Hajj is first and foremost a spiritual journey. The end goal of Hajj is simple–receive the gift of complete forgiveness of all of your past sins. All you have to do is complete the mandatory requirements of each ritual and step of Hajj while avoiding a few critical mistakes and the gift of forgiveness is promised to you.
Here are some spiritual preparation tips for those attempting the Hajj pilgrimage this year. I’m sure you’ve been packing (check out my previous recommendations for a Hajj Checklist and Packing Guide) but don’t neglect preparing yourself! Some of the preparation should begin before you leave for Hajj, so don’t wait. Some of these tips were given to me by others and some were tips that I wanted to share from my experience going on Hajj last year.
*Note: Asterisks (*) indicate that personal discretion may be used once the days of Hajj are completed. Some practices will be obsolete or unnecessary once Hajj is completed.
Before You Leave:
- Master the rules of Hajj according to your Hajj group’s leader/scholar. This includes memorizing the duas you need to make (according to your Hajj leader.) Study the material that they provide for you, create summary lists/notes and even a cheat sheet to have with you on a note card. If you get lost or separated from your group or lose your dua book or Hajj guide, make sure you can complete the rituals on your own. Hajj is the final exam of a lifetime. (Note: I don’t recommend taking Hajj rules from multiple sources because you will be confused. )
- Make sure you feel solid in your five daily prayers, even if you don’t pray regularly. Be comfortable with the basic rules of wudu and prayer and that you have the prayer and enough Quran memorized to adequately complete the prayer. Hajj is not the time to mumble and stumble through your prayers. Don’t simply assume that if you learned to pray as a kid that you are doing it right, check with someone more learned than you or refresh your knowledge and practice of prayer! If you’ve neglected learning or fixing your prayer you can and will improve and learn, but it may take a lot of work if you’ve left it for this long. Seek the help of a knowledgeable friend or family member, local religious figure, or even someone in your Hajj group if you’re still struggling. Pay a teacher–it’s that important.
- Field dua requests from loved ones you’d like to pray for. Do this by making phone calls, sending out text messages, or creating a form online. Write down their requests or print them out and have them with you.
- Make a small, specific shopping list for Saudi Arabia and set a small portion of time to spend in the marketplace (i.e. 3 hours on Wednesday before Hajj.) Once you have your itemized list of the things you want to buy (for yourself or gifts for others), set a price for each item (for example, 4 modest dresses for myself at $30 each and 1 prayer rug for each of my siblings at $20 each.) Then, go over that list again and cut out half of the things you want to buy and keep just what you need. Don’t waste your time roaming around the marketplace–you’ll increase your chances of being exposed to sickness, your heart and soul will be distracted from getting into the Hajj mindset, and you’ll accumulate a bunch of things that will be a pain to keep track of and bring back with you.
- Gradually decrease your consumption of news, TV/movies, music, radio, etc. Resist the temptation of binging on movies on your flight, think about your Hajj journey starting from the second you step outside of your home to leave! Reassess your relationship with media once you return from your Hajj trip.
Start Now and Continue Until You Return:
- *Gradually decrease your food intake and free yourself physically and spiritually. Seek the help of a nutritionist or physician, if necessary. You will be able to waste less time eating, feeling preoccupied about food, wasting food when there are hujjaj starving around you, and needing to use the toilet (long lines in Hajj camps/sites). You will also unencumber your soul and spirituality, just like in Ramadan.
- Up your dua game–NOW with a specific, step-wise plan. Figure out a plan so that you feel increasingly comfortable having a conversation with Allah and that it comes as a reflex to speak to Him. Praying to God is a muscle–start bulking up for the most important day of Hajj, the Day of Arafat.
- Increase your exposure to the Quran. Spend more time with the Quran in any/multiple forms–reciting in Arabic, reading the translation in your own language, listening to your favorite reciter, etc. Don’t let your ability or inability to access the Quran in Arabic be a hinderance to you from benefitting from it.
- *Get yourself in the mindset to disconnect from your sexual impulses and physical desires with a concrete and appropriate plan. Whether you are intimate with your spouse, suffer from an addiction to porn, have the habit of masturbating, find it difficult to lower your gaze–figure out a way to be bigger than those impulses and work hard to master them. For spouses going together, you will probably not be sharing a room with your spouse during your Hajj trip, but be careful to avoid anything that may lead to intimacy. Discuss a plan with your spouse to help the both of you and set rules for yourselves.
- Through honest introspection, identify the few things that drive you crazy or push you to the edge on a day-to-day or semi-regular basis. (i.e., no coffee in the morning, traffic, unironed clothes, etc.) Know that those few things will occur to you throughout your Hajj journey. This is God’s way of testing you, so make sure you have a plan that works for you to cope with those pet peeves or calm yourself from those stressors. Start working on it now and seek professional help if needed.
- *Figure out a reasonable plan for staying in touch with family (your parents, spouse, kids, etc.) and make a plan to limit how much you stay in touch during the actual few days of Hajj. This journey is about YOU, so be “selfish” and take a few days to secure your Hajj without distractions.
Once You Start Your Travel:
- Plan your tawaf and sa’i duas according to themes for each lap. Seven laps around the Kaabah and seven legs from Safa to Marwa–a great opportunity to make dua, so get organized! Plan themes for your supplication (aside from mandatory or recommended supplications as advised by your Hajj group’s leader) as you carry out each of these Hajj rituals. (I.e., the first circle of the Kaabah I make dua for myself, the second circle I make dua for my spouse, the third circle I make dua for my mom, etc. Or the first circle I make dua for my livelihood, the second circle I make dua for my health, the third circle I make dua for my faith and religious practice, the fourth circle I make dua for my life in the grave, etc. Or the first leg of sa’i I make dua for the Muslims in my city, the second leg for Muslims in my country, the third leg for Muslims suffering in specific countries, etc.) Make different sets for the multiple times you make tawaf and sa’i. Write these down on flashcards or something else easy to carry and remind yourself. Why do I specifically suggest this? Firstly, tawaf and sa’i are chaotic because of the crowd and heat. It is very easy to get distracted or thrown off and if you don’t have a plan you may waste time. Secondly, this will allow you to think about all of the things and people you’d like to make dua for, so you can make sure you get a chance to make dua for everything.
- Plan your Arafah dua similarly to the previous point. Have a list of things you want to make dua for or about and if you get tired or distracted, keep going through your list. If you want to make duas in Arabic, memorize a few important ones and connect with their meanings deeply.
- Find your Hajj buddy in your Hajj group (and if you’re going with your spouse, find your Hajj buddy couple.) Your Hajj buddy/Hajj buddy couple will be the one who you want to have as your roommate or next to you in the tent in Mina, do tawaf with, spend the walk to the jamaraat with, etc. The company you keep on this journey may make or break the quality of your Hajj. Important note–many times you will be separated from your spouse due to logistical needs of gender segregation and you will not be able to rely on your spouse as much as you’d like to. Additionally, your Hajj group may feel a little like high school all over again, so avoid the drama and weird social dynamics that will inevitably occur. Also, don’t feel obligated to hang around with a friend or family member if you think they do not deserve to be your Hajj buddy or vice versa. Sometimes we have bad habits or get sucked into bad patterns with siblings, spouses, parents, or friends and these habits (i.e. backbiting about a mutual friend, insulting or acting harshly toward, quickly losing your temper, etc.) may destroy the quality of your Hajj. It may be difficult to broach the subject with someone you already know, but figure out a plan and communicate it with them. And if this is a problem you have with someone, then begin to rectify it or make a plan to rectify it on your return (you may need professional help.)
- Decrease your talking. Many of the things that can destroy your Hajj are simply argumentation, complaining, gossiping, etc. Start gradually decreasing how much you talk and every time you want to say something, say it to yourself and Allah instead.
- Unplug from social media. Delete your social media apps and go cold turkey. You are not sharing your Hajj journey real time with your friends and family members–don’t rob yourself by being concerned with sharing with others. Reassess your relationship with social media once you return. It may be helpful to begin gradually cutting back before you leave for Hajj.
- Don’t worry about taking pictures at Hajj–this is not an average “vacation.” Plan to take a specific number of pictures during your whole trip–literally two or three, definitely under ten. (I.e. one with the Kaabah and one by the Masjid al Nabawi.) You can potentially start taking pictures once you complete the days of Hajj, but be careful to avoid distracting yourself and make sure you’re making the most of your trip.
- Give a small amount of charity to someone in need every day. Just $5 or $10, and you’ll find plenty of people in need all around you while you’re visiting Saudi Arabia.
I hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful, God willing, and may you have a Hajj Mabroor!