Raising a Damaad

Damaad is the word for son-in-law in the Urdu language.  In the South Asian culture damaads are often treated like royalty. From my observation society treats the roles of a daughter in law (bahoo) very different from the son -in-law (damaad).  My thoughts derive from experiences, observations and maybe Pakistani dramas.
Although  this post may not describe everyones experience, I know that many people know of cases or can empathize with the double standards in our culture (at least most bahoos)Traditionally South Asian mothers raise their daughters to fit into the new family she goes into, and to treat her new family the way she treats her own.  However, when it comes to a son, I don’t think the mother instills those same values in him.

We mentally prepare daughters to embrace going into their husband’s new home which is their “real” home.  They must win the hearts of every single creature living inside the house, yes even the Jinn.

As the new bahoo in the family you are expected to delight your in-laws with your cooking, amuse them with your personality, be the first to help out and the last to sit down, beautify yourself with the finest clothing and of course adorn the gold with the newly wed-bride look.  You are expected to keep them before your plans and sometimes even before your family.

Expectations for the Daamad? Well lets just put it this way:

Do not swear/abuse/degrade your wife
Do not start arguments with your in laws,
Do not have a bad mood in their presence
Exchange a few smiles here and there
Show up to family dinners every now and then
= BAM you have yourself a great son-in-law.

Virtually no effort is required and all they have to do is meet the bare minimum requirements for a decent human being.  They do not have to go out of their way for their in-laws or even make an effort to take part in family discussions nor stay in touch for that matter.

They have to ‘not be bad’ in order to be considered good whereas a daughter-in-law has to be outstanding in order to be considered somewhat good!

I have a son, which now gives me the added responsibility of raising him to be that one heck of a darn good SON-IN-LAW.

Insha’Allah, I will teach him to make an effort to fit in with his new family, help them and maintain a high level of akhlaq in their presence. He should get involved in family discussions and find solutions to their problems and dilemmas.  It is not just about giving their daughter the bare rights but rather giving her the utmost happiness alongside being a good person to his in-laws.

He should be thankful for the hospitality his in-laws provide and not assume it is expected.  Sometimes in-laws may go above and beyond to please their damaad and  as a typical guy’s personality he may not even realize that, hence limiting his appreciation for the amount of effort put into pleasing him.

He too should know that his in-laws miss their daughter/sister and that she is still an integral part of their household. Just because she is married does not mean she no longer should contribute to her family.

Rather a good damad will not only appreciate the vital role she plays in his family but encourage her to provide any sort of support for her own family as well.

Does your husband fits the description above? If so, then please message me your mother-in-law’s contact info so I can get some pointers.

As for the rest of the boy-mamas, I say we dust off our akhlaq books and sit our boys down and drill it into their tiny brains.  Our upbringing may serve as a means to attain Jannah, Insha’Allah.

Meanwhile I am accepting applications for daughter-in-laws. (My son’s two but gotta start early these days!).

Something for boy-mamas to think about….

 

Easy Herb Butter Turkey Recipie

 For all of you last minute people, this is an easy recipie that I followed for my “Friends Thanksgiving” last weekend. It’s easy and it turned out great!

 

Just click on link to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2wKZdBpVlw

The hardest part was washing the turkey but I youtubed that as well. Thankful for helpful videos!

Here is what the end result looked like… HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We want to see your table spreads! Any interesting Desi cultural influences on your Turkey? Please share.

Domestic Help in Third World Countries

As an American Pakistani there is this unique connection that I think many of us have with the country of Pakistan. This connection  gives us an opportunity to experience Pakistan as a local when we visit.  We are privy to observe the workings of the Pakistani society and are exposed to the subtleties of the culture which may not be as obvious to outsiders.

One of the most obvious and glaring society difference between America and Pakistan  is the domestic workers that are in most houses. The Knaucker range from the household manager who controls the gate of the house to the drivers and the women who come to brush and wipe down the floors. Depending on the family and the households there can at times be more domestic help in the house than people of the family.

When we would visit our family in Karachi the cleaning lady would take care of making our beds and tidying up the room. It was a foreign concept and it felt really wrong having some lady clean up after us. That was about 13 years ago…fast forward to last year and I was the one asking my mom to help me find a little girl who could help me look after Hassan while I was in Karachi.

The girl who came to be my lifesaver was  known as  “Baji”  she was the daughter of the cleaning lady that worked in our house. Her name was Shaista and she was an very well groomed 13 year old with a serious face and  a beautiful smile.  The first  day she  came I introduced her to the kids, set her schedule and decided her salary – She would work 6 days a week from 9-5:30 and would be paid RS 2,000 a month. This is approximately $20 a month.

It was the first time I had my own personal domestic help. It was confusing at first, I wasn’t sure what tasks to give her and how to tell her exactly what I wanted her to do without sounding bossy or mean. After a few days  she became familiar with the kids schedule and she started asking me things lik : Should I feed the kids a snack now? And  should I wash the kids bottles now? She was a smart girl and the kids loved her. Soon she was  handling the kids responsibilities and I was the one asking her things like do you think their tired now? Should we put them to nap? It was a gradual process but we tag teamed and got the work done together. I would  tell her to take naps when the kids napped and would get her treats when I got something for the kids. It was all going good until the day that I took “Baji” into the new Dolmen Mall that had opened a few months ago in Clifton.

It was a fancy mall with international brands and an crowd that was  dressed to impress. Initially I really enjoyed visiting this mall with “Baji” in tow handling the stroller. She was wide-eyed and impressed with this mall. She  experienced her very first escalator ride and soon mastered it with grace and poise. But I felt bad, here is an 13 year old who is experiencing parts of Karachi that she may have never seen before, worse she didn’t fit in, it was obvious to anyone that she was in fact the kids maid. Would this be damaging to her self-worth, her pride, would these joy trips to the mall be more detrimental to this teenagers life by making her feel inferior? Is it fair to take introduce a girl to a realiity that will most probabaly never be hers? Oh man the questions kept coming and I felt more and more confused.

I kept these thoughts to myself but I did consciously made an effort to not take her with me. I would leave Hassan to nap at home and would ask Baji to watch him while I had my fill of the Glamarous new mall.  While I never really resolved this issue my dad who  was working at an corporate office told me how he helped a young man get a job, the man’s job was to sit in the elevator and push buttons for people all day. Another man’s job he told me was to sit at the copier and make copies and deliver them to his seniors. Small and insignificant jobs such as these can mean the difference between starvation and eating for these mens families. Unfortunately if we don’t employ people than these people will resort to illegal or corrupt ways and so I justified employing a 13 year old girl so that I can  ensure that she was safe, well-treated and well-fed at least for the duration of the time she was under my roof.

Is that right? Can their be a way of ending children working? I’m not sure, but I do know that having domestic help is a constant juggling act. At times I had to be firm with Baji, Other times I had to remeber that she was just a kid but above all I had to remember to be thankful  to the young girl with the beautiful smile.

What do you think about the domestic help in Pakistan?  Any experiences or comments? Please Share.

English Medium Dude

I was watching the ‘Lux Awards’ with my mom, something like  the  Pakistani Oscars.  They give out awards for acting, fashion, makeup and other things.

A good portion of the award show was conducted in English which I thought was weird.  Urdu is the national language and is spoken in offices and businesses.  So what could possibly be the reason for speaking in English?

This brought me to another trend I’ve noticed which is when I come across an aunty or uncle who insists on replying to me in english, despite the fact I am speaking to them in Urdu.  I refuse to believe the fact that that is what they are comfortable speaking (especially if your English has a thick Desi accent).

I can understand how English may be a sign of modernity and literacy.  Convent schools and Pakistani’s attending universities abroad give the locals a ‘classy’ and a ‘distinguished’ impression.  But does being educated or amongst the elite mean we must drop the core of our culture, our language? Or does it mean that speaking Urdu is a sign of backwardness or of being low-class?

After thinking about all this I started to carefully notice how much Urdu  I use on a daily basis.  There are only a handful of people with whom I speak solely Urdu to.  This thought made me sad and question why I don’t speak Urdu more often.

I feel very comfortable conversing in Urdu, as a matter of fact I feel Urdu has a wider selection of descriptive words.  Therefore at times it is easier to pinpoint or talk in grave detail in Urdu.  Sadly, my husband feels more comfortable talking in English, and it has been a work in progress to shift to Urdu…slowly but surely!  If I don’t speak it then I certainly can’t expect my son to speak it.

So I can understand that American-Pakistanis born and raised here may naturally feel more comfortable speaking English.  However, why the natives of Pakistan?

I can imagine the youth thinking its the ‘cool’ thing to do, but it is rather silly when you see grown adults giving interviews and comments in English.  It may perhaps be the issue of an inferior complexity?

I recall an incident in Pakistan when I was waiting for an order from McDonalds.  It was taking far too long and I had gone up twice to ask about the order and would instead receive a prompt and rude reply.  The third time I went up I decided to switch to English, “Excuse me I have been waiting forever, when will my food be ready?”

Off the workers went and brought me my order in a jiffy.  Had I known English would jumpstart my order, I would have resorted to it in the first place.

Urdu is one of the few things I like about my Pakistani culture, it is something I wouldn’t want to lose.  I think it is something we should all hold on to and try to speak it as much as we can.  In my opinion if we can carry both English and Urdu, then that is a sign of both intellect and balancing diversity.

Imagine if our grandchildren knew only English? Meaning in this generation we have a fair share of people who ‘understand’ it but can’t ‘speak’ it, but just imagine if they couldn’t even do that.  How boring would that be?

I was visiting Pakistan and my 4 year old cousin requested I say something in English, so of course I asked her the basic stuff such as name age etc. With a tone of disappointment she asked if that was all that I knew….I nodded and asked her how much did she know?

In response she said, “tube light, spoon, table, fork, books and dolls”.  I gave her a look of astonishment and a big “WOW!”

Sochnay ki baat hai….(something to think about…)

A National Crisis of the Heart

Somethings been bothering me and it has to do with the way people are respoding to Hurricane Sandy. The storm which has ravaged New York, affected several states and has claimed many lives is being mocked and belittled.  A friend as his status wrote: “ I bet all the ppl saying they were tired of hearing about the NE whining about a little Cat 1, are feeling pretty bad right about now.”

To that a person responded – “Did the coast flood just like it does in Fl. And the entire south east 3 times every year?  Did they loose some board walks along rivers and the ocean just like we loose piers and boat docks every year. Did someone have their basement flooded?  Was there a random shingle misplaced on a few roofs?  What?”

I was taken back, is there some resentment for the North? Do Southeners think there better than us because they have more Hurricanes? Or does this person just lack the compassion to understand the pain or suffering of others?

Okay, so that may have been a random post I thought to myself, but I was mistaken. On a NYT web article about Hurricane Sandy peoples’ comments ranged from the absurd to just spiteful,  these are few of the comments I found:

“With all the warning there is no reason ANYONE should have died in this storm.”

“Agree.  OK, so the power’s gonna be out and the subways down and some coastal homes were destroyed by fire and flooding.  I don’t see bodies floating in the streets.” – Los Angeles, California

“As one who lost everything to hurricane Katrina, I can’t help but think of the many New Yorkers who responded to my grief when I returned to settle back in NYC with the words  “What did you expect?  You chose to live in New Orleans”   Or some variant thereof.   May you learn from your current suffering that there are limits to the control we have over our lives. ” – Austin, TX

I am sorry to inform you that we have a national crisis. No this time it’s not weather related. I think our hearts have become  hardened. We are unable to feel compassion for our fellow Countrymen’s suffering and pain. I’m sure some of you will blame it on the increase use of technology, the decrease of quality personal interactions, or  the lack of time we have to gain meaningful experiences. The only thing I know is that a person that lacks compassion will not get very far in life.

As our Prophet taught us that our neighbors have certain rights on us : “A man is not a believer who fills his stomach while his neighbor is hungry.” (Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

So if you feel that you are not being able to empathize with people or being able to be a compassionate person, pray to Allah that he softens your heart and gives you the ability to feel for other that are in pain and suffering. If you think that people that have been inflicted by this storm are being punished than this is a reminder from Imam Abdul-Azeez, director of the SALAM Islamic Center of Sacramento:

“Natural disasters cannot be God’s wrath of punishment for sin, for  they indiscriminately kill innocent people. We know Allah is just. How  can he punish some for the faults of others? The Quran says, in many  locations: “ no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s  burden”. In the hadith Qudssi, Allah says: “My worshippers, I have made  injustice and transgression forbidden with respect to myself, and made  it prohibited amongst you, so do not commit injustice!””

Imam Azeez points out the three reasons that we are inflicted with natural disaters

1- They are a test for us! Allah says: “And certainly we shall test  you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits,  but give glad tidings to those who exercise patience” (al-Baqarah)

2- They serve the purpose of bringing us closer to Allah (swt).

3- They bring us all together!

Let’s unite together and not pick geographic locality, religion, or other types of labels to stop us from  feeling  for people who are suffering as a result of hurricane Sandy, political unrest in Syria and countless other catastrophes that are happening worldwide.

 

My Hajj

Today is the day of Arafah and I am reminded of my own Hajj experience 5 years ago, when I was still a senior at the University of Connecticut. My parents were planning on going to Hajj, but when they asked me:

“Abeer do you want to go on Hajj with us?”

“What?! Wow!” I thought to myself.

I had never in a million years thought that I would be going on Hajj during college. So when they asked me as bad as it sounds, I was very hesitant in going. I felt there was a lot of pressure on me at that moment. Like a lot of people, I thought that I will have to be a different person once I come back. Am I ready to come back full force with a new perspective on life? What made things even worse was that my younger sister was eager to go!

But who could say no to Makkah? The best place on earth. After quick contemplation, I realized that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I may never get this chance ever again. I knew this would be the golden opportunity to clean my slate and jumpstart my relationship stronger with Allah SWT.

Going on Hajj was the best thing that ever happened to me.

We had made our intention of going to Hajj but our visas did not come until much later. Therefore the fear of not going to Hajj was lingering over us. I had a beautiful dream in which I saw the Kabah. I still don’t know the meaning of that dream, but at the time I assumed that it was a sign that Hajj was meant to be. The visas thankfully came a few days later.

We prepared for Hajj by listening to lectures, reading books, and taking part in Hajj workshops online. We had a long list of little essential things. During Hajj, the people are in ‘ihram’, which requires certain attire and specific rulings such as unscented soap/lotion and no trimming hair/nails until Hajj is over.

It is recommended for those who are going on Hajj that they should return any money or stuff they have borrowed. They must also mend ties with anyone whom they have caused pain or harm to. In our Hajj books we learned that our Hajj Journey would begin the second we leave our house to go to the airport.

We also read that throughout this journey we will be tested in various different ways. My sister and I reminded each other not to lose our patience with one another once our journey began. We got to the JFK airport and read our itinerary and realized that our flight from Abu Dhabi to Jeddah was leaving before we even got there. SubhanAllah, we knew our testing had begun!

On our flight to Jeddah everyone had come into ihram. For men their garments consist of two white sheets and for women they must dress modestly and basically meet the Islamic conditions of dress. I saw the beauty of being in ihram, everyone was wearing similar clothing. We were all equal, whether it be class, education, race or ethnicity, in Makkah we are all the same.

Everyone on the plane was going on Hajj and as Jeddah was coming closer we all started reciting the talbiyah loudly, the feeling was so beautiful and we all recited as one.

Throughout Hajj I felt a sense of unity, belonging and contentment. The eman rush, joy and peace you feel would void out the exhaustion, hardships and obstacles encountered on Hajj.

It was my first time seeing the Kabah and it looked surreal. This is the direction my prayer is made to, this is where it all started. Zamzam, Quran Revelation and Prophets. This. Was. It.

It was a miraculous feeling. My eman was booming, I felt the one on one connection with Allah SWT.

Estimated 3.4 million people made Hajj this year masha’Allah!

Makkah is a town that normally has a population of two million people, but during Dhul Hijjah close to 4 million people travel to Makkah therefore tripling the population. If a person were to get lost, then the chances of finding them would be nearly impossible. My family decided to keep one of the gates as a place to meet in case we were to get lost.

Props to the Saudi government for doing their best in making the Kabah so clean. They have their hourly cleanings, sweeps

The men mopping the floors

and mopping. One would think the bathrooms would be a mess, but surprisingly they are very clean. It is no easy task to clean a place of four million people.

After completing the Hajj I experienced firsthand the respect ‘Hajjis” got. There were signs all over Saudi congratulating people on Hajj, even Pizza Hut had a sign dedicated to Hajjis. We received free food boxes, gifts and fruits throughout our journey. Once we were leaving the airports we received boxed gifts from the Saudi government that contained kufis, books, tasbeeh and dates.

We took mini journeys throughout Hajj. We had to travel from the Haram to Mina, then Mina to Arafat, then Arafat to Muzdalifah, then back to Mina (with trips to Jamarat in between). Although these mini trips were only 2-4 miles apart, due to the drastic traffic increase, a 10 minute journey would end up taking hours and hours.

On our trip from Mina to Arafat, our bus got stuck in a major traffic jam. The air conditioning was not working, it was over 100 degrees and our clothes were drenched in sweat. A sweet man with a fruit cart on the side of the road came on the bus and gave all of us a tangerine. A fruit never tasted sweeter, I can’t imagine the amount of ajr that man must have received for quenching the thirst of that many muhajiroon (travellers).

Tents in Mina

Our tents in Mina were actually a lot of fun. Each group varies in terms of what they offer in their tents. They were air conditioned, we had sleeping bags, and there were about 35 women in our tent. We met three college girls, two of them were from New York and one from Georgia. A lot of the aunties in our group were telling my mom that my sister and I should have done Hajj once we got married with our husbands’ money. Count on Desi aunties to butt in with their unnecessary comments even on Hajj. Sigh, but the rules of patience must be implemented at all times.

Inside the Mina tents

In those two weeks I had no access to email, friends and obviously facebook. I left the dunya and felt at ease about it and did not miss it one bit.

I met people from every corner of the world. I saw red heads with freckles, massive organized groups of Indonesian and Malaysian people, African women in their Erika Badu style garb and my most favorite were the blond haired-blue eyed folks! It was diversity at its finest.

The people in your Hajj group became your family. You lived/ate/slept with them for so many days. You shared your food, medicines and everything else, gave comfort in times of hardships and most importantly created memories. One of my fond memories of Hajj is of Fajr all 3-4 million people were up and It felt as if there was a big party going on. People would be munching on breakfast, reciting Quran and praying tahajjud. Days began at Tahajjud.

There were countless lessons to be learned from Hajj, but the major thing that a person is forced to have is sabar. You come out of this trip learning to be more patient. I now realize that it is the most essential trait for a Muslim. We need patience when it comes to dealing with our parents, children and especially our spouses. In the darkest moments of our lives it is patience that helps us overcome hardships.

For me the Hajj was quite literally the experience of a lifetime. I remember when Hajj was completed a feeling of sadness came over me. It’s the same feeling one gets when ramadan is over, except a million times worse. I wondered if I would ever get the opportunity to come here again. It was heart-wrenching when I was leaving the Kabah and coming back to the distracting and shaytan-influenced dunya.

On top of all that, I had to hear questions like “Are you not going to back bite any more?…no more movies/music? Are you going to pray tahajjud from now on?”.

First of all we can never be ‘flaw-less’, we’re prone to sin. However, we should strive for better and constantly improve ourselves and repent for our mistakes. We need to make a conscious effort to further ourselves on the siratul-mustaqeem.

I feel blessed that Allah SWT considered me worthy enough to go to Makkah. I would have been a different person had I not gone. Also I am incredibly thankful to my parents who granted me this opportunity. At the time I didn’t realize how expensive and complicated it is to go on Hajj. I pray that Allah SWT blesses my parents, put barakah in their risq and grant them the highest level of Jannah-tul Firdaous, Ameen.

May Allah SWT accept my Hajj and allow me to visit Makkah many more times Ameen!
Something to miss Makkah about….

Cooking with a Slow Cooker

 

 

Dear friends,

The weather is beautiful, the kind of weather where you want to take advantage of the beautiful afternoons and then eat a hearty homecooked meal in the evenings to warm up your family as the temperature drops…

This is when you should take out the crock pot/slow cooker and let it do all the hard work for you. This way  you can come home to a wonderfully smelling kitchen with a warm dinner ready to be served.

Here are a few desi-ish  recipies that I found online. Take a look, try them and tell us what you think!

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

http://cookingclassy.blogspot.com/2012/02/slow-cooker-chicken-tikka-masala.html

 

  Hyderabadi Curry:

 http://www.indianfoodrocks.com/2006/08/hyderabadi-marag-in-slow-cooker.html

Mint and Garlic Leg of Lamb :

 http://dinnerwithjulie.com/2012/10/19/leg-of-lamb-slow-cooker/

I wish I had these toys!

When I was a child I don’t recall having “Islamic” toys or even books.  I don’t remember ‘Quran Challenge” game or “Masjid Blocks”.  These days members of our Ummah have found numerous ways of incorporating Islam into children’s lives;  Whether it be fun, educational or crafty! (The caption tells you the company/site if you are interested in purchasing!)

1. Build a Masjid Game

Smart Ark

 2. Easy Doll Sewing Kit

Smart Ark

3. Bismillah Notebook

Smart Ark

4. Floor Puzzle

Little Big Kids

5. Scrapbooking Stuff

Silver Envelope

 

6. Islamic Manners

Muslim Toys and Dolls

 

7. Daily Dua Stickers

8. Mosque Building

Muslim Toys and Dolls

 

9.  Qibla Arrow

Muslim Toys and Dolls

 

10. Little Big Kids Clock(cool commercial for it)

 

 

A Preschooler’s Understanding of Hajj

Humza started in an Islamic preschool in our community almost a month ago. We had heard great things about it so we had registered him a year prior to him attending to ensure his spot (it fills up fast.)

During that year I was in Pakistan for an extended period and so I enrolled my eldest son in a nursery school in Karachi. My experience in the nursery was great. I was amazed at the professionalism of the teacher, the staff and the kinds of activities that the kids were exposed to. The facility although at a private residence was spotless, inviting and very kid friendly.

I came back from Pakistan and it was time for Humza to start school. I began to have doubts about my decision of enrolling Humza in ADAMS Radiant Heart Academy. The preschool was not as clean or inviting as the nursery in Karachi. My friends were astonished to hear that a Pakistani nursery was so amazing and I kept comparing the two institutions in my head.

Initially the great thing about ADAMS was that my son was extremely happy going to school everyday. He would wake up excited about going to school and would be very eager to pack his snack. Sometimes as punishment I would threaten him by saying, “If you don’t listen to me than I won’t take you to school tomorrow!” He would be in tears! But it wasn’t till a week ago that I saw the “magic” of an Islamic preschool,

Humza had been learning Surah Al-Fatiha for a few weeks but just last week he came home and just recited the whole surah with almost no mistakes. I was stunned. I had not done anything really to help him learn it except for reciting it with him a few times at night or on the way to school in the mornings. But it gets better, I had been thinking of Hajj and Eid-Al Adha but I didn’t even think to explain the significance  of both these events to my 3-year old.

I was too busy thinking about important things like:  What I’m going to wear on Eid? What should I cook for Eid? And Where is the party this Eid?!?

On Monday afternoon while quietly eating his vanilla yogurt Humza looked at me and said, “Momma, Hajj has mountains.”

Totally shocked in a good way, I nonchalantly answered “Oh really? What else is there in Hajj?

My three year old broke it down for me: “Hajj is where the Kabah is and there are mountains and their is Zam Zam which we can drink. We run between the mountains because their was a baby who had no food. The baby was kicking because he was hungry and his mommy was running back and forth to the mountains to find food.”

WHOA! I was blown away!!! How do the teachers explain these concepts while still keeping the kids engaged and happy? Hats off to them.

The ADAMS preschool is not the most well-equipped and certainly is not very glamorous but the school has a lot of heart. It has just been a month and  now I  realize why parents love Adams Radiant Heart academy, the teachers instill in their students the love for Allah (SWT) and all of Allah’s creations. It also makes life for parents easier by introducing the students to concepts that we may not have been able to explain. On the other hand it may be challenging  parents to open up their Islamic books so that they can keep up with their kids. I know I certainly need to!

10 Best Days

Growing up I didn’t know much about the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah.  I knew about Hajj and that was about it.  Later on in my life I found out about the importance of fasting on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah. Recently I found out the importance of the 10 days.  I have included some notes taken from ‘I got it covered’ and IslamQA (link provided) and have also included a 10 minute lecture on the virtues of the 10 days.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “There is no deed that is better before Allah or more greatly rewarded than a good deed done in the (first) ten days of al-Adha.” He was asked: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah?” He said: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah, unless a man goes out himself for jihad taking his wealth with him and does not come back with anything.” [Al-Daarimi, 1/357]

Thus, the ten days are better than all other days of the year, therefore, whoever is not able to go to Hajj should use this blessed time to complete even more righteous deeds than usual. These can include anything such as giving charity, honouring one’s parents, upholding the ties of kinship, and enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. Fasting and remembrance are particularly recommended:
1. Fasting Nine days, especially on the Day of ‘Arafah
It is Sunnah for the Muslim to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, because fasting is one of the best of deeds. In a hadith qudsi, Allah says: “All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except fasting, which is for Me and I shall reward for it.” [Bukhari, 1805] The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The Prophet used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah and the day of Ashura, and three days each month, the first Monday of the month and two Thursdays.” [Abu Dawood, 2/462] The ten days of Dhul-Hijjah include Yawm al-`Arafah (the Day of `Arafah), on which Allah perfected His Religion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fasting the day of `Arafah expiates the sins of two years: the past one and the coming one.  Fasting on the day of Ashura expiates the sins of the past year.” [Muslim]
2. Remembrance
It is Sunnah to recite remembrances known as the takbeer, tahmeed, tahleel, and tasbeeh during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, saying these words out loud in the mosques, homes, streets and every place in which it is permissible to remember Allah.
Takbeer: Allahu akbar (God is most great)
Tahmeed: Al-hamdu Lillah (All praises be to God)
Tahleel: Laa ilaha ill-Allah (There is no god but Allah)
Tasbeeh: Subhaan-Allah (Glory be to God),
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained how, “There are no days that are greater before Allah or in which good deeds are more beloved to Him, than these ten days, so recite a great deal of tahleel, takbeer and tahmeed during them.” [Ahmad, 7/224]
Here is a detailed explanation on the virtues of the 10 days
http://islamqa.info/en/ref/1699/dhul%20hijjah

 

Please watch this short video by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi