Top tips for going to Hajj

You've booked your tickets, everything is all paid for and now you are waiting for the day you head off on the journey of a lifetime. Here is a selection of top tips based on personal experience during my one and only visit for Hajj.  I am not a scholar, I am just a normal person who would like to share some practical advice for those brothers and sisters who are looking to go for Hajj.

 

9. Take suitable footwear

Make sure you buy a pair of decent sandals. No I don’t mean you should go out and buy an expensive pair of Louis Vuitton’s although I'm not sure if they actually make sandals! If it’s one thing you will do when you go for Hajj, then that is to walk. I myself went through about 3 sandals when I was there. Ironically, the most comfortable sandal I bought was from a Bin Dawood (superstore – a bit like Tesco) there and it was very cheap! Unfortunately it lasted about a week, but my heels were very grateful for the respite they received. 

A good piece of footwear would be the 'Crocs' sandals. Not only are they comfortable, they will protect the upper part of your feet. Just make sure you don’t expose your feet to the sun for long period since the top of your feet (due to the small holes in sandals) will look like a pair of designer feet!

 

8. Take a small medicine bag

Hopefully you will be fine and healthy before, during and after your journey to Hajj. However, it is good to have some medicines with you just in case the unfortunate happens.

The first thing on my list is Imodium which is to help with Diarrhoea. If you have avoided dry food and indulged in mainly street food, then there is a chance that you will have an upset stomach.  I took one tablet after having slightly loose bowels on one day. From that day onwards, I was completely fine albeit slightly constipated.

The painkillers (Paracetamol, Ibuprofen) are suggested as you may experience pain throughout your body after walking for long distances. If you are already fit, healthy and walk/run then you should be fine. But for those people who are not as active, you will find the painkillers do help. Some may find some respite if taking painkillers before commencing Umrah. I found my heels did not hurt as much as it would otherwise especially during Saee. Some medicines are also provided free for Hujjaj at many pharmacies.

Similarly plasters are suggested for minor cuts you can receive whilst being squashed and walking alongside millions of people.

 

7. Carry a musalla

You might think that this is a silly recommendation. But for those who want a bit of comfort and remember, during hajj the rugs are not always available.  Don’t buy a thick musalla, but get one that is made of cloth and very light. Not the portable ones you can zip up into the size of a wallet. If you can roll the whole thing and clasp your hand around it, then that is the one you want. You can find numerous shops that sell these inexpensive items.

You can carry your musalla in one of those drawstring shoe bags which are perfect for carrying your sandals too.  Some operators provide them for free, but make sure these bags are on your shopping list before you go.

 

6. Make sure you go for Ziarah

In order to connect yourself more closely to the prophet (pbuh), visit the places he went to, where he did battle, where they dug the trenches, where he used to pray, where he lived etc.  Most operators will provide a guided Ziarah and if one is not provided, you can always ask the cab drivers to take you around. But please make sure you do not leave without seeing the major sights.

 

There are so many places that we do not know of that are not part of the mainstream Ziarah, a  knowledgeable guide can tell you so much that is worth knowing.

Some of you may want to take a hike up the mountain to see the cave where the revelation was first made to our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  This may be too physically demanding for most of you and is not an essential part of the pilgrimage.

If you are in Madinah, make sure you visit the Jannat al Baqi (cemetery). Here are hundreds of thousands of graves, including the graves of many of the companions of the prophet (pbuh).  It is said that from every grave there will be 10 thousand people being raised for the day of reckoning.  You might be able to see a funeral taking place too and it is always good to visit the grave as it is a reminder of our inevitable death and meeting our master.

 

5. Take a Quran with you

Yes, you heard me! You will not be doing tawaaf constantly or walking nonstop. You will have ample time to read the Quran. This is ibadah and you should be reading the Quran as much as possible.

There are different Arabic fonts used and some people might not find some of them an easy read especially those copies available within the masjid.  Take a small Quran with you that you can read and carry around with you. Try to read as much as you can and aim to finish the entire Quran  (at least once) before you return.

 

4. Get lots of rest before hajj

I know how easy it is to act on the spiritual high that you get when you arrive. You want to do Umrah straight away. You want to perform Umrah every single day before Hajj starts.

Whilst these are perfectly good things to do, the body has needs.  You don’t want to exhaust yourself before the demands of Hajj start.

Each Umrah that you perform will take roughly 6 hours to complete from start to finish. That includes getting ready with your bath, travel to and from Aisha mosque, tawaaf, Saee (which I found to be very demanding) and then ultimately return.

After performing 2 Umrah on 2 consecutive days with incredible lack of sleep, I could barely keep my eyes open for Fajr prayer at the Masjid al Haram. I physically had to keep my eyes open with my fingers which would then roll over. It was the most tired I have ever been in my life and something I have never experienced since. The body needs it rest else it will shut down. You don’t want to be ill during the performance of hajj.

 

3. Learn and write down duas.

There are several places in the holy land where your duas are accepted. Without giving you an exhaustive list, it would include, the first time you see the Kaaba, at Arafat between Asar and Maghrib, after stoning the devil, etc.

Write down all the things you want. Ensure your duas include not just you and your family, but importantly, it should include the entire Muslim Ummah. In addition to these personal duas, try and memorise as many of the Duas from the Quran. You will be able to recite these same duas during tawaaf and during Saee when you ascend the foot of the mountains in additional to numerous other places.

You can of course carry a small book of duas with you. There are lots that you can buy. The well-known ‘Fortress of the Muslim’ is a good introductory book, but I would advise you to buy books that have more detailed duas more applicable to Hajj and Umrah.

 

2. Patience is a virtue

'Sabr Hajji', this is the most overused word you will hear and for good reason too. From the moment that you leave your home, you will be tested. Everyone hears about this but most are not prepared for it. It is all too easy to lose your cool when it is close to 40 degrees and you're tired, hungry and things are difficult.  I remember waiting at Jeddah airport for 8 hours just to get a bus to take us to our hotel. The worst thing is sometimes you just don’t know when you can leave. That is but just a simple and trivial example. Be prepared to share your room with lots of people even if the operator told you otherwise. The 2 of us shared a room containing 9  people when we were told it was 4 sharing!

You know what? It doesn’t matter, as long as you have a place to put your head and rest your eyes, which is more important.

Even during tawaaf, you will be squashed, be knocked all over the place, and be separated from your group/partner.  You will be queuing up for good, to get to your bus, to get into the masjid, to get out of the masjid, to find somewhere to pray, to come back and find your prayer space is occupied, competing to find cabs. In all these cases, your patience and temper will be tested.  You just need to have patience. 

It is easy to get annoyed and raise your voice. Instead just close your eyes and say ‘audhibillah hi minash shaitanir rajeem’. There are over 3.5 million people crammed into the City, not all of them will have patience, just make sure that you are one of those that do and practice it for the sake of gaining the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Expect the hardest of tests (more reward), anything less will seem like a breeze.

 

1. Prepare yourself!!

There are so many things to Hajj. It not just a matter of putting on 2 pieces of cloth performing tawaaf and stoning the devil. In order to get the most out of your journey you will need to understand what, why and how the footsteps of Ibrahim (AS) is to be followed.

Attend taleem classes. Most masjids provide these classes as do many of the tour operators. For those that are in London. The East London Mosque put on very good sessions every year. (www.eastlondonmosque.org)

Some operators will also provide daily sessions when you are there. These are invaluable lessons, especially for those who have never been. Make the most of them whilst you are there and DO NOT be afraid to ask questions to the scholars. I know I would rather know something and get it right than not know and get it wrong.

Buy a book which will provide you with a guide to performing Hajj. There are lots of very good books out there. One that I found was an easy read and you will see many hujjaj carrying these....

Review them and pick one that provides you with the right level of detail. When you get there, just use the book as a reference. You don’t need to study it in great depth when you are there as Insha’Allah you will already be up to speed.

Vaccinations are essential for travelling for Hajj. You can even get refused the Visa if you cannot prove that you had the relevant vaccinations. MORE information....

Make sure you follow the correct signs when you are at Jamarat. Especially if you are by yourself.  If you take one wrong turn, then you could be walking around half the day trying to get back to your camp. Trust me; I’m one of those who did that!

Learn your duas and the various duas you should recite at various parts of the journey.

There are also very basic things that you should know such as the dua for entering the masjid and dua for leaving the masjid. Your guide book should cover all these things.

You may need to buy a sleeping bag (per person) if one is not provided. You don’t have to buy an extravagant one. Just a simple bag for around £15. Nearly everyone will leave their bags behind I am told that these bags then gets sent as charity all the more reason not to lug it around.

A belt to keep your belongings and also helps to keep your Ihram bound is essential for males. Try and get one that is of good quality which has enough space for your essentials.

Learn how to tie you Ihram so that it does not slip. I found the slightly heavier Ihram (towel like material rather than a sheet) was easier to tie and maintain. The sheet although not as hot tends to slip off more easily.

As long as you take at least one Ihram with you, you can always buy additional ones when you are there.

So there you have it, a simple list of tips that should give you an insight into performing Hajj. There are so much more tips that I can go into but I don’t want to overwhelm you with information. I really hope you have found this article useful.

I may dua that everyone who has read this and yet to perform hajj, I pray that Allah makes it easy on you. I ask you to remember me, my family and the entire Muslim ummah in your duas. Hajj mabroor.


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