Last year Allah chose to bless me and my husband with the opportunity to perform our hajj.
This was a blessed and wonderful experience that revitalized our faith and strengthened our beliefs. Hopefully, we made an investment for our Hereafter.
It is difficult to write about one’s own hajj experiences, but I shall try and at least make a start with this article.
The journey for hajj begins much before boarding the aircraft. It begins even before ticket-bookings are done. This is a journey that has a beginning in a dream to see the land where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) walked.
It begins with a prayer to Allah to take you to the holiest of mosques, the sacred mosque in Makkah. It begins with a desire to pray there, and with an intention to complete the fifth pillar of your Islamic way of life.
This is where it all starts, with an individual desire to undertake this arduous and difficult journey to a different part of the world because His creator commanded us to.
And so this is where our journey began. When my husband and I got married, we decided that hajj would be a priority we would complete at the first possible opportunity.
All through the year we made plans, little things like saving up our leaves from work, so that we had them all collected for our hajj. We also saved whatever money we could for this journey that we intended to make.
As we approached the end of Ramadan, our eagerness grew and we hurried to make the final arrangements. We had a scare at this stage, when we were told there were no more spaces left on the hajj tour that we wanted to join. But this was cleared up and most things were arranged before the end of that week. All that was left to do was to wait and plan for the day when we were to travel.
Spiritual & Pragmatic
Hajj is a very spiritual journey, but it is important to be pragmatic when planning your journey.
Vaccinations, visas, air-bookings, all of this has to be done much before you actually travel. The tour operator you are traveling with will arrange most of this for you, but it is a good idea to always double check.
Then comes all the packing that must be done. Make sure that you do not take too much; the lighter your baggage, the easier it will be to haul around. Clothes should be light as temperatures can get very hot during the day in Makkah.
Brothers should pack a few ihrams (two pieces of cloth attire worn by men during the state of consecration), though you shouldn’t worry about taking too many as they are easily available in Saudi Arabia. If going in the winter, please take a warm jacket as Madinah can be rather chilly at dawn and after sunset.
Other things that you must remember to pack are any medications that will be needed along with the doctor’s prescription. Don’t forget good quality footwear. Remember, there is a lot of walking to be done.
A rucksack is very useful, it can be used to store any essentials that you would need while you camp in Mina.
Keep this bag small because if it is too big, security might stop you from carrying it in certain areas. Also keep this bag very light. All you need is a copy of the Quran, a drink (rather, an empty bottle that you can fill with Zamzam water), a snack, a change of clothes (when camping in Mina), and any other essentials — including medicines — you need for a day.
Hajj includes a lot of physical activity, particularly walking, so if your lifestyle is a very sedentary one — eight hours at the computer at work, then home for dinner, chit-chat and bed — it is a good idea to incorporate light exercise, like walking or jogging, into your schedule during the last month before your hajj.
Hajj is a spiritual journey that also requires physical strength and stamina. With a little bit of preparation you can have an experience which will last for a lifetime and beyond, and every time you think of the journey you made, you will want to go back again and again.
Another thing to consider is your food. You cannot obviously pack and take it with you, but once you get to Makkah, you should be careful about what you eat.
If you are prone to the flu, getting a vaccination is something you should seriously consider. Ask your doctor about this.
Remember also to drink loads of water. This will keep both the flu and dehydration at bay.
Patience is essential during your hajj. You may have to stand in long queues. You may have long waits before you get food, or get a bus, or get anything. You may have to deal with the largest crowds you have experienced. You may unintentionally get trod on or get pushed.
In all of this, it is important that you maintain your cool and remember that this is a journey recommended by Prophet Muhammad and Allah.
Our Journey to Makkah
Now coming back to our story. As our departure date got nearer, our excitement grew. This was a different trip. This was a journey we were undertaking simply to please our Creator.
One of the first things we did was to read as much as we possibly could. We read about hajj and the different rituals we would have to perform. We knew the story of the Prophet Ishmael (Ismail) and his mother, Hagar, but we read it again.