Know your fiqh! The greatest cause of confusion, argument, and mistakes I saw in people on hajj was a lack of knowing the fiqh of hajj. Alhamdulillah, Sh. Ramzy had prepared us extraordinarily well, but other groups we met were often quite confused.
- Read up! Get a good, reliable book(s) of one madhab.
- Ideally, go with a group that knows what they're doing. Traditionally trained scholars as leaders are indispensible.
- Whatever madhab you follow, Imam al-Ghazali's book on pilgrimage is worthwhile in pointing out points of adab that could make a big difference on your hajj experience.
Try and spend time with your group and group leader – build bonds with them. Talk to people who have gone recently – everyone who goes, longs to go again and their longing will, insha’Allah, increase yours and raise your excitement about going. Take the books that speak to your heart and those that are super mubarak. My favourites:
- Qur’an – Arabic and a good translation like Arberry
- Prayers for Forgiveness
- Dalail Khayrat
- Salat and Salam
- A Sira book
- Take a nice misbaha with you, since you are visiting the most Mubarak sites on the planet. There you can make du’a on them, and get the tabarruk of the kaba and the rawdah.
- Make a lot of istighfar from the heart. Salat al-tawbah. Prayers for Forgiveness helps with tawbah, too.
- Make du’a that Allah make your hajj Mubarak and accepted.
- Send salawat in abundance in preparation for your visit to Madinah.
- Read the accounts of others who have gone, like Malcolm X. There are some such books. Additionally, there is our own account.
Exercise. In the weeks leading up to hajj, try and start walking and doing some exercise to strengthen your body.
What to pack? Pack Light! I definitely over-packed when we went...I’m quite particular about my “needs” and quite sensitive on the whole...so sisters out there who are like me, rest-assured.
- A nice warm shawl, sweater, or poncho. Makkah is hot. Mina is hot, the tents are AC’d. Madinah is hot in the days, very nice at night. All you need by way of keeping warm in terms of clothing is a nice warm shawl or sweater.
- A good sleeping bag. I get cold very easily so I took a nice insulated Columbia sleeping bag with me – because I’m sensitive to hotel detergents, etc. I actually used to lay this out even in the hotels...it became my means of comfort...I could sleep anywhere so long as I had this sleeping bag! In Mina we were give a mattress, sheet, pillow, and blanket – again, I just put my sleeping bag on top! In the tents at Mina I’d often bury my face in it to avoid the AC and various coughs that rang around me.
- Three Abayas or Thawbs will suffice. And some shalwar kameez or pajamas to wear underneath. Laundry is very easy and quick to get done!
- A Small Bag. I took a Mountain Co-op shoulder strap bag with me. It was just big enough to put my sandals in, along with hotel cards, etc.
- Money Belt. No need to worry about your passport (since the Saudis hold it), but for credit/debit cards and cash, it’s useful. Better, in my opinion for a woman to wear it underneath the layers of clothes. Men, for whom it’s easier for pick-pockets to get to, might also want to keep their valueables out of sight. Stashed money in a pant pocket that can be buttoned, is pretty safe if kept under a thobe. Take a few hundred dollars in cash, and if you need more you can take it out using the ATM (call your bank/credit card company ahead of time and let them know you'll be travelling). One finds not much cash is needed since most meals are covered by the group.
- Cell Phone. Our group provided us with SIM cards, so all we did is take our SIM compatible cell phones with us and we could all stay in touch with local Saudi numbers. Very useful in case of separation, but be prepared to deal with poor signal reception.
- Cameras. The guards are quite strict about cameras. In Madinah you and your bag are searched thoroughly and even cell phones with cameras are not permitted. In Makkah things are a little less tight, but guards do still search. My camera broke the day we began hajj and I think it was for the best because it prevented me from getting distracted.
- MP3 Player. Nice to listen to Qur’an, hadras, dhikrs, qasidas, and lessons on hajj from the Shuyukh. I also used mine to record the adhan and recitation in the haramayn. Men should be careful about headphones during ihram.
- Undergarments. So I must say, I personally believe that in all the hustle and bustle of hajj, one should not be worrying about washing undergarments. Taking enough old ones to have one for each day, or purchasing enough from a dollar store so that you can simply dispose of them as you go is a really good idea!
- Seal Skin Socks or Khuffs. Very useful, especially during the days of hajj so you can just wipe in public washrooms.
- Comfy Sandals. This depends on you, but it’s rather warm so I preferred sandals (the kind you can wear with Seal Skins on) and even outside of the days of hajj, I like to be able to make wudu and put on my sandals without having to deal with socks). Having something with a heel strap might be more secure.
- Unscented Soap. A few bars worth – something for Mina, as well as to keep with you when you’re moving around during the days of Hajj. Natural Health stores carry them.
- Unscented Deodorant. Really important, especially at Mina since showering isn't always easy, especially since you don't want hair falling out.
- Hand-Sanitizer. For use outside of the days of Hajj.
- Medical Kit. Very important. I packed:
- Vitamin C. Start taking this way before you leave and continue daily!
- Birth Control: For the ladies, as much as I dislike these, it’s a good way to be able to make all the rights of hajj with one’s group. But see your doctor!
- Glucose pills: for when you feel dehydrated, but don’t want to drink a tonne of water).
- Tylenol: good for when you start feeling flu symptoms, are fatigued or feverish.
- Advil: for any other pains, inflammations, etc.
- PeptoBismol: For those times that the food just doesn’t sit too well.
- Tums. Heartburn, indigestion, and the like.
- Gravol: When you really feel like the food didn’t sit well!
- Cough Drops: Whichever ones you like. My preference is Ricola and cough drop-centred Halls.
- Vicks Vapo-Rub: This is good for if/when you do get sick. When I couldn’t stop coughing at night in Makkah, my dear friend and roommate with mommy experience, taught me a great trick so I’ll share it here. Rub Vicks on your neck/chest and then wrap a towel around it...helps the cough go away at nights so you can sleep.
- Band-Aids, alcohol wipes.
- Adab! You are in the city of the Chosen One (Allah bless him and give him peace) – show adab to the ground, to the people, and most of all, to him and Allah. Make ghusl and go to visit him as soon as you can. Thank him for allowing to come to his city, Allah bless him and give him peace, and thank Allah for His Mercy upon you.
- Visiting the Rawdah. From what I know, the Rawdah is always open to brothers. It opens to sisters after fajr until 10am, after dhuhr for one hour, and from 8pm to midnight. The morning and night are the best times to visit since the hour in the afternoon is a short time and most who try to go, don’t get in. If you use that time to eat lunch and rest, you have more energy to go at night. Go early and wait for the gates to open. The guards try to divide you by country of origin – speaking English only helps because they give up on you. Don’t push! Be patient when pushed! Allah will reward your good adab.
- Salah. One’s prayers have 1000 times the reward if prayed at the haram. Unless there is a serious reason one cannot go, one should try to make each prayer in congregation at the masjid of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Most hotels are within a five or ten minute walking distance.of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Most hotels are within a five or ten minute walking distance.
- Walks. Some of the most peaceful moments I had in Madinah were each night after midnight when the Rawdah closed. I would walk once in the courtyard around the entire masjid, alone – take your misbaha and just make dhikr. One never feels alone or frightened in and around the masjid.
- Ziyarah. Your group will likely plan the ziyarah to key sites for you. Places such as Masjid Qiblatayn, Masjid Quba, Jannat-ul-Baqi’, Uhud, Khunduq, and the well of ‘Uthman ibn Affan.
Dhikr and Suhba. Mina is a good time to talk to one another about things that are of benefit. Do private dhikr, little mawlids, etc. This is where one really develops a bond with brothers and sisters. We had a yummy doughnut stand outside our tents and chicken nuggest place, too!
- Dhikr, Istighfar, Du’a. This is the best day of the year and the best place. Make use of it with earnest du’a for forgiveness and salvation. Bust out your awrad books. Remember Allah. Pray.
- Jabl Rahmah. Try to get to Jabl Rahmah – the place where our Master Adam (peace be upon him) made tawbah, and where the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave his final blessed sermon.
- Walk to Muzdalifah! I say this with complete sincerity and seriousness. Walking from Arafat to Muzdalifah is generally not something on the itinerary of one’s group. The scholars always mention its merit, and for us, by Allah’s Mercy, a group of us became separated from the rest and ended up having to walk. Alhamdulillah, that we did because it was by far, the best day of my life! One really feels that they’ve left the world behind and are marching for Allah Ta’Ala. Nothing is sweeter than the sounds of every tongue shouting “Labayk, Allahuma Labayk!” (At Your Service, O Allah, at Your Service!), on foot, in and on buses. The truth is that on a bus one generally falls asleep or feels separated from the blessed earth and the other hujaj, but on foot one feels connected to the earth, the sky, and the people, and experiences what the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) did. The himmah comes from another realm and one doesn't even become fatigued!
- Sleep at Muzdalifah. Even if it’s for an hour, this sleep is unlike any other.
- Jamarat. Be aware of your surroundings. It’s quite safe now. Once you’ve stoned, just be careful not to run into the crowd head-on, lest you be hit by a stone!
Salah. One’s prayers have 1000 times the reward if prayed at the haram -- you can also fast a day or two if you feel up to it. Unless there is a serious reason one cannot go, one should try to make each prayer in congregation at the haram -- and remember there is more than one floor! Go about three hours eary for Jumuah. Praying Fajr/Maghrib on the roof is stunningly beautiful...with the sun coming up or setting, the melodious voice of the imam seems as if it is coming straight from the heavens and into your heart. Subhan'Allah.
- Don’t waste too much time shopping. Set aside one or two trips to the market, but that’s it. One doesn’t know when and if they’ll ever return to these Mubarak lands. Markets and items can be found everywhere – there aren’t any “great deals” during hajj and they’re not worth giving up “eternal deals” for, anyways.
- Be patient! Know that everyone is coming from different places with different social norms. They are guests of Allah as much as you are, so show them love and respect even if they do not. They love Allah.
- Smile! Really!
- Have something to do during delays which can happen anywhere at any time. Shaykh Faisal once suggested that if one has a goal to read the entire Qur’an, one welcomes delays! Listening to the khayr on your MP3 or better yet getting everyone to sing together is another great idea.
- Know that you will get to where Allah wants you to be and has destined you to be. You may have plans, but Allah’s plans are better.
- Keep us in your prayers.
If you're making the journey, and have questions, please feel free to email me or post them here. Also, if you're going please email me :)
I pray insha'Allah, that these were of benefit. Please remember Salik and I in your du'as. That Allah allow us to really know Him in this world and the next, grant us salvation, a high station in Paradise with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give peace), bless our parents, families, and loved ones, and give us good health, happiness, and tawfiq. And du'a that He answers our prayers.May Allah accept your hajj, Hajj Mabrur, insha'Allah. Ameen.
Hajj Tips Posted from Readers on My Blog Last Year
My Hajj Account
Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller: 2 files on Hajj > Free Lessons > The Hajj
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf: Hajj – Journey to the House of God
Shaykh Murad on 10 Good Manners for Hajj
A Poem for Arafat > Remember the poet in your du'as.
Travel Medicine for Hajj > Remember the doctor in your du'as.
Maliki Fiqh (Malikis, be prepared for the one time you might be forced to take a rukhsa.)