There are many people who argue that a new Muslim should wait for a while before going to Hajj.
They argue that they shouldn’t go too fast or they will burn themselves out or that they should wait until they are more knowledgeable and are able to perform all the rituals perfectly before thinking of going.
There are other people who argue that a new Muslim should wait until their faith is stronger before going on Hajj fearing that the challenges of Hajj will be too much for them. Not only do they fear that the stress of the Hajj itself will be too much for them, but that being faced with the challenges of life in a foreign country where the customs and habits may be so different could be a shock to them.
They also fear that being faced with so many poor people or so many Muslims who aren’t demonstrating the most Islamic behaviors could even make them question their faith.
There are others who argue that it would be better for a new Muslim to do a “Hajj-Lite” first and go to Umrah before venturing on Hajj, as if that would break them in more gently and make it easier for them to face the real thing.
And there are yet others who argue that a new Muslim woman should get married before she contemplates going on Hajj, so she will have her own husband to travel with.
But is this what God and His Prophet (peace be upon him) say?
The Real Advice
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Islam is to testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish the prayers, to pay the Zakah, to fast Ramadan and make the pilgrimage to the House. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Hajj is one of the basic Pillars of Islam and becomes an obligation once someone has said his/her Testimony of Faith. After becoming a Muslim, they learn how to pray, pay Zakah and fast when the appropriate times arrive and their conditions are met, and they also should go to Hajj when it’s time and conditions are met.
And what are the conditions for Hajj?
If someone is a Muslim, sane, adult and free, they have met the first three conditions for Hajj to be required of them. God then says:
And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. (Al-Imran 3: 97)
So anyone who is physically and financially able should go to Hajj. It is a duty that God has placed on all Muslims. Anyone who can physically bear the journey and manage the rituals alone or with support and if they also have enough money to be able to pay for the Hajj expenses and still have enough to cover their other financial obligations while they are away, they should go.
All these matters are agreed upon by the scholars, the issue that they debate over is whether a woman can travel alone to Hajj or whether she has to be accompanied by a mahram, due to the different hadiths that have been related on this subject.
However, according to the Saudi Visa regulations: “all women are required to travel for Hajj with a mahram”, unless they are over 45, when they may travel with an organized group without a mahram.
And finally, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Whoever wants to do Hajj, let him hasten to do it for he may fall sick or be faced with some need. (Ibn Majah)
No exceptions to this were made for new Muslims, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was perfectly placed to put special requirements on new Muslims should he have felt it necessary.
So the advice is that if you can go to Hajj, you should go as soon as possible, as the benefits far outweigh any possible disadvantages that may be experienced by a new Muslim. This has been borne out by those I have known who have gone to Hajj within the first few years as Muslims. In fact doing so has strengthened and reinforced their faith, and helped them to have a deeper understanding of it.
I discussed this recently with a local sister, Cath, as we have both been on pilgrimages to Makkah. She went there for Hajj with her husband two-and-a-half years after saying her Shahadah and I was able to go to perform Umrah with a group of sisters two years after mine.
In the situation I was in, studying Arabic in Jordan at that time, I didn’t face any resistance to going. In fact it was the opposite; I was given so much help, support and encouragement to go.
Cath on the other hand faced questions as to whether that was the right time, would Umrah be a better option and also about the huge financial outlay that was required at that particular time.
But she had such strong feelings that it was the right thing to do, that she should go to Hajj as she was able to, that she persisted and made the pilgrimage. She now feels so glad and relieved that she did it when she was able to and prays that it was accepted.
We shared many similar experiences and emotions about our journey. Both of us were struck with a sensation of the surreal when we found ourselves actually there in Makkah, facing the Ka’bah and performing the exact same rituals as the Prophet Muhammad had performed in the places he had actually performed them.
For new Muslims who hadn’t grown up with Islam being part of their lives, the experience of actually following in the Prophet’s footsteps cemented Islam much deeper in our hearts.
We both traveled with and met some amazing people on our journey from all over the world, from so many different ethnic groups, colors and backgrounds. It made the reality of the Ummah so much more tangible and increased our connection with it.
And, although it was at times challenging coming across people who didn’t seem to understand what was expected of them in that sacred place; by trying to look below the surface of their behaviors, it increased the comprehension that Islam truly is for all people and for all time, and that there are many different ways that people express their love for God.
From our experiences, we came up with some recommendations that we hope will help those thinking of doing Hajj:
- If you meet the criteria and are able to go, don’t delay, make plans to go to Hajj as soon as you can. You don’t know whether you’ll be given another opportunity like this one and at least you’ll be rewarded for your intentions
- We would advise that you have at least learned how to basically pray five times a day before you go and feel confident doing this, as you won’t be able to perform Hajj without it. You will never know everything about Islam, so don’t create unrealistic obstacles for yourself to delay you going.
- Do your research and ask for recommendations of a group that have experience of supporting new Muslims that you can travel with, who are professional in their organization, are following the correct creed and will offer you sound advice and support.
- As a new Muslim, you will need to show a certificate of your conversion to Islam to apply for a visa for Hajj. So if you haven’t already got one, find out where you can get one.
- Attend a pre-Hajj course and speak to trustworthy people who have already been on Hajj to prepare yourself for all aspects of the journey as well as you can before your departure.
- Travel with people who will encourage you to make the most of your Hajj in terms of getting closer to Allah, rather than treating it like a social vacation. This may be the only time you go to Hajj, so make the intention to make this one the best you can!
May Allah make it easy for all New Muslims wanting to go to Hajj and may it be a blessed journey that will help increase their faith and knowledge of Islam.
This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.