Performing Hajj is a duty endowed upon every abled Muslim. While it is a dream for all Muslims to fulfill this obligation at least once in their lifetime, only the more fortunate ones get the chance to visit the House of Allah.

We all feel the excitement of the pilgrimage, the recitation of duas and the preparations whether it is you, your family or someone you know is going for Hajj. Hajj is an obligation which requires strong imaan and good physical health; hence it is necessary that you make the essential preparations before performing the Hajj to help you make the most out of it.

1. Make Duas and Ask Allah (SWT)

The first step is your niat (intention). Make a clear intention that you are performing the hajj pilgrimage for the sake of Allah. Make lots of Duas to Allah to give you the health, strength and resources to perform and to complete the hajj pilgrimage.

2. Pilgrimage Time and Costs

It is always better to start ahead of time. The duration of a hajj pilgrimage takes up 3 to 4 weeks (sometimes longer), hence you should start planning a year ahead. If you are employed, you will have to talk to your employer about the leave of absence you require and to talk to a travel agent to know the exact dates of the pilgrimage in the following year. You can obtain a rough estimation on the dates from the pilgrimage packages advertised by agencies and the additional costs which you may incur. These will give you a good deal of time to save up for a year and to shop for the best Hajj deals available.

Hajj packages undergo price hikes when you try to book an agent with an – around the corner dates. However, this can be avoided when you talk to an agent beforehand and plan your pilgrimage timely along with other details (immigration, group lead, hotel stay and travel etc.). By doing this, you are able to get a much clearer idea on the Hajj packages and save a lot of money.

3. Physical Health

While we believe health and sickness are both from Allah (SWT), it is also compulsory for you to take the necessary steps to make sure you are in good health. Get an overall health check – up done by a doctor before you leave for the pilgrimage to know your current physical condition. You should know the condition of your vital organs, medication that you will have to take, doses of current medication that you will have to change and most importantly vaccination shots to be taken.

Consult your physician for medical advice or do a quick study on the internet for more health – related information. World Health Organization (WHO) for example frequently updates their report on the guidelines and requirements for international travellers such as medical requirement as well as health risks on various countries which could help in your preparation.

4. Know About the Required Documents and Travel Agents

There are many travel agents out there that provide multiple Hajj packages. It is vital for you to consider travel agents that would handle most (if not all) of the necessary paperwork for you. Make sure to ask the travel agents on any doubts that you have. Learn about services available by the agencies such as transportation options. Travelling by bus may require long hours but the alternative taxi service comes with an additional cost.

Ensure you have a valid passport that extends to at least a period of 6 months from the date of your departure. Passport procedures require a certain period of time to be processed. Therefore, start working ahead and do the needful such as renewal of passport, visa application etc. Consult with travel agents who will take care of these needs especially your visa application – where more documents will be required in order to be approved.

5. The Big List

The Hajj essentials list varies from the compulsory Ihram (clothing worn during hajj)to the smallest item such as a pen. These items would make your journey to and stay in Saudi Arabia safe and convenient (and to save you from unnecessary spending during your pilgrimage).

1. Ihram

A white garment consists of two pieces of unsewn and plain cloth, usually cotton.  They have to be light, cool and sweat-absorbant to ensure you clothes are comfortable during Hajj.

2. Medication

Joint pain, gastrointestinal problem and respiratory infections are some of the common ailments that occur during the Hajj period. The close proximity to thousands of people, the exertion in prayers and the physically demanding Hajj rites can make one fatigue and thus, weakening the immune system. Talk to your physician and get the necessary medications or supplements in case of these health challenges.

3. Money

Plan your expenses and bring sufficient money to cover them. Carrying large amounts of money can pose safety issues on the travellers themselves to which you can resort to a travellers’ cheque. This cheque can be cashed almost anywhere and is easily replaced in case of theft. Carrying a credit card is also a safer option.

4. Waist Pouch

Carry a waist pouch with the essentials all the time. Keep your valuables, i. e. passport, travellers’ cheque, credit card, keys etc with you at all times. Always keep an eye on your pouch especially in over-crowded places.

5. Snacks / Water

Though it is not necessary for you to carry your food around, you can bring some snacks or energy bars with you to keep you going with the Hajj arrangements for the day. These can come in handy especially during rites – packed days to replenish your energy.

6. Miscellaneous

Don’t forget to pack your prayer tools such as pocket Quran and tasbeeh and your personal hygiene supplies such as toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers and lip balm. Other essential you may want to include in your list are slippers, umbrella, flashlight, detergent, napkins, a cap, and sunglasses.

7. Exercise Regime

Some of the hajj rites would require physical exertion whereby it requires strength and endurance. In order to complete these rites alongside millions of people, with the hot weather and within the limited time frame you definitely need to build up your stamina. Hence, it is necessary for you to be in a good shape before you take off for hajj pilgrimage. Start with a routine of brisk walking or jogging for about 20 minutes to an hour a day. You can increase this duration as days go by. You could also practice reciting the Talbiyah and Tawaf prayers audibly while carrying out the exercises.

8. Talk to Someone Who Has Performed Hajj

Take this opportunity to gain useful tips and advice from  family or friends who have performed their Hajj. The first-hand experiences and the details on difficulties they faced will give you a clearer image and prepare you better for your Hajj.

You may also want to browse through your Google / Apple store and install useful apps to prepare you for the Hajj.

Tabung Haji for example developed THijari, an app dedicated for Malaysian pilgrims to assist their Hajj preparations including Hajj payments, Hajj status and review, flight details as well as providing them with Hajj related news.

Other mobile apps which you may find helpful during your Hajj:

1. Hajj and Umrah Guide by Darussalam Publishers and Distributors
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.darussalam.hajjandumrah

2. Hajj and Umrah by IT Department of Dawateislami
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hasshub.hajjoumrah

3. Hajj Help by App Engineer
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.labbayak

Conclusion

When Allah (SWT) blesses you with this opportunity, it is necessary that you prepare yourself beforehand to make the best out of your pilgrimage. Make early preparations to avoid any last minute hassles to ensure your time is used to focus on the prayers and rites. You should start with choosing the right travel agent, talking to those who have performed their Hajj and inculcate a new exercise regime in your routine to ensure you are physical fit to perform the Hajj.

Some people may be heading out for the spiritual journey of a lifetime soon, so I just wanted to take a moment and give a few pieces of advice for those who will be traveling soon to perform the beautiful Umrah journey.  The following pieces of advice are amongst those that I received and some that I thought of while I was abroad in the sacred sites:

  1. Do your homework
    Learn about Makkah and Madinah.  Learn about Umrah.  When I was preparing for my journey, I came across many different books that discuss Hajj and the virtues of Hajj.  However, I found it difficult to find information on Umrah.  Sure, the books on Hajj made references to Umrah and had short chapters in it, but those snippets didn’t satisfy my craving to learn more.  I did eventually come across a nice book on Umrah entitled, “The Ultimate Guide to Umrah.”  I am not endorsing one specific book over another, but I would urge you to learn about what you are about to experience before you go.  Also, make a copy of your passport and important documents and email them to yourself and your loved ones so you have a copy if something goes awry.
  2. Company makes a man
    If you are going with other people, then make sure they are good people.  A company makes a man, and it’s true when you are in the sacred sites as well.  Having good company can make a lasting impact on your journey.  Are the people you are with going to encourage you to pray Tahajjud in the Haram and do extra tawaf or are they going to instead encourage you to eat the 4000 calorie meal from McDonalds at 2 am so you experience a food coma and have trouble waking up for fajr?
  3. Know the rules of Ihram
    There are simple rules that people can violate without thinking.  For example, know that you can’t use scented soap when in ihram, so try to get some unscented soap before you leave.  Another rule is that you can’t cover your head with your ihram (for men).  So even if it’s really sunny, don’t wrap that towel to protect yourself.  Another issue is it’s important to cover your awrah while in the state of ihram.  Don’t expose yourself while you are wearing it, just be careful insha’Allah.  If you get a chance, check out Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s transcribed lecture entitled, The Fiqh of Hajj and Practical Advice for Hajj, which has some good tips when it comes to ihram.
  4. Barber hygiene
    At the conclusion of Umrah, it is customary for men and women to cut their hair.  For men, don’t just cut a snip of your hair.  Instead, cut your hair all around, even if you don’t want to shave it.  If you do decide to shave it (recommended), then make sure the barber whom you visit uses a brand new disposable blade.  The Saudi government requires it and most barbers follow this rule, but just be extra careful and have your barber open up your blade in front of you.  You wouldn’t want some blood-borne disease such as Hepatitis C to be transferred to you from the dried blood of the customer before you.  For women, don’t expose yourself and cut your hair at the Kaaba.  Wait until you get back to the hotel so that you can take off your hijab and cut your hair.  Don’t sacrifice your modesty because you’re in a hurry to finish your Umrah.
  5. Take some Vaseline
    This advice is specific to men.  When you are in a state of ihram, you aren’t wearing any boxers or underwear.  Your legs will chaff and Vaseline can make a world of a difference.
  6. Visiting the Rawdah
    The best time to visit the Rawdah in Madinah is at night time.  The Rawdah is a piece of paradise found in the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah.  It is floored with green carpet and so it is easy to identify but difficult to take advantage of.  Many people have a goal of trying to pray in the Rawdah while in Madinah and so large fluxes of people are vying for a very small area.  After talking with people that lived in Madinah, the best time to try to visit the Rawdah (for men) is at night.  If you wait several hours after isha or a few hours before fajr, the rush at the Rawdah is less and it is much easier to pray and have some peaceful time for reflection in the Rawdah without the hustle and bustle that may be present at other times.
  7. Visit the sites in Madinah
    The best time to visit the sites in my opinion is in the morning time sometime between sunrise and Dhuhr prayer.  You can visit places like the site of the battle of Uhud as well as Masjid Quba, which is the first masjid built by the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  Don’t forget to pray 2 rakats in Masjid Quba and reap the reward of Umrah while you’re there, insha’Allah!
  8. Contact back home
    If you have a smartphone, you can download apps like Viber or MagicJack that make it easier to call home for free on WiFi, which is available in some hotel lobbies.  Keep your phone on airplane mode and turn on the WiFi so that you don’t get charged extraordinary roaming charges.  Also, if you have an iPhone, you can use iMessaging to text other iPhone users while the phone is still in airplane mode using WiFi for free as well!
  9. Talk with people
    Ask them where they are from.  I met people from countries I never expected to meet people from.  There are people from all over the world.  Makkah and Madinah are places of gathering for people from all over the world.  Have you ever met people from Azerbaijan or Mauritius?  Become enlightened on the beautiful brotherhood/sisterhood of our amazing faith.
  10. Make dua
    Simple to say, but very important to do.  Make dua for yourself, for others, for the entire Ummah.  You are blessed with being in such a spiritual place.  Take advantage of that beautiful spiritual high and make lots and lots of dua, insha’Allah!

Have a beautiful journey.  May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept from you, Ameen!

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Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

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