Question: What is the meaning of يَوْمَ الْحَجِّ الْأَكْبَرِ “Day of the Greatest Hajj” and الْحَجِّ الْأَكْبَرِ “The Greatest Hajj”? Are they synonymous? Or, do they differ in meaning? Are they both in the Glorious Qur’an and authentic Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet)?
Answer: The greatest day of Hajj is the Day of Sacrifice, which is the tenth day of Dhu’l-Hijjah. Abu Dawood narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stood up on the day of Sacrifice during the Hajj that he performed and said: “What day is this?” They said, “the Day of Sacrifice.” He said, “This is the greatest day of Hajj.” (Sunan Abi Dawood, 1945; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 1700.)
Al-Bukhaari (369) narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq (may Allaah be pleased with him) sent me amongst the announcers to proclaim in Mina on the Day of Sacrifice, “After this year no mushrik is allowed to perform Hajj or to circumambulate the House naked.”
The Day of Sacrifice is called the greatest day of Hajj because during that night there is the standing at ‘Arafah and staying overnight in al-Mash’ar al-Haraam, and during that day there is the stoning of the Jamrah, offering the sacrifice, shaving the head, tawaaf and saa’i, which are all actions of Hajj. The day of Hajj refers to the time and the description of greatest refers to the actions done at that time.
If Arafat is on a Friday, then many describe it as Hajj Akbar (Big Hajj). There is no big or small Hajj. There is only one Hajj. Every year is Hajj Akbar. The 10th day of Dhul Hijja is described in The Qur’an as Yaum-ul-Hajjil-Akbar.
The greatest day of Hajj is mentioned in the Qur’aan where Allaah says:
“And a declaration from Allaah and His Messenger to mankind on the greatest day (the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah — the 12th month of Islamic calendar)” [al-Tawbah 9:3]
Imaam Ibnul-Qayyim said, commenting upon Aayah 3 of Soorah Baraa.ah (Sooratut-Tawbah): ”The Qur’an has clearly stated that the announcement occurred on the Day of the Major Hajj, and there is no disagreement about the fact that the announcement took place on the day of sacrifice in Minaa. So this is a decisive proof that the day of the major Hajj is the Day of Sacrifice…” [‘`Awnul Ma’bood’:5/420].
As for the Day of ‘Arafah falling upon the day of Jumu’ah, then that is when two ‘Eids combine- as happened during the Hajj of the Prophet- sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam- , and as was indicated in the famous statement of ‘Umar radiyallaahu ‘anhu- to the Jew, concerning the sending down of Aayah 3 of Sooratul-Maa.idah.
-Al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah li’l-Buhooth al-‘Ilmiyyah wa’l-Ifta’, 11/221