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What to Expect at Hajj – A First Timer’s Guide

What to Expect at Hajj – A First Timer’s Guide
Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Editor’s Note: 

The following post contains a Hajj guide and personal reflections from the author’s Hajj journey. If you know anyone embarking on the journey of Hajj this year, send this along as they may find it useful! If you are going yourself, congratulations! What an honor, mashallah! We wish you a safe and life changing pilgrimage and ask that don’t forget us in your duas! 🙂 

Assalamu Alaikum ladies! Hajj season is upon us!  If you are going to Hajj this year, you might be feeling anxious – and you have every right to feel this way. No matter how many people describe the journey of Hajj to you, it’s not something you can understand until you personally experience it. Just remember, the ability to perform Hajj is an invitation from Allah (S), and He treats His guests with nothing but the best!

I wanted to share my Hajj journey and reflections with you all because it is something I wish I had prior to my pilgrimage. I’m hoping my memories will help somewhat in preparing you for Hajj. I break down the entire journey step by step below:

Madinah

Typically, you’ll first arrive in Madinah. This where you should really brace yourself and build your stamina for ibaadah (worship).

After Fajr, I typically would shop a little then go back to sleep around 7:30-8:00 am on the mornings that we did not sightsee. That usually gave me a solid 4-5 hours of sleep, which helped me get over my jet lag. Since you will have more time in Madinah, try to finish any gift shopping there (prayer beads, prayer mats, gold, etc.).

Two things I bought immediately were a basic black abaya and a white abaya (cost was approximately $30 USD). I wore them to the ground and then donated them before returning home. They were light and airy – perfect for the immense heat. While the heat is indeed extreme, you will probably be cold more than you will be hot because of the blasting A/C’s. My husband also got his thobes and pants to wear underneath for a very nice price.

We shopped in the mall where KFC was, as well as a shop across from the ‘I Love Madinah’ store. If you are looking for high-end abayas, then I recommend you wait until you get to Makkah. But for normal wear and tear and usage as well as little girls’ abayas, shop for them from Madinah.

One of the challenges in Madinah was getting to the Rawdah (the Prophet (S)’s grave). Make sure you follow your leader and try not to be in a big group. Our few moments there were comparative to, I would imagine, being spun in the washing machine. Continue to read duas and once you can pray your nafl, get ready for the water works, SubhanAllah!

We stayed at Movenpick in Madinah, and our gate was number 15. Typically, US groups stay around that area.

Enjoy your time in Madinah and try to imagine the history when you visit areas like the Mountain of Uhud and Quba Mosque, to name a few. Live in that moment; it’s so powerful to think of all that our Prophet (S) did for our Ummah and how we tend to take it for granted.

Makkah

Whether you are traveling by bus or plane, you will cross the Miqat, at which point you will make niyyah (intention) for Umrah. At that point, you will start reciting the Talbiya:

“Labbayka Allahumma labbayk, labbayka la sharika laka labbayk, inna alhamda, wal ni’mata, laka wal mulk, la sharika lak.”

For me, this was such an emotional moment. I was reminded of how powerful Allah (S) is. He has granted me the opportunity to perform Hajj, and for that – and everything He’s bestowed upon me – I am eternally grateful. Again, be prepared for the waterworks.

From this point forward, you will be in Ihram and will not be able to use any scented items. This is where all your non-scented wipes, hand-sanitizer, deodorant, lotion, hand wash and possibly shampoo will come in handy. Depending on your timeline, once you arrive in Makkah, you will rest a little, eat and then head for Umrah. Your hotel room will have scented toiletries, but remember, you cannot use them or you will invalidate your Ihram!

Tawaf

I can’t urge you enough to try to perform your Tawaf on the first level. They’ve really opened it up and the feeling there is like no other. It will take anywhere from 25-40 minutes (versus 2 hours or more on other levels). On the first level, you will be able to see the Kabah constantly as you perform Umrah.

For safety reasons, your leader might push for other levels. Stick with them, but at least one time, whether it’s during a nafl tawaf, Hajj tawaf/ Tawaf al Ziyarah or Tawaf al-Wada’, try to experience the first level. One thing I want to mention is that all my life, I had heard to look down while walking towards Kabah and then as you come upon it, look up and make dua and it shall be accepted.

However, while we were at Hajj, the Shaykhs said that was a cultural thing. You will come across a lot of “cultural” suggestions, so please be wary and ask a scholar about anything you are unsure of.

Remember, you are at Hajj so keep your defenses on the minimum and your Nafs in check! Try to take advantage of any opportunities for good deeds and give as much charity as you can (I often gave to the workers cleaning the Haram in Madinah and Makkah or the women cleaning the bathrooms in Mina).

Safa wal Marwah

For the Sa’ey of Safa wal Marwah, it doesn’t matter what level you walk on. Just beware of the wheelchairs (they should be in their designated aisle). During this part of Umrah, try imagining Hajar being left by Ibrahim (AS) and trying to find water for her son.

After the Tawaf and Safa wal Marwah, you still need to cut your hair to complete your Umrah. It’s better if you bring your own hair cutting scissors from the US. I didn’t, and let’s just say I had to get a significant amount chopped off when I came back home to get it fixed. Nevertheless, it’s a fun bonding time with your Hajj sisters.

After your Umrah is complete, the exhaustion and hunger will set in, so shower, change your clothes and eat!

Remaining time in Makkah, before Hajj:

You will have a few days in Makkah before you depart to Mina for the start of Hajj. Try to perform every salah in congregation here (salah at the mall is also considered part of the Haram’s congregation, which is 100,000 times the normal reward!!). Unless you’re sick or exhausted, take advantage of this!

Also, try to finish any shopping you want to do because once you leave for Hajj, you will only be back for the final tawaf (Tawaf al-Wada’) after which you have to leave Makkah.

It’s pertinent to make a list of gifts and requests from family and friends prior to leaving for Hajj, so you’re not scrambling to remember while you’re there.

As far as food is concerned, eat whatever meals are included in your package, and eat the rest at the food court. You have every type of cuisine there – from Pakistani to American to Turkish and much, much more.

Try to get some rest the night before you leave for Mina.

Mina

The night before you depart for Mina, your travel group will ask you for the bags that you will NOT be taking with you; they will be stored until you leave for the airport or Jeddah. For Mina, I packed a carry-on and a backpack.

The carry-on contained my toiletries (remember, non-scented because you will be in Ihram for three days), pajama pants and a tank top for each day I’m in Mina and two abayas – one for Arafat, Muzdalifah, and the first of the Jamarat and the second for the remaining days. I also packed one pair of flip-flops and my Clark cloud-stepper sandals and oud that I had bought from Madinah to wear after I get out of Ihram (this will be the day of Eid for all not performing Hajj, but remember, for Hajji’s it’s not over yet!).

The backpack contained some snacks (Belvita crackers and Nature Valley dry granola bars), my water bottle (the kind that keeps water cold for many hours), cold packs and basic meds that I ended up using near the end of Mina (Sudafed, cough med and Tylenol and electrolyte tabs). My body had given up at that point, but Alhumdulilah after Muzdalifah, you do get some rest in Mina. Your time there will be mostly spent in ibadah.

Once we arrived at Mina, we settled in, ate, and learned about our days ahead.

Arafah

Mount Arafah is significant because it was where the Prophet (S) gave his farewell sermon. During the entire day there, Muslims performing Hajj stand in earnest supplication, praying for Allah (S) to forgive all their sins. For Muslims around the world who are not at Hajj, the Day of Arafah is the day before Eid, typically spent fasting and worshipping Allah (S).

Once we got to Arafah, we prayed Fajr and were strongly urged to nap until Duhr. I took heed of the advice and even skipped breakfast because I did not want to waste time and wanted to get some rest. This is where my snacks came in handy.

In Arafah, you combine Duhr and Asr. After you pray, it’s time to get to work and ask for Allah’s mercy. This is one of the most important times during Hajj when Allah will (inshallah) cleans you of ALL your sins. I had compiled a list of duas the month before Hajj.

While making dua and reflecting on my life, I cried so much because I felt like the biggest sinner in existence. It was at this point, I realized, we all get deceived by this Dunya. I asked for forgiveness for everything wrong that I had done, then made duas for myself and anyone who had asked me to (which I had also compiled on google docs).

You might see people sleeping during this precious time. Be sure to wake them and urge them to make dua. Others might want to converse or chit-chat with you, but it’s okay to stop them because you might never get this opportunity again. I took a 10-minute break for lunch, and a few hours later for bathroom and wudu before the lines got long (approximately an hour before it was time to depart to Muzdalifah).

I recall listening to the Khutbah in Arafah and crying like a baby. Loudly. You can’t control it and you get so immersed in the duas. I poured my heart out to Allah (S) and felt so light afterward. As we were walking to the gate right before Maghrib to depart for Muzdalifah, our group leader told us that this feeling of lightness is a sign of acceptance. InshAllah you will feel this way as well. Make your final duas before the sun sets and imagine yourself rising on Arafah on the day of Judgement. It really put things into perspective for me.

As you wait for the train or bus to head to Muzdalifah, make sure you keep yourself hydrated! It will be hot, and you could be waiting a while for your transportation.

Muzdalifah

After 5 hours of waiting at Arafah, we finally made it to Muzdalifah. It was very exhausting, but Alhumdulilah could’ve been worse. It’s Hajj after all, and you will endure hardships. Allah (S) will test your patience at various points whether it’s with wait times, people, food or perhaps all of the above.

Try to spend your time at Muzdalifah resting and worshiping. Also, make sure you collect stones for Jamarat.

Jamarat

At Jamarat, you will throw the stones you collected at three pillars that represent the temptations of the Devil. The stones represent Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s rejection of the devil’s recommendation to not carry out the sacrifice commanded by Allah (S) and the firmness of his faith.

While stoning, continue to make all the duas that are in your heart and remember, you can’t fool Allah (S) – He knows you best!

After throwing the stones, pilgrims will slaughter an animal as a sacrifice and give away the meat to the poor.

Tawaf Al-Ziyarah

When you head back to Mina, you will hear that it’s Eid. People may even dress up slightly because it is, but remember, it’s not Eid for you yet. Like Umrah, you still have to get your hair cut and perform Tawaf al Ziyarah before your Hajj is complete. After the hair cutting, you will be out of Ihram for Tawaf Al-Ziyarah, so feel free to shower with your scented toiletries.

We headed to Makkah for the Tawaf after Isha that night. We took the bus, and it took a very long time due to the rush to arrive at Makkah (it’s only a 15-20 minute walk), so on the way back, upon completion, we had ice cream and walked back!

We did the second round of Jamarat and then headed back to our camp. Our Hajj was now complete! We had one final round at Jamarat, then one more night in Mina that I utilized to read Quran and bond with my Hajj sisters.

The last and final ritual for Umrah and Hajj is Tawaf al Wada’. After completion, it’s time to head out, and, for us, that meant heading to Jeddah for two days before leaving for the US.

This is a very concise recollection of my Hajj experience, but I hope it can give you a general idea of what to expect. Everyone has their own experiences but remember this – Hajj is not granted to all. Take advantage of this invitation from Allah (S). Don’t waste this opportunity.

For me, I realized, how short this life is and how easily we all get consumed and duped by this Duniya. The last day at Mina, I sat down with a scholar and asked him about Hijab. It was at that point that I decided to wear the hijab full-time. It is a daily reminder to me that Allah (S) granted me this incredible journey and I am forever grateful.

My hijab keeps me in check. I battle my nafs every day to place the scarf over my head and then remember that no one matters but HE who created me. He is my protector. He is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem.

This life will be over before we know it, and Hajj was a reminder of that. It is time to get our priorities straight. This might not make sense now, but I promise you after Hajj, it will inshallah!

Hajj Preparation:

For a general list of what you need to pack for Hajj, you can reference Melanie’s “Preparing for Hajj – What to Bring and What to Expect” post.

 

Lastly, please keep me in your duas! Hajj Mabroor! May Allah accept from us all!

 

Know anyone going to Hajj? Send this post to them, and let us know if you have any other advice or tips in the comments below! 

This article was originally published on hautehijab.com

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About Sadaf Haq

Sadaf Haq is an American of Pakistani Descent. After a few years of working in Corporate America, she now dedicates her time to volunteer work, community organization, and her Radio show, Perspectives, which airs on Radio Azad (local to Dallas). Sadaf is actively involved in Interfaith work and uses that as a platform to clear any misconceptions people have about Muslims.

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