Alhamduillahi rabul ‘alameen, I have been blessed by Allah (SWT) to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages multiple times in my short 9 years as a Muslim. I work for the largest Muslim travel agency in the world as a female group leader and assist other Muslims in fulfilling their duty to Allah (SWT) in completing their 5th pillar of Islam – the Hajj.
Time and time again I have people who are born into Islam tell me how “lucky” I am to have such an opportunity, but I remind them that it isn’t luck that’s on my side – it’s Allah. Allah in his infinite wisdom, has written this job for me and I’m incredibly humbled and thankful to do what I do. Although many times my job can be mentally and physically exhausting, the satisfaction I receive from guiding Allah’s honored guests in the most sacred place on earth, makes every difficulty throughout the journey completely worth it.
Every year that I have prepared myself for Hajj, I am asked by a number of Muslims what they should consider before making the intention to perform Hajj for themselves. In all honesty, there are many things to take into consideration; whether it be financial, spiritual, social, personal, etcetera. I will say however, that each person who is blessed with the opportunity to go to Hajj has an obligation to prepare themselves before embarking on this life changing experience and should do everything possible to prepare for the journey ahead.
I won’t get into the fiqh (Juristic) issues- that are for your local scholar to answer. I’m here as your sister in Islam to help give you some practical advice based on lots of personal experience and what I have seen work for the other hajji’s on their journeys.
Everyone knows that the prices for Hajj packages can vary. From what I have heard through the masjid-aunty grape-vine is that prices have soared drastically in the last few decades. Hajj packages today can range anywhere from $6,000 upwards to $20,000 USD.
Of course, this is all dependent on the travel agency you choose; what amenities are included in the package through your travel agency; whether or not the hajj package includes airfare or just a land package and so forth.
In a nutshell, there are many factors that can influence the amount of money you pay for the hajj pilgrimage and as you can see there is a wide monetary range amongst available packages.
My straightforward and practical advice is this – when it comes to Hajj you get what you pay for. Make sure to take it upon yourself to ask other Hajji’s what their experiences were with their particular Hajj group and travel agency. What they liked and disliked, pros and cons, and if they would recommend their travel agency to you.
How will you fund for your Hajj trip you ask? Unless you are independently wealthy, a trust-fund baby, or magically come into a large sum of money, then you will have to make a conscious effort to save some cash to fund your Hajj trip. I know, I know. Saving money is easier said than done. And for many people set aside an average of $10,000 USD is very difficult to do. My unsolicited advice is this; save, save, save and don’t touch your savings! I have met dozens of Hajjis that did just that and eventually saved enough money to go.
Another way to prepare if you are contemplating a Hajj trip is by making sincere du’a. I know some of you might be rolling your eyes at this, but it’s true that prayer changes things and oftentimes rizq comes from unexpected places.
Let me tell you a quick story about my convert friend Maria and her Hajj journey. Maria has been Muslim for over 23 years and has been saving money in an effort to fund her pilgrimage to Makkah. She’s a housewife and mother and loves to dedicate her free time to calling Latino’s to Islam. She has a spouse that supports her but she decided to work odd jobs and sell hand-made jewelry pieces in order to fund her trip. No matter how hard she worked to save, she felt as though she would never have enough money to go to Hajj and often became discouraged.
This past Ramadan, Maria made a sincere and heartfelt du’a and decided that the only way she would ever save enough money for Hajj is by leaving the matter to Allah. She called upon His names and attributes and knew that someway, somehow, Allah would open the doors for her and facilitate her journey. To make a long story short; the travel agency I work for was giving away free Hajj trips for those who demonstrated leadership, dedication, and servitude in the Muslim community.
By the grace and mercy of Allah, my good friend Maria won the Hajj trip and will be performing the Hajj this year in sha’ Allah after decades of trying to save enough money for it. The moral of the story is this: make your intention, save your money and with a sincere du’a Allah (swt) will do the rest. When it is written for you and when you are summoned by the Most High, what is meant for you will not miss you.
Moreover, Du’a is an essential component of performing the actual Hajj as well. Taking the time to memorize and understand the supplications throughout these blessed rituals will be helpful to you so that; A) You can focus on your ‘ibadah and connection with Allah during this very sacred journey and B) So that you aren’t fumbling around with a book, phone or flyer in your hand while in the holiest places, spaces and time. This is a once in a lifetime chance to attain nothing less than Jannah – don’t get distracted and come prepared.
If you have already decided to embark on this blessed journey, the next thing to do is to prepare oneself on a personal level to ensure that the journey can reap the benefits its intended in sha’ Allah.
If your travel agency, mosque or local Islamic education center offers courses on the manasik (rituals) of Hajj it is very important that you understand the fundamentals of this blessed journey. We live in a time where the abundance of information is only a click and stroke away. There are plenty of online blogs, videos and scholarly articles that will help you understand the fundamentals of the Hajj – being prepared for Hajj is easier today than ever before.
Hajj can also be physically demanding. If you aren’t in the best physical shape of your life then I would strongly suggest that you consult a physician prior to your trip to Makkah and seek medical advice on how to best physically prepare for the long, hot and demanding pilgrimage to Makkah. On the same note, if you have any medical prescriptions that are essential to your health, please ensure that you have enough to last you the entirety of your trip and that your medications will be safe to travel with and will not expire or be affected by the high desert temperatures.
Hydration is also key to ensuring that you are safe and prepared for your Hajj trip. If you don’t like to drink water, I suggest you start. If water is difficult for you to drink, I would also suggest buying small travel-sized packets of electrolyte powder to help keep you drinking plenty of fluids all throughout your trip.