;
Narrated by ‘Abdullah bin Abu Bakr bin Amr bin Hazm: That Amra bint Abdur-Rahman had told him that Zaid bin Abu Sufyan wrote to Aisha (RA) that Abdullah bin Abbas had stated, “Whoever sends his ‘Hudi’ [to the Kaa’ba] all the things which are illegal for a [pilgrim] become illegal for that person too till he slaughters it (i.e. till the 10th of Dhul-Hijja)”. Amra added, ‘Aisha (RA) said, “It is not like what Ibn Abbas had said: I twisted the garlands of the ‘Hudis’ of Allah’s apostle with my own hands then Allah’s apostle put them around their necks with his own hands sending them with my father (Abu Bakr (RA)); yet nothing permitted by Allah was considered illegal for Allah’s apostle till he slaughtered the ‘Hudis'”.
Keeping in view the Hadith from Bukhari, it becomes quite clear that there has been some doubt about this practice since the Prophet’s time. However, one thing is absolutely clear from other Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), that the first 10 days of Dhul-Hajj are very special in the eyes of God. Imam Bukhari reports in his sahih; “Ibn e Abbas reported that Prophet (PBUH) said “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days”. The people asked “Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?” he said, “Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight (Jihad) giving himself and his wealth up for the cause and came back with nothing.””
May Allah enable us to do as many righteous deeds during these days as possible to earn His maximum blessings.
Allah knows the best!
Hope this helps