Preparations before leaving for Hajj
HAJJ is one of the five pillars of Islam. All Muslims who fulfill certain conditions must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. What are these conditions? Are there any prerequisites of Hajj? The answers to these and many other similar questions can help you in making decisions, and in planning for Hajj in a better and more efficient fashion.
Who must perform Hajj?
Every Muslim who fulfils the following conditions must perform Hajj at least once in his lifetime:
.He must be of sound mind and in full control of his mental faculties.
He must be old enough, and mature enough to understand the full import, and significance of what he is setting out to do.
He must be financially sound enough to be able to not only bear all of his expenses for Hajj but also to provide adequately for his dependents during his absence and until his return.
Prerequisites of Hajj
Since Hajj is an act of worship, it must be performed in peace and with single minded devotion. There are a number of simple, yet important, things you can do to get in the right frame of mind for this unique experience. All of these are self-evident and are based on common sense. They are reiterated below for completeness of the discussion and as a reminder:
Your intention must be to perform Hajj solely for the sake of Allah. Considerations of pleasing or impressing others with your show of piety should never be a factor.
All Hajj expenses must be paid out of money obtained through legitimate (Halal) means. Money obtained through illegitimate or doubtful means is not acceptable.
All of your debts and financial obligations must be fully discharged before you start your journey and, where necessary, a written acknowledgement of the transaction obtained for future use.
You must make an honest effort to resolve your outstanding differences with others and seek forgiveness from those you may have hurt in any way in the past. This is based on specific instructions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and must be followed for the Hajj to be meaningful.
Preparations for Hajj
Since Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people, the importance of early and adequate preparation cannot be overemphasised. There is a considerable investment of money, time, and physical effort required for the pilgrimage to be fulfilling and meaningful. Information has to be collected, itineraries must be worked out, and documents have to be readied. The purpose of these preparations is not only to minimize physical discomfort, emotional aggravation and monetary expenses, but also to enable you to perform Hajj in relative peace of heart and mind. Therefore, it makes sense to be as ready as possible for this momentous journey of self-discovery, self-appraisal, and spiritual enlightenment.
You will be exerting considerable physical effort during Hajj. All Hajj rites (Tawaf, Sai, etc.) require a great deal of strength and endurance. The constant crush of hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims, each trying to perform the same rites at the same time in limited spaces and very hot weather, compounds the demands on your physical conditioning and mental toughness.
In order to be prepared for the rigors expected of you, you must be in good physical shape.
Obtain and study books on Hajj and its rites if you wish to know more about its history and traditions. Familiarise yourself with all aspects of the Hajj process. Memorise the prayers you will be reciting and also learn their meaning. It requires very little effort to do so and it is so much more fulfilling and rewarding when you understand what you recite. It serves little purpose to recite prayers mindlessly with no comprehension of the words spoken.
The more you know about Hajj, its obligations, and prohibitions, the more comfortable and at peace you will feel during the whole process. You will be confident of what you are doing, and will also be independent of the advice and prompting of your friends or a mutawwif. Your prayers will bear the hallmark of the single-mindedness and devotion born of knowledge and confidence. You will also be able to help and guide your less knowledgeable companions, answer their questions, and allay their fears.
Some people do not take the trouble of learning the rites and prayers of Hajj themselves and, consequently, depend on professional mutawwifs for the performance of these rites. You will find such people performing the Tawaf under the leadership of these professionals, trying to keep up with their “leader” in the milling throngs of pilgrims around the Ka’bah, and at the same time, trying to repeat the prayers intoned by their mutawwif! With a little bit of effort, you can avoid the problems and frustrations of trying to follow someone else closely enough in a vast, moving crowd to listen to and parrot his intonations.
A female pilgrim must travel in the company of her husband or a mahram, i.e., a member of her immediate family with whom her marriage is expressly prohibited by the shariah e.g., father, brother, son, uncle, etc. A female pilgrim, who is 45 years of age or older, may be allowed to travel with a group of pilgrims without a mahram if a family in the group sponsors her. Ask your agent for details.
Things to take with you
The following is a fairly comprehensive list of things you will need to take with you to make your journey and subsequent stay in Saudi Arabia safe, convenient, and relatively care-free. Since personal needs and preferences vary, you may want to make changes in this list to suit your own requirements.
The Ihram consists of two pieces of white, unsewn and plain cloth, either 100 percent cotton or light terry-cloth. These are cool to wear and also provide for better absorption of the heavy perspiration you will inevitably experience during Hajj.
Tear off two, two to three inch wide strips of a sufficient length from the same material. Use one as a belt to secure the bottom portion of the Ihram. Keep the other as a spare. An ordinary belt or fanny belt may also be used for the same purpose, but a strip of Ihram cloth is a lot more practical, and unobtrusive. It keeps the Ihram firmly in place and, unlike a fanny belt or pouch, does not have to be inspected by the police at the entrance to the Haram ash Shareef.
Gastrointestinal and respiratory infections are very common during Hajj. People from all over the world bring with them all kinds of infections, and the unavoidable closeness of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims facilitates easy spread of these illnesses. Fatigue and lack of sleep from the physically demanding regimen of Hajj rites as well as the over-enthusiastic exertions in prayers and devotions, lower one’s immunity and resistance, thereby making one more vulnerable to disease. However, you can take elementary precautions to minimize your chances of becoming ill, and also to ensure that you will get back on your feet faster should you get sick. Getting and staying in good physical shape by regular exercise prior to your departure is a good first step. You can also carry certain medicines with you for use later.
Waist pouch (fanny pouch)
Keep valuables (documents, money, travellers’ checks, keys, credit cards, etc.) in the fanny pouch around your waist at all times. Do not ever leave your home without it. Hold on to the pouch with your hand in crowds e.g., while doing Tawaf or when visiting Al Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah. Buy a good quality fanny belt or pouch. It is a small but a very good investment.
Take a sufficient amount of currency to cover your projected expenses. It is difficult to recommend an amount since individual needs, travel and living arrangements, shopping plans etc. vary widely. Only you can decide on the amount to carry. In any event, do not advertise to others either the amount of money you possess or its place of safekeeping. You can never be too careful.
Saudi Arabia is a very hot part of the world most of the year. The presence of two to three million pilgrims during Hajj in rather congested spaces with the inevitable pushing and shoving adds to the discomfort. The Hajj rites, ziyarat (i.e., visiting places of religious or historical interest), shopping, etc. require considerable walking and physical exertion. Consequently, light and airy clothes for street wear are the best.
Take enough changes of clothes to make your stay comfortable, but be careful not to overburden yourself with unnecessary clothes. In the hot Saudi Arabian weather, one set of clothes lasts only a day. Professional laundry facilities are available in Saudi Arabia. Getting your clothes cleaned professionally is quite expensive, particularly as the prices tend to sky-rocket during the Hajj season.
Some do-it-yourself light laundry may be necessary and is, indeed, highly recommended. It is a good idea to pack some laundry detergent, and wash your Ihram and other light items yourself.
There is no need for you to carry items of food with you. Everything is readily available in Saudi Arabia at a reasonable cost. Saudi authorities do not allow perishable food items to be brought into the country in significant quantities anyway. Packaged and canned products in limited quantities, however, may be brought in by tourists and pilgrims. For emergencies and during periods of long waiting (e.g., at Jeddah airport) carry-on food may come in useful and handy. All kinds of food are available at Jeddah airport also. Some people may, however, prefer to use their own food immediately upon arrival in a foreign land.
All varieties of fruits are easily obtainable everywhere in Saudi Arabia and provide much needed flavour and nutrition. Peelable fruits (bananas, oranges etc.) are recommended to minimise exposure to infection from insanitary handling. Wash all fruits carefully before use, and avoid fruits and food exposed to the elements.
Soft drinks of all kinds are obtainable in Saudi Arabia at all major and minor shopping establishments, and are entirely safe to drink. Bottled water is cheap, and should be the only water you drink. Tap water or water from any other source (except, of course, the Zam-Zam water) should not be used for drinking purposes.
Milk, yogurt, buttermilk, ice cream, and other dairy products are widely available, and should be liberally used to supplement your diet.