Items to Bring
It’s a good idea to keep copies of your travel documents with you at all times during your trip. Travel documents include passports, visas, green cards, government and/or national identification cards to prove your identity. It’s important to have them with you at all times in case you get lost or separated from your Hajj group.
Sometimes the Saudi police will ask you for your identification, to ensure that you are traveling with an active Hajj visa. Many times, people from all over the globe go to Hajj illegally without a government-issued visa, so for your safety and convenience, it is best to keep copies of these documents on hand. I would also recommend leaving a set of duplicates at home in the event the duplicates you are carrying are lost. It is also a good idea to take a picture of them from your cell so you have them on your phone.
Speaking of phones, a SIM Card & Un-locked GSM cell phone would also be a good idea for the Hajjis to carry with them while on Hajj. New regulations in Saudi Arabia require a copy of each person’s passport and his/her biometric data (usually fingerprints) before a Saudi SIM Card is issued. The SIM card can be used on any unlocked GSM cell phone to make phone calls and send messages internationally – at a cost of course.
Unlocked cell phones are also readily available for purchase in Saudi Arabia. My advice is to save yourself the headache of dealing with Saudi retailers and bring your own unlocked GSM cell phone with international service ready to go from your cell phone provider. Trust me on this one.
Currency and Valuables
For us Americans, 1 USD is equivalent to about 3.73 Saudi Riyals – a little goes a long way in Saudi. Visa and Mastercard are also widely accepted in major stores as well. Even in the small sooqs near the grand mosques of Makkah and Madinah will often take a card. However, if you’re a bargain shopper like myself, never underestimate the bargaining power of cold-hard cash in the Middle East.
For those of us living in North America, the weather in Madinah & Makkah is expected to be very hot and will only continue to get hotter in the coming years as the month lunar month of Hajj moves further into the summer months. It is best that before you pack for the trip, that you check the weather, including the long-range forecast for Madinah and Makkah for the duration of your trip.
On a side note: keep in mind that the longer you wait to perform Hajj, the hotter it will be. It will be quite a few years until the Hajj moves into the winter months.
Clothing & Accessories
Since the weather in Saudi Arabia is considerably hotter temperatures than North America, it’s best to consider purchasing clothing that is breathable, light and appropriate for the religious journey for both men and women. During the Hajj, women are not obligated to wear towels like men are, so we have the liberty to wear pretty much whatever color, cut, material or style of clothing we want while in ihram– as long as it’s modest and within the bounds of sharia of course.
I will advise the sisters who are not accustomed to wearing hijab to purchase hair ties to pull their hair back into a ponytail or bun. Ensuring that you’re dressed modestly and not showing hair is very important. I would suggest buying long amirah-style hijabs, you know, the kind that you wear at home for prayer that comes down to your waist. If you don’t like the long-hijab look, you can always opt for wearing under-cap bonnets with your hijabs just in case you have runaway hair strands that keep poking out of your hijab.
The reason I am emphasizing keeping your hair covered at all times while in the holy land is for two reasons; A) Out of obedience to Allah and respect for the most sacred places on the planet and B) Because if the Saudi religious police (muṭawwiʿūn) see a Muslim sister with a convertible or sheer hijab with hair poking out of the sides, I promise you that you will get scolded and cited for your offense.
You don’t speak Arabic you say? That doesn’t matter, the Saudi police have gotten creative and have an outlined woman on their bright pink citations that they use to circle the area of your offense. For example; some offenses include the showing of the hair, transparent clothing or headscarves, pants or abaya’s above the ankle, not wearing abaya etcetera. They will circle your offense and hand you this pink slip as a reminder and will continue to cite you until you comply.
I have met a few American sisters who were cited (and shocked) by the citations handed to them. But at the end of the day, you have to remember you are not in your home country and at the very least, we should be respectful and cognizant of offending others whether it be on a cultural or religious basis.
Hajj Benefits the Married and Single alike
Time and time again, single Muslim sisters tell me that they won’t perform Hajj until they are married and can be accompanied by their spouse. The romantic in me can understand their sentiment and reasons for wanting to wait, but I would ask them to consider that marriage isn’t a condition for Hajj. Furthermore, whether you are married or single, the blessings from performing the Hajj are far too great to dismiss, especially if we are financially and psychically capable.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Keep on doing Hajj and Umrah, because they both eliminate poverty and sins just like a furnace eliminates the dirty impurities of iron, gold, and silver. And an accepted Hajj has no reward less than Paradise.” (Tirmithi, Nisaa’i, Ahmad).
It is important to note here that regardless of what our marital status is, we should not let our worries and self-imposed stipulations deter us from giving Allah (swt) His rights.
If we are concerned for our rizq and our success in this life and the next, then the next logical step is to go straight to the source of all of those blessings we so desperately seek. We must remember that Allah (swt) is the ultimate provider. Not our spouses, not our parents, not our loved ones – Allah alone. He is fully capable of taking care of each and every one of our needs and we should trust in his names and attributes.
A Gem to Ponder Over before embarking on the Hajj
Hajj is a unique pillar of Islam because it requires two unrelated elements to be present for the act of worship simultaneously – the financial, and physical. Whereas the other pillars of Islam (shahadah, salah, zakah, sawm) only require one or the other, never both.
No doubt all pillars of Islam and all aspects of Hajj and their rituals have their pearls of wisdom, but when it comes to the talbiyah of the Hajj I think the message is very clear and full of meaning. Pilgrims chant the following in unison:
“Labbayk, Allahumma labbayk, labbayk la sharika laka labbayk, Innal Hamda wan ni’mata laka wal mulk, la sharika lak.”
It translates to; “I am at Your service, O Allah, I am at Your service. You have no partner. I am at Your service. Praise and blessing belong to You, and the Kingdom. You have no partner.”
If we stop for a moment and reflect on the meanings of those words they are deeply profound.
Our sole purpose as Muslims is to worship God alone and make Him the center of our life. During Hajj, we are proclaiming our obedience to Him in our dress (i.e. ihram), our increase of worship, our speech (i.e. talbiyah), our obedience of the sunnah, submission, displays of brother/sisterhood, and increased signs of humility and patience.
The talbiyah teaches us that not only is the pilgrim called to obey Allah in the few days he/she is performing Hajj, but they are publicly proclaiming their intentions to submit to Allah for the remainder of their lives and in every aspect.
Our dress, worship, speech, obedience, submission, brother/sisterhood, humility and patience displayed while in the state of ihram should be implemented in our daily lives long after we have cut our hair, performed our tawaaf, taken kaaba selfies and bought our exotic perfumes and prayer rugs we never use.
Hajj shouldn’t be just a ritual that is taken lightly. It should be a life-altering experience. If you embark on this sacred journey don’t you dare come back the same old person, with the same old habits you were before Hajj.
Upon leaving your loved ones, friends and families, renew your intentions and get ready to make major changes in your personal life and strive to be a better Muslim than you left. As you prepare and learn the rituals, fundamentals, and prayers of the Hajj, take a few moments to stop and reflect on the deeply profound words of talbiyah and the statements you will be making before Allah and whether or not you are willing to commit to them.
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