IIt is the duty of every Muslim to go for Hajj at least once in their life if they can afford it and they are of good health. When the time comes, it’s a moment of great excitement. Unfortunately, for many, the beautiful and enlightening experience is often scarred by unpleasant incidences. These can vary from losing their temper at a close friend or relative, not getting the accommodation they were promised, changes to their planned itineraries, falling seriously sick or suffering an accident. Some incidences are beyond their control but many can be avoided if one takes the necessary preparation and avoid the pitfalls that others fall into.
So what does one have to do when they start to have the ni’yah to go for Hajj?
Once you are well informed about the religious requirements of Hajj, the next thing you should do is to check around for the various Hajj packages available. This is best done also by asking friends who have been to Hajj, to recommend a good package to go with or which packages to avoid. Many leaflets and brochures promise many things but unfortunately, the organisers do not deliver. From a 4 or 5 star hotel, 50 metres from the Haram, 2 in a room that’s advertised, the passengers are given a 3 star hotel, 1 km from the Haram, 6 in a room etc etc.
So check around for a good reputable and experienced organisation that has a good track record and make your bookings with them. A good agent should be able to give you full details of when you fly, which hotel you are staying in, location, programme, what’s included in your price and what is not included. All these information should be clearly outlined to you.
Don’t compare prices blindly as there are many costs involved during Hajj. For example, is food included? Breakfast only or half board or full board? Is Qurban included? Are the muassasah fees included? How many people per room? Is travel between cities by air or by bus? What is the total period of the programme? Who will accompany the group? Who do you look for if you have problems? What is the main language of communication? These are all important factors to look into. The best is to get recommendations from people who have been before.
Once you have chosen an agent to book with, you should concentrate on preparing yourself mentally and physically. Read as much as you can about Hajj and the procedures of doing Hajj. Understand the various rituals and how and why they are performed.
What many people fail to realise is that doing Hajj is quite a demanding physical exercise. With the huge crowds, even walking short distances become very tiring. When you are doing your tawaf of the Holy Ka’aba, depending on the size of the crowd and your distance from the Ka’aba, you could be walking several kilometres to complete the 7 rounds.
Then there is doing the Sa’i. The distance between Safa and Marwah is 450 metres. Multiply this by 7 times and its more then 3.1 kilometres. It is therefore essential that you start doing plenty of walking exercises before you embark on your trip. You will also probably be walking from your hotel to the Masjid every day, 5 times a day. If you are lucky, your hotel is near the haram. But sometimes, you can be staying some distance away from the Haram. Also, the Masjid Al Haram itself, is a very large complex and there is a lot of walking to be done. So be prepared and do your walking exercises so that you will not find it a big difficulty to walk several kilometres a day.
See your doctor and get his advice for taking some vitamins to prepare yourself for the trip. Many pilgrims get sick because they are weak and they easily catch the flu, cough and get diahorrea. So try to start on some vitamins or other health improvement medication, to keep yourself healthy during the trip. DO NOT OVER EXERT YOURSELF. The whole process of doing Hajj is quite long and is physically and mentally demanding. So conserve your energy so you may complete your Hajj properly and in a healthy condition.
Some of the other factors to keep in mind when you are performing your Hajj are :
Safety – You should always have some form of ID on your body. If your agent does not provide one for you, make one for yourself giving information such as Name, Country, Name of your group, Hotel you are staying in Mecca and Medinah and if possible, local phone number of your group leader. This is very important in case of any accident.
Your belongings – Be security conscious. Do not expose large amounts of cash when buying things or leave your wallet or purse unattended. It is a good idea to buy a ‘travellers pouch’ to carry your cash and other important documents. You can hang this around your neck or wear it as a belt underneath your clothes. Unfortunately, they are some people who will steal from you even in the masjid or whilst you are praying. So don’t tempt them.
Traffic – Be aware that they drive on ‘the wrong side’ in Saudi Arabia . Be careful when you cross the roads. Look carefully and be careful of speeding cars.
Telephones – Making phone calls from your hotel room can be a very expensive affair. The usual thing to do is to buy phone cards or call from phone cabins. Easier still, ask your family or friends back home to call you at a fixed time, instead of you calling them. It works out much cheaper this way. If you have your own mobile phone, use SMS to make contact. SMS your family members when you are in your hotel room and give them your hotel telephone number and room number and have them call you. It is much cheaper this way.
Hygiene and personal health care – The air in Mecca and Medinah can be very dry. Use moisturisers at night to stop your skin getting too dry. Drink lots of fluids. Also, be sure to wash your feet thoroughly after visits to the mosque. The floor and courtyard of the Haram is cleaned and mopped with strong disinfectant and this can irritate more sensitive skins.
Dignity – Always be dignified in your behaviour when you are in the Holy Land, especially in the Haram area.
And the most important thing to bring with you when you go for Hajj is ‘SABAR’. Always remember, you are not the only one there. Some 2 million other people will be doing Hajj with you. You are a guest in Allah’s house, so you should be on your best behaviour and have a lot of patience. Focus on why you are there and don’t get distracted or get upset by petty matters. Do not let your bad actions spoil your good deeds.
Insha’Allah, by making some simple preparations before your trip and knowing well what to do when you are doing your Hajj, you will find that it can be completed quite smoothly. Hajj Mabroor Insha’Allah.