Essential Hajj tips

I know its quite late for a post on Hajj, as most of the pilgrims might have already left for Mecca. But as the proverb says “Better late than never”. I went to Hajj in the year 2015 — the year of two great tragedies, one being the crane incident and the other being the really tragic Mina stampede. I was still in India when the crane incident took place inside Masjid-al-Haram, so I evaded the incident. But the Mina tragedy, was one which only Allah(swt) saved us from. I remember seeing a few causalities being loaded on stretchers into ambulances. I went on the pilgrimage with my Hubby and parents-in-law. That day — 24th September 2015, we were walking back from Muzdalifah, when we lost sight of our group members and went our own way, searching for our tent. My hubby had a sever case of conjunctivitis, and father-in-law was feeling nauseous. So these two were the main reasons that saved us from the stampede. Because we headed straight back to our tents, to rest for a while. We stoned the devil after our asr salah. The tragedy had taken place by then, everything was quite and calm by then. We stoned the devil very easily, as there were very few pilgrims after asr’ salah.

Heading straight to Jamaraat from Muzdalifah is one serious decision as the crowd is at its peak at that time. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I have read on some unknown site that after collecting stones, and praying Fajr’ salah in Muzdalifah and heading straight to stone the devil was a sunnah of our Prophet(pbuh). But in this age, where lakhs of pilgrims come from various parts of the world, the crowd is ever increasing. So it is better to avoid stoning of the devil straight after leaving Muzdalifah. That is a crucial time prone to stampedes and other serious incidents.

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Important tips for Pilgrims:

  • Put all the important documents (passports, visas, ID cards) in a safe and easy to reach place.
  • Do not pack unnecessary stuff. Keep your luggage light and easy to carry.
  • Remember all the duas by heart. Or take a copy of the duas with you.
  • Better choose a cotton made Ihram. It is quite hot out there in Mecca, and nothing is as comfortable as cotton.
  • Try and purchase cotton hijabs and under-scarves.
  • Under scarves really help hair from sliding out of the hijab. So try to wear one.
  • If wearing a burqa, wear loose fitting clothes inside.
  • Wear modest clothes. Avoid bright colored clothes, specifically shades of orange.
  • Opt for really comfortable sandals, or flip-flops. In Ihram you cannot wear shoes.
  • Carry an extra pair of flip-flops in case of emergencies, like snapped flip-flops.
  • Take fragrance-free soaps whenever visiting the toilet. Lest you borrow a fragrant soap from ignorant pilgrims and end up paying a dum (penalty).
  • Ladies please forgo make-up for the sake of the almighty. You never know what ingredients it has.
  • Vaseline is the best option for sandal blisters, or chapped lips.
  • Please do not dirty the toilets. There is always ample water running from bidet pipes.
  • Females for the sake of humanity, throw used pads in the bins provided outside the toilets.
  • Drink loads of water. Never worry about running to the loo. As half of the water flows out as sweat.
  • Put few ORS (Oral Re-hydration Salts) packets handy. Keep drinking ORS at regular intervals.
  • Take all the necessary medications in stock, a few indispensable ones include — paracetamol, ibuprofen, antibiotics, antiseptic creams (fragrance-free), cough-syrups, anti-histamines (Benadryl is the best), gentamicin,  anti-viral, anti-diarrhea medicines and other ailment related medicines.
  • There are medical units set up near every Maktab (group of tents). If your instinct tells you of being ill, please do not delay visiting the medical unit. They provide free of cost medicines and other necessary medical advice.
  • Eat light but healthy. There are vendors selling fruits outside Mina tents. You can refresh yourself with the best of fruits.
  • Prefer water over soft drinks. Colas and sodas give you instant energy, that droops back to low levels within few minutes.
  • Sleep whenever time permits. You will have not much time to sleep from the day of Arafat.
  • Collect enough and more pebbles. A pebble once fallen down should not be re-used.
  • Do not compete and push through crowds in Jamaraat. If you are not sure, then wait till you think the time is right to stone the devil.
  • Carry white umbrellas whenever you walk. As the scorching heat will make you exhausted.
  • You will have to walk a million steps. Be ready for real great exercise. Hajj is mostly about walking. Walk for the tawaf, walk for the Saeey, walk from Muzdalifah to Mina, walk from the tents to Jamarat. Walk, walk, walk dear pilgrims. Walk for Allah.
  • For the elderly and for those who cannot walk long distances, there is always the option of wheelchair. You can either buy them or rent them.
  • Do not over-stress your body by competing with other pilgrims. Listen to what the body says. Do not over do tawafs. Save energy for the main 5 days of Hajj.
  • Best time to do tawaf is after isha. As the crowd is slightly less.
  • If you cannot reach Hajr-e-aswad, let it be. Do not undertake a quest to reach it and push other pilgrims.
  • Be patient. Hajj is a time where you meet people from all over the world. Some may be really good others maybe annoying. Do not loose your patience. Remember, you are in the land where the greatest of great men (our prophets) have walked.
  • Do not hesitate spending money for taxis, and buses. You will be real exhausted if you walk that long back from Mina to Haram. Remember there is still tawaf-ul-wida to be performed. Save up energy for the end.
  • Taxis are lot better than buses. The hot desert winds and the bus journey will nearly dehydrate you. Taxis are air-conditioned, and help relax a tired body.
  • Always remain with your group or family members.
  • Do not panic if you loose sight of your group. There are volunteers helping pilgrims. All you need is to show them, you ID card which has the neccessary information on it.
  • Do not under-estimate the value of the Mina ID cards provided by the travel agency. That is what helps you reach your tent, once you go in the wrong direction.
  • Help fellow pilgrims, as much as possible. Do good deeds, Allah will be watching you from right above.
  • Have a small copy of the holy Quran, prayer beads and a prayer mat in handy.
  • Do not waste time. This is a once in a life-time opportunity. Ask Allah for all you want. Ask his forgiveness for all the sins you have  committed. Ask for a good life, a life which pleases Allah.

This is a million dollar trip in terms of spirituality. Time once lost will never come back. Live every moment of this trip. You will be in the kingdom of the Lord of the Worlds. Consider yourself lucky enough, as your creator has invited you to celebrate Eid in his own land. And pray for the less fortunate ones. Pray for the disunited Ummah of the Prophet(pbuh). Pray for everyone you remember. All the best, go live the journey of a life-time, soon-to-be Hajjis.

The pilgrimage to Makkah and its significance.

It is almost time for the annual pilgrimage of Hajj so I wanted to share a bit of information about the history of rituals behind the pilgrimage. Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, means undertaking a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The journey to perform Hajj, has a deep spiritual and personal significance. Spiritual as in the sense, being a slave of Allah(swt) you intend to perform one of the five main duties assigned to you in this world. Personally Hajj is a time to ponder on your relationship with your creator, a time to examine your inner personality— the inner you, or your conscience. And this entire journey to the holy city, is a once in a lifetime experience for many Muslims, that shall forever remain etched in their memories.

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The Ka’baa

STORIES BEHIND THE RITUALS OF HAJJ:

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SAEE’Y: [Story of Hajra (R.A) and Ishmael (A.S)]

This pilgrimage to Mecca has a deep significance in Islam, and it dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim( A.S). The story goes as such— Ibrahim(A.S) has reached a ripe age and was childless. He prayed earnestly for progeny, as his wife Sarah( R.A) was barren. At that time on the command of Allah the Prophet took a second wife— she was the servant of Sarah(R.A), her name being Hajra(R.A).

Soon after, Hajra(R.A) gave birth to Ismail(A.S). On the command of Allah(swt), Ibrahim(A.S) left his wife Hajra(R.A) and his son Ismail(A.S) in the deserts of Mecca. At that time the infant Ismail(A.S) cried and cried with thirst and an anxious Hajra(R.A) ran between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwaah in search of water for the child, but in vain. When she returned hopeless, she saw baby Ismail(A.S) scratching his feet on the soil, from which gushed out a spring of fresh water. At that time Hajra(R.A) repeated the words Zam Zam— meaning Stop Stop, commanding the water to stop, so she could collect it for the baby to drink. The ritual of Saee’y between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwaah, is this act of Hajra(R.A), which is re-enacted by the pilgrims.

“Indeed, as- Safaa and al-Marwaah are among the symbols of Allah. So whoever makes Hajj to the house or performs Umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and knowing”.

Surah-al-Baqarah (2:158)

THE SACRIFICE OF IBRAHIM (A.S):
Allah(swt) tested the piety of Ibrahim(A.S), by asking him to sacrifice his most beloved possession— his son [the holy Quran does not explicitly mention the name of the son, but many believe it was in regard to Ismail(A.S)]. At that time Ibrahim(A.S), complied with the command of Allah(swt) and set out to sacrifice his son. Allah(swt), on seeing the firm faith and conviction of Ibrahim(A.S) sent down Jibayril(A.S) to convey the message that Allah(swt) has accepted the sacrifice of Ibrahim(A.S). To commemorate this sacrifice of Ibrahim(A.S), an animal is sacrificed on the day of Eid-ul-Adha.

“And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen a dream, that [I must] sacrifice you, so see what you think”. He said “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast”.

“And when they had both submitted, and he put him down on his forehead”.

We called to him, “O Abraham,

You have fulfilled the vision”. Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.

Indeed this was a clear trial.

And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice.

And we left for him [favorable mention] among the future generations.

“Peace be upon Abraham”.

Indeed, we thus reward the doers of the good.

Indeed, he was of our believing servants”.

Surah-as-Saffath (verses 99:111)

STONING THE DEVIL- (Rami-al-Jamaraat):
Prophet Ibrahim(A.S), on his way to sacrifice his son Ismail(A.S) was tempted by Satan near a stone-heap, asking him to drop the idea of sacrifice of his beloved son. It was at that time that angel , Jibayril(A.S) appeared and advice Ibrahim(A.S) to pelt the devil with stones from the heap. Ibrahim(A.S) pelted seven stones at the devil, after which he disappeared. Iblis once again appeared at a second heap of stones, Jibrayil(a.s) said “Pelt him!” and once again Ibrahim(A.S) did so by pelting seven stones till Iblis disappeared. Satan once again appeared at a little stone-heap to tempt Ibrahim(A.S), to which Jibrayil(A.S) once again said”Pelt him!”. Finally after pelting seven little stones, Iblis withdrew.

The three Jamraat, represent Iblis in three different forms. The first bigger one was the manifestation of Iblis tempting Ibrahim(a.s) to drop the idea of sacrifice of his son. The middle Jamraat represents the devil tempting Hajra(R.A) to stop Ibrahim(A.S) from sacrificing their son. And the smallest Jamraat represents the temptation of Ismail(A.S) by Iblis, to avoid being sacrificed. This is what’s the significance of stoning the devil during the final three days of Hajj.

On a spiritual note this ritual of stoning  involves stoning the evil within us to gain closeness to Allah(swt).

THE KA’BAA and HAJR-E-ASWAD:
Coming to the Ka’baa— it is the holiest site in the religion of Islam. It serves as a focal point, towards which Muslims turn to while offering salaat. The history of Ka’baa dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim(A.S). He along with his son Ismail(A.S), built the Kab’aa. There is a particular place very close to the Ka’baa, which contains the footprints of Ibrahim(A.S), called the Makam-e-Ibrahim.

When Ibrahim(A.S) and Ismail(A.S), undertook the construction of the Ka’baa as commanded by Allah(swt), Jibrayil(A.S) bought down the black stone from heaven. Ibrahim(A.S) placed the black stone known as Hajr-e-Aswad in the eastern wall of the Ka’baa. The process of tawaf, starts with Istilam(kissing or touching), the hajr-e-aswad.

It is believed that the entire structure of the Ka’baa is designed based on a similar structure that exists in heaven, known as Bait-ul Mamur. A fresh batch of 70,000 angels perform tawaf of the Bait-ul-Mamur, wherein no batch of angels occur twice. This was the description provided by Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), after his visit to the seventh heaven on the night of Miraj.(Based on a hadith of Sahih Bukhari).

“So from wherever you go out for prayer, [O Muhammad], turn your face towards Masjid-al-Haram, and indeed it is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do”.

Surah-al-Baqarah (2:149)

Isn’t it wonderful to know that Islam has such a long and humble past. And look where the Ka’baa stands today— within the glorious Masjid-al-Haram. It is a beauty, to feast one’s eyes on. The entire city of Mecca, has a very emotional place in the heart of every Muslim. And to those who intend on undertaking the pilgrimage— live every moment of it, recall our beloved prophets and strengthen your bond with the creator.


References: Wikipedia
Photo Credits: [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons