You’ve finally made the commitment! You managed to get three (three!) consecutive weeks off work in the middle of the year, jumped through all the Saudi hoops to get your visa, booked your flight, put down a whacking deposit with your chosen group… You’re going to Hajj! The trip is still weeks away but you’ve answered Prophet Ibrahim’s call and are signing on to perform your Hajj…
So what now?
Unfortunately for many of us, the whole journey can seem so overwhelming that it’s easy to keep putting off any preparation for it until you realise that your flight leaves in just a week! As two couples who’ve been on numerous Hajj between us, we thought we’d share a few tips we wish we’d known our first times round!
So here are our 6 tips for preparing for your Haj:
1. Read up on the Hajj rituals beforehand
Try to make sure you know everything you’ll be doing out there. Hajj consists of a lot of different rituals that you will have to perform. Depending on your group and/or scholars you may be lucky enough to have everything explained to you immediately before you do it but you can’t rely on that.
Many of the things you do are time sensitive (i.e. you have to do them at an exact time) and so you can easily fall into a routine of just doing things as your group guide tells you without understanding what or why. Before you leave, and again when you’re there, read up on all the Hajj rituals and make sure you understand what you’re doing and the reason behind the action – and if you don’t completely get it – ask! But ask before you fly out, or when you’re in the hotel over there, rather than leaving it to when you’re lining up ready to perform the act.
2. Have a goal and some firm resolutions in mind
Hajj is a time to change your life. It’s a journey of repentance and reformation. So start thinking about what you regret in your life, what changes you’d like to make to yourself and what you want to ensure you don’t fall into again. Don’t come back with vague goals like ‘being a better Muslim’, make them specific, tangible things that you can come back to in 6 months and see if you’ve managed! Whilst out there, find a Hajj buddy, tell each other your resolutions whilst you’re out there and then don’t forget to remind each other to stick to each of your resolutions! Which leads nicely on to 3…
3. Write stuff down!
You’ll find moments of immense solitude during Hajj, sitting in front of the Holy Ka’ba or in Masjid Nabawi, even though you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. You’ll think amazing thoughts and have moments of complete inspiration: keep a little notebook with you and write things down! When you’re back home and going through a tough time in a few months, looking back and reading those flashes of inspiration will give you a little boost to stick to your goals and aims.
4. Time to get fit and healthy!
You’ll be surprised how much walking there is to do whilst you’re in Makka and Medina. From your (multiple) visits to the Haram throughout the day, to the eagerly awaited three day Hajj period where you’ll be constantly on your feet. You don’t want to burn out too early on your trip, as it’ll ruin your Hajj. Start walking more often (try just a 15 minute walk everyday from now) and boost up your immune system by eating healthy. Make sure to invest in some comfortable shoes, as you’ll really appreciate them out there. Trust me, once the adrenaline wears off, your feet and body will begin to ache and you’ll wish you listened to this small token of advice!
5. Prepare your heart
Going for Hajj is a cleanse for your soul, but you have to initiate the journey from beforehand. Start exercising humility from now. If you don’t already; treat everyone as your brothers, sisters and equals. Whilst on Hajj you’ll be surrounded by more people than you have ever before, all from different backgrounds. When everyone’s exhausted, tempers will start to rise so make sure you start practising how to control your anger from now. Hajj is the true test of patience!
We should all treat each other with respect, regardless of age, race and gender. The best feeling is sitting in front of the Holy Ka’ba, praying next to you is an individual from Asia, on the other side is someone from Africa and behind you is another from Europe. You’ll really appreciate the vast numbers of Muslims there really are in the world and how lucky we are to have such a wide global community.
If you haven’t already done so, start asking for forgiveness from the people you have hurt and do istegfaar (ask Allah for forgiveness). We sometimes get caught up in day-to-day living and forget to look at the bigger picture of why we are here.
6. Be prepared!
Start writing and ticking off your travel checklist from now, but remember: essentials only! Although everything is now available in Makka you don’t want to waste time buying items whilst you could be sitting in the Haram…on that note, don’t get distracted with shopping whilst out there. Too many people take it as a “normal holiday,” but remember it’s not and concentrate on the reason you’ve embarked on such a spiritual journey.
Through God’s guidance we pray you have a spiritual and fulfilling Hajj trip. It really is a journey of a lifetime, one that will make you appreciate the Muslim Ummah, which we are lucky to be a part of. This trip isn’t just about bettering one’s self, you’ll realise each action you perform is another opportunity for you to appreciate worshipping God whilst united. Hajj isn’t easy but it’s a trip you’ll pray to go on again and again after your first time. Prepare yourself from now, open up your heart and let God in.
by Fatimah, Shaahid, Abbas and Masuma Jaffer