Tips on performing the Hajj

Pilgrims performing Tawaf around the Kaaba
Pilgrims performing Tawaf around the Kaaba

The Hajj | Al Hajj | Saudi Arabia

Hajj is the once-in-a-lifetime-obligatory pilgrimage of Muslims to Makkah, Saudi Arabia during Dhul Hijjah.

Hajj, the Fifth Pillar of Islam, is absolutely required on all capable Muslims. Umrah, when performed independent of Hajj, is the optional lesser pilgrimage and may be accomplished anytime during the year.

General Advice and Tips For Hajj

  • Carry business cards of the hotels you stay in Makka and Madina. If you are lost, you can call them or somebody can direct you better.
  • Be flexible. Especially for transportation. You may have paid for an air conditioned bus but the one assigned to you during Hajj may not be air conditioned. If possible, proceed on the vehicles that are available. Completion of the “arka’an” in a timely manner is more important than petty issues.
  • Traffic gridlocks get very severe during Hajj. At times, traffic hardly moves and it is quicker to go by foot. From my personal experience, it took us 4 hours to get from Arafat to Muzdalifa. The distance is less then 10 miles.
  • Be prepared to walk a lot thus carry several pairs of comfortable slippers. Most modern sandals and shoes are NOT permissible during Ihram.
  • There are good chances that you will get lost. In particular, during the six days of Hajj the entire area of Makka, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa gets very confusing. It is like a sea of humanity. Most people dressed in Ihram, there are tents all over the place. Some Hujjaj get disoriented and lose their way.
  • If you get lost, there are “Pilgrim Assistance Booths” set up all over and they are chartered to help Hujjaj find their hotels, tents, Jamarat, Masajids, etc.
  • For a group of people, it is advisable to agree on “well known” locations to gather in case somebody gets lost.
  • Designate a set place to meet (in case somebody from your group gets lost) outside Haram in Makka. Select a noticeable landmark, eg. Baab Abdul Aziz Gate.
  • Designate a set place to meet in Mina, Arafat, & Muzdalifa. The landmark should be well known and accessible. Many people get lost in the huge crowds.
  • Designate a set place to meet outside Masjid in Madina. Select a noticeable landmark
  • To avoid spending time in vain SEARCHING for various things that you need during Hajj, consider taking most of them with you from home. During Hajj there are long lines at almost all stores.
  • You should plan to do your shopping for Islamic souvenirs AFTER Hajj since prices are lower in Makkah and Madinah then. Suggested souvenir list.
  • Though there will be many doctors and physicians who will have an adequate command of English, you may find yourself in the position of “triage assessment”. What is triage? When demand is very high (as in Hajj) medical resources are prioritized based upon patient symptoms and signs; a non-doctor or non-physician, who is less likely to speak English, usually undertakes this. It is critical at this juncture for quick and accurate translation of your symptoms is required.
  • If you are young and strong you should actively look out for those older or weaker than yourself and help them wherever possible.
  • Treat others as you would wish them to treat yourself, your parents and children. Most importantly remember the words of the Prophet who has said that we should not be angry.
  • It is better if you pray in the front rows in the “Harma’in Shareef”.
  • Get to the “Haram Shareef” early for each prayer if you want to pray inside in the Haram Shareef or close to “Ka’ba Shareef”, or near Prophet Muhammad’s “Rauza-i-Aqdas” (tomb) in Madina.
  • Before a prayer, it takes about an hour to enter the Harma’in Shareef and find a spot. On “Juma’a” it takes even longer to enter the Harma’in Shareef.
  • You should not block doors and entrances of the Holy Haram by praying at them, even if you were trying to attain the reward of congregation prayer.
  • As a prayer time approaches, Hujjaj start sitting down for prayer in the front rows. In Makka, although, others may still be performing Tawaf, the front rows start getting full. It gets harder to find spots to pray. Similarly it gets harder to make Tawaf when people start sitting down.
  • Do not hinder Tawaf of other by sitting or performing prayer around or near Kaaba, by standing near the Black Stone or the “Maquamu Ibraheem” when it is crowded since these overcrowding harms others.
  • Subhan-u-Allah, during Hajj, the Haram Shareef is alive with activity all night. People perform Tawaf and Saiy all night.
  • Do NOT push and harm other Hujjaj to reach “Al-Hajarul Aswad”. If it is The Will of Allah SWT, you will be able to reach it without committing harm to others. The ONLY reason to kiss the black-stone is that our beloved Prophet Muhammad kissed it. It is MERELY a stone but from Paradise. It has NO powers or mysticism.
  • It is “waajib” to make “salaat” near “Maquamu Ibraheem” after Tawaf. However, because of the huge crowds still making Tawaf, you could get seriously injured, especially during “sujuud” (prostration). You might request other Hujjaj to divert people so you can complete salaat or make salaat a little distance away. Where there may be fewer people in Tawaf.
  • In Madina, “Masjid-An-Nabawi” closes down, for general public, shortly after “Isha’a salaat” and reopens before “Tahajjud” prayers.
  • Within Masjid-An-Nabawi there is an area “Rauzatul Janna”, Garden of Paradise, marked with green or white carpeting. There are “Ustuwana” or “Sutun” (columns) that are also special. Layout of the special areas inside the Masjid-An-Nabawi.
  • Consult your Hajj book for their importance. You need to get there early to be able to pray “Fardh”, “Sunnah” or “Nafl” prayers.
  • To clarify, each and every space and corner of Masjid-An-Nabawi is full of blessings and benedictions. Similarly every corner of the Haram in Makka is “afzal” (a blessing).
  • The “women-only” prayer areas are in the Eastern section away from the “Qibla” at Masjid-An-Nabawi in Madina.
  • Women hujjaj have special times to visit Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Masjid-An-Nabawi. Women should take advantage of those “women-only” times.
  • You are NOT allowed to carry boxes, grocery bags, shopping bags and backbacks in to the Haramain. Sometimes even “musallas” and water bottles are not allowed. It is better that you do not take them with you to the masjids.
  • During Hajj and Umrah seasons, if any item is left unattended, even for a short time, in Madina, Makka, Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa, etc. the item is generally removed. It will be lost. Thus keep your belongings, especially Al Quran, other books, ID cards, money, “Musalla”, purses/wallets, slippers always with yourself or with somebody for safe keeping.
  • “Women should AVOID going to public toilets. Women have been attacked in public toilets, elevators or even shops.
  • Be careful with your money and in dealing with people. There are reports of pickpockets.
  • Sad but true: even during Hajj people are trying to “scam” the Hujjaj with very heart jerking stories. Some of them totally false. May Allah SWT have Mercy on us.
  • In addition, there is significant amount of theft and pick-pocketing (even while performing Tawaf and Saiy). In general, use commonsense with regards to your personal safety and property.
  • Be preparted for being “searched” by security police when entering the Harmain sharif. Female guards search “Hajja” and Male guards search “Haaji”.
  • AVOID ANY arguments with the Saudi police and officials. May Allah SWT forgive them and us, but some of them are arrogant, ruthless and offensive.
  • It is ironic that the booths for Haaji complaints and assistance are usually staffed mostly by Arabic-only speaking officials.

Practical Tips For the Six Days of Hajj

  • Keep the cards which are given to you by the Mutawwif as permits for the camp at Mina with you (useful for directions).
  • Bring from home: “halal” high energy dry foods: yoghurt bars, chocolate bars, nutrious cookies/crackers etc. (This suggestion sent in by a visitor to our site.)
  • Drink lots of water and juice. Carry some bottled water at all times. AVOID carbonated drinks and solid foods during the Six Days of Hajj. “Laban” (yoghurt), milk, and fruit juices provide vital nutrients.
  • It is hard to find clean toilets. There are long queues of Hujjaj waiting.
  • During Hajj, always be prepared to leave earlier than planned. For example, if your Mutawwif asks you to be ready by 6 am for going to Mina, be ready earlier. In case, the buses arrive sooner, you can leave sooner. The buses could be early or late, it is all very erratic.
  • Do NOT be late. No one will wait for you. Hujjaj need to complete the “arka’n” in time and need to proceed as soon as possible.
  • During the six days of Hajj, make sure that you are in the correct area for each ritual. There are massive pillars that mark the boundaries of Makka, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. The areas are NOT regular geometrically.
  • Because of all the traffic and people, one tends to get confused and may not realize that they are not in the correct locality.
  • Do NOT rely on the bus drivers for directions. Most of them are from Egypt, Tunisia, and Nigeria and do NOT know the area well enough.
  • Be READY and WILLING TO WALK between the localities so you can be present at the correct locations at the required times if transportation is unavailable, due to traffic gridlocks or accidents. Even if transportation is available it easier to walk and get to the next location quickly.

Approximate distances

Makka to Mina: 5 miles (8 KM)
Makka to Arafat: 14 miles (22.4 KM)
Mina to Arafat: 9 miles (14.4 KM)
Mina to Muzdalifa: 1.8 miles (3 KM)

Mina before Hajj

When you arrive in Mina on the 8th, familiarize yourself with the area around your camp.

Remember, that there are 2 road overpasses (“kubri”), King Khalid overpass: closer to Jamarat; King Abdul Aziz:closer to Muzdalifa, and also the pedestrian-only Jamarat overpass in Mina. You should use the locations of the 3 well known masjids: Mina mosque:near the King Abdul Aziz overpass; Al-Malim mosque:near the King Khalid overpass; Al-Bayah mosque:near the Jamarat overpass; as landmarks to pinpoint your camp so you can find it when you return from Musdalifa on the 10th.

Arafat

You have to be within the boundary of the specified area for your “Arka’n” to to be correct. For example, when you go for Wuquf to Arafat, make sure you are WITHIN Arafat’s marked boundaries during the time. Picture of Arafat during wuquf.

Signs that demarcate Arafat from other areas are all along the Arafat boundary. It is important that you understand these signs. You have to remain within Arafat during “Wuquf” for Hajj to be valid.

There is a portion of Masjid Namira that is NOT considered in Arafat. Avoid being in that portion during wuquf.

Sadly enough, most bus drivers, some Mutawwif and travel agents are NOT VERY concerned about your Hajj “arka’n” and may NOT help you get to the correct area in time. Every year Hujjaj have horror stories to tell about their Hajj facilitators. May Allah SWT accept your Hajj and make it easy.

When making wuquf it is adviseable to stand and make supplications. And for health reasons, it is better if you are in the shade of the tents or umbrellas since it is scorching hot and dry.

Try to leave Arafat as soon as possible after Maghrib. Do NOT pray Maghrib in Arafat.

Muzdalifa

After wuquf, one has to be in “Muzdalifa” till Fajr prayer. It is dark and Hujjaj need to take precautions that they remain WITHIN Muzdalifa.

The bus drivers and Mutawwif will try to leave Muzdalifa BEFORE Fajr. If possible, resist that and ask them to wait till AFTER Fajr prayer is over BEFORE leaving Muzdalifa. Even if they leave, because of the traffic, they usually cannot get very far.

Mina after Hajj

After you arrive in Mina, go to your tent. If you have time, eat and rest. You may have been up all night in Muzdalifa for “ibaadat”.

Going for Ramy in the heat, with the huge crowd, is physically very taxing.

Women, children, weak, sick and older people should NOT go for Ramy. Particulary, the first Ramy. Any able bodied person is allowed to perform Ramy on their behalf.

When going for Ramy, do NOT take ANYTHING EXCEPT the pebbles, a little money for emergency, your ID card and your Mina Tent Card. The rush is significant and you will NOT be able to care of extra items.

The Ramy area has two levels. A picture of the Jamarat bridge. I prefer the top level since it is open air. The upper level is like a railway overpass and the “Shaytan” or “Jamarat” can be accessed through the round “well-like” openings. The “Shaytan” are vertical pillars about 2 stories high. A picture of the Jamarat.

The distance between the 1st and 2nd “shaytan” is about 150 yards. The distance between the 2nd and 3rd “jamarat” is just over 120 yards.

During Ramy, be very careful. FOLLOW ALL the traffic directions and the instructions of the Saudi police. If you DROP anything or lose your slippers, you should NOT bend to pick it up. You can be trampled very quickly. Unfortunately most deaths in the past have occurred during Ramy.

Furthermore, have “sabr”. It only takes about a minute to complete Ramy (for each person) so there is NO need to rush or push. With patience, you will Insha Allah be able to perform it properly.

You should try to get to the edge of the Jamarat enclosure. If you are able to get to the ledge, it is easy to hit the Jamarat with pebbles. Do NOT bend over the stone banister precariously, you could be pushed over it by the crowd.

If you miss, depending on your madhab, you may have to keep trying till you strike the Jamarat at least 7 times (for each person).

Do NOT try to hit the Jamarat from far away. You may miss the Jamarat and hit a Haaji. That is an “adhaab” (sin) rather than a “hassana” (reward).

Do NOT throw things other than small pebbles at the symbolic “shaitan” (Satan).

After performing Ramy, proceed along the ROUTE PRESCRIBED by the Saudi authorities. Do NOT go against the flow of Hujjaj near the Jamarat. Follow the directions and avoid stampedes.

Nahr is the next requirement. You can either do it yourself or you could pay at the bank. Depending upon your skills you may choose to perform it yourself. Nahr has to be completed before you can shave your head and perform Tawaf ul-Ifada.

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has set up booths around Makka and Mina, to facilitate buying of Nahr coupons. These coupons indicate the approximate time when the animal would be slaughtered. One should shave head after the noted time for “zabiha”.

After completing Nahr, you are supposed to shave your head (preferred for men).

Although, not an absolute requirement, it is recommended that Tawaf ul-Ifada be completed on Eid-ul-Adha day itself since the this Tawaf marks the completion of Hajj.

Be prepared to walk to Makka since millions of Hujjaj are proceeding to Makka to complete this Tawaf.

On finishing the Tawaf and Saiy, you may go to your room in Makka and change clotes, take a bath and refresh your self.

You can take fresh supplies for the next two nights in Mina.

You should try and return to Mina as soon as possible. Again, be prepared to walk back to Mina since available transportaion is scarce.

On the 13th, after doing final Ramy, leave Mina for Makka or Madina as soon as possible. Your tour group should provide return transportation. You should have already paid for it.

Make sure your travel agent has confirmed reservations for you on a flight out of Arabia.

Otherwise you can make arrangements at a hotel or with an acquaintance in Jeddah to spend time.

Every year, more return flights are over-booked and passengers who are not vocal are left stranded at the Jeddah airport for several days.

Because of the huge crowds, Jeddah Airport’s resources are stretched to the limits and it is not a very comfortable place to spend too much time. Especially after the gruelling trip from Makka or Madina by bus or taxi.

May Allah SWT accept your Hajj, give the best of rewards and make it easy for you. Ameen!

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