“And pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House (Ka’bah) for Allah is a duty upon mankind, for whoever is able to find a way there” (Aal Imran: 97)
If you are one of those blessed individuals who has been able to find a way there, then you must take the time out to prepare before you make this important journey. Once you have made that intention to go for Hajj or Umrah, always remember that this is a call from Allah and a duty that He has commanded you to fulfil. Do not be fooled into thinking that pilgrimage has come about for you because you have decided or because your annual leave falls perfectly in the month of Dhul-Hijja. It is from Allah, He has chosen you from amongst the many Muslims and truly, this is His mercy upon you.
On remembering our obligation, it is vital that we must not take our pilgrimage lightly. Our love for Allah and his call to us has enabled us to make this trip – so we must make the most of it! It was narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said: ‘From one Umrah to the next is an expiation for whatever came in between, and an accepted Hajj brings no less a reward than Paradise.’ (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1773; Muslim, 1349). So preparation is paramount, this is a trip of a lifetime one which we may only be able to take once. We must therefore do what we can in advance to have a good pilgrimage and InshAllah may Allah accept it and grant us Paradise.
On understanding its importance, we need to make this trip as stress free as possible, we need to make it easy and comfortable so that we can focus on its sole purpose – Jannah! Going for Hajj and Umrah is not an easy process as one would like to imagine. The trials and tribulations can begin straight away. Don’t be nonchalant, everything you do to prepare will reflect on your time spent in Makkah and Madina so be thorough in every aspect of your planning.
Problems do occur. Commercially, there is corruption within the industry and as consumers we can get stung. Being Hajj and Umrah we automatically put our trust into people in the industry however, there are rogue travel operators out there, some not appropriately certified to sell travel packages, some that sell visas that are actually free and some who just don’t care to honour the service that they promise. Logistically human error can lead to problems too, some of which we can avoid such as fires, stampedes and illnesses and some that are unfortunately out of our control for instance road accidents, collapsing hotels (yes, you read right!) and theft.
The key to a successful trip therefore is plenty of planning, research and preparation so that we can InshAllah avoid the many problems and situations that can arise and it is vital that we put plenty of time, effort and energy into it. The more we learn – the more we become aware. The more we organise – the smoother our trip will be, leaving us time to perform the rituals correctly and concentrate on our cause. And so, as a pilgrim there are a number of things that we must know and do to get the most out of our Pilgrimage:
Buying a package
• Don’t buy a travel package from a company who is not ATOL registered and is not licensed by the Ministry of Hajj
• Do make sure that you get full details of your package before you purchase. Questions to ask include:
What type of accommodation is on offer?
How long will you stay in Makkah and Madina?
Does the package include transfers to and from Makkah and Madina?
How far away is the hotel from the Haram in Makkah and in Madina?
How many people will share the hotel room with you?
Does the price of the package include meals at all your places of stay?
• Do confirm that any special requirements will be met, for example disabled facilities, lifts in hotels and dietary needs
• Do make sure you have a written copy of your terms and conditions including your itinerary and take it with you on your trip
• Do make sure that you are in the best of health, take plenty of exercise before hand and know that there will be a large amount of walking involved, the climate will be much warmer too
• Do inform your GP that you are going. Check that you have the required vaccinations or top ups for your pilgrimage and that you have your vaccination cards with you
• Do make sure that you have taken enough quantities of your medication to cover you through the Hajj/Umrah period if you have a pre-existing illness. Medication should be clearly labelled for each individual
• Do make sure you have good quality footwear as you may have to walk long distances
• Don’t take excessive, bulky luggage with you.
• Do make sure you mark your luggage with your full name and contact address.
• Do keep valuables and important documents safely with you, perhaps in a pouch around your waist. Be especially careful of thieves at all times including during salah and tawaf.
• Don’t use cooking facilities outside any kitchen areas as fires can easily start.
• Do follow the Saudi official regulations.
• Do use the designated tunnels when going from Mina to the Jamrah.
• Do avoid crowds and go at quiet periods when you go for the stoning.
• Don’t carry your luggage with you, follow the one-way system and do not push.
• Do check out the many services available to the pilgrim traveller on the internet;
• Do keep a note of important telephone numbers whilst on your trip such as:
British Consulate-General, Jeddah – (02) 622 5550
Ministry of Hajj Jeddah, – (02) 665 5811
Ambulance – 997
Police – 999
Traffic Accidents – 993
Fire – 998
Most importantly on all issues, don’t rely on hearsay and other people and don’t blindly follow. Take the time out to find out what Hajj is about, learn what to expect and what to do to prevent problematic situations. And InshAllah, may you all have an easy, comfortable and successful pilgrimage!