Step 2: Mental Prep
- Know the requirements of performing Hajj. You don’t want to waste this trip by missing something important. Attend the workshops in your area and/or read a book. Then review the information before you get to Mina. As a first time Hajji it’s natural to be unfamiliar with the rites, so ask scholars in the group.
- Know what to expect and set the expectations. Hajj is the journey of a lifetime; but at the same time you might face things that are upsetting. Sadly, I encountered a lot of trash and garbage thrown all over the place in Mina. The bathroom situation is another story. Expect squatter toilets and learn to use them. If used correctly it can be sanitary and easier to use then regular toilets.
- Strategize. A few tricks will help you maximize your time. For example, when going to pray at the rawdah in the Prophet’s masjid there are designated times for women. Head towards the rawdah area towards the end of the time allotted and try to be in the last group praying. You won’t feel as hassled because there is nobody coming behind you. Also, there are air-conditioned areas in the Haram (area around the Ka`bah) in Makkah on the first and second floor (enter through King Fahd entrance and stay on the left). Plan on praying/sitting there during the hottest part of the day. Since the time between Maghrib (post-sunset prayer) and `Isha (night prayer) is short, it’s a good idea to stay at the Haram between those prayers. That way you won’t struggle for a spot inside. One local student gave us this awesome tip: Make sa’i (the walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa) on the 4th floor roof extension area, which is usually empty and has a wonderful view during Fajr (pre-dawn prayer) time.
- Don’t be cheap. You will see a lot of the poor and the elderly. Help them as much as you can and be generous. Don’t haggle with store keepers over small amounts. At the same time be cautious of theft and being ripped off by taxi drivers. As in any big city there are opportunists, so be cautious of your money and personal items. Keep your shoes in a plastic bag with you at all times. Side point: don’t take a camera or camera phone into the Prophet’s masjid (for women, there are female guards who will frisk you before letting you in).
- Get in the right mindset by surrendering yourself to Allah (swt). You are going on Hajj, which is not a vacation in a 4 star hotel. You will be tested in different ways so remind yourself to be patient and not to complain. You are invited as Allah’s guests so use the correct manners that a guest should have. As a bonus, try to catch yourself before reacting negatively to a test by acknowledging that that what is making you upset is the test.
- Remember why you are here: to complete Hajj and go back home. You are not here to change the Saudi government or fix the ignorance of the ummah (community). You are not here to argue with different people about who is right and wrong. You might need to develop a mantra or phrase to remind yourself. A few people would remind themselves saying, “La jidaal,” or “No arguing,” if they started to get annoyed with a spouse, family member, or random uncle in the group.
- Don’t compare your group to other groups. It’s very easy to get caught up in what other people ate or what their tents were like. Avoid going down that road and remind yourself that everyone’s test will be different and no one has a problem-free Hajj. Focus on yourself, make incessant talbiyah [Labbayk Allahuma labbayk—I respond to Your call O Allah, I respond to Your call], and embody your submission to Allah (swt).
- Minimize the distractions. This is one of the biggest struggles. There is a lot going on and sometimes it will be hard to focus. Try to set goals for yourself before the trip so you know what to work on. I saw many people complete the Qur`an in a few short weeks. Plan on getting to the Haram extra early if you want to pray inside.
- Avoid getting into debates about different opinions and madhabs (schools of thought). Decide on what you are going to follow beforehand and don’t get confused when people tell you that your Hajj won’t be accepted. People find themselves waiting a lot and start to discuss these issues that end up creating confusion or hostility. Follow your group leader who is experienced and let others follow their leaders.
- Stick together and find an experienced person to follow. This may seem obvious but a buddy system will help prevent you from getting lost. An experienced Hajji is full of tips and will make some of the rites easier to perform (such as the best time to throw stones and which area is easier to start from).
- Keep calm with your roommates and carry on. If you are sharing a room with other people in Makkah or Madina take some earplugs or eye covers to help you get rest. You might be paired with a roommate that can be a test for you—just try to take things in stride and avoid getting upset or frustrated with the person. If you are annoyed, try to do nice things for the person and make du`a’ for that person and yourself.
- Use the full day of Arafah for worship—not just the time after Asr (late afternoon prayer). Many people fall into this trap and spend time sitting, eating and talking on the most important day of Hajj and only start making du`a’ after `Asr. Separate yourself from people and focus on seeking forgiveness. The Prophet ﷺ used to make du`a’ the entire day and intensified the supplication after `Asr. The same thing applies after Arafah when people revert to their old habits and lose focus while they are still on Hajj! Continue to keep yourself busy with reading, remembrance, and extra worship. Side point: plan to avoid the bathrooms at Muzdalifah. Eat/drink accordingly and use the bathrooms in Arafahbefore getting on the bus to Muzdalifah.
- An experienced Hajji advised: “Treat tawaf (walking 7 times around the Ka`bah) like prayer and strive for khushoo’[concentration].” The virtue of tawaf is well known: it is recommended to perform tawaf in the Haram before praying 2rakahs (units of prayer) as the ‘greeting’ of the masjid! One idea is to pick different du`a’ or prayers for each round, or to pick the first round for seeking forgiveness, the second round for making du`a’ for the community, etc. Performing tawafcan be a struggle given all the distractions. Try to avoid congested areas and the 2nd floor wheelchair drivers (who go fast and end up hitting peoples’ ankles). One recommendation is to avoid the first and second floor and only maketawaf and sa’i on the relatively un-crowded rooftop.
- Ask Allah for help. This advice was given by an elderly woman sitting in the Prophet’s ﷺ masjid. She said to alwaysstart your actions by asking Allah (swt) to help you. Allah (swt) can make anything happen—all we need to do is ask.