Handbook for Hajj and 'Umrah is a practical and helpful guide that covers a complex subject in a straightforward, concise and comprehensive manner. The author's insights and observations, coupled with selected charts, maps and diagrams, help to prepare you for both our stay in Saudi Arabia and the sacred Pilgrimage itself. The rites of Hajj and 'Umrah are clearly explained, and relevant prayers and supplications are provided in both Arabic and English.
The first House of Worship, Al-Ka'aba, at Makkah al-Mukarramah, has been a focus of convergence for Muslims since the advent of Prophet Ibrahim Alaihis-Salam. The number of people going to The House for Hajj or ''Umrah has been going up year by year necessitating a continuing change in the logistics and geography of pilgrimage. Although there is a great body of literature - mostly in non-European languages - about Hajj, the procedure and the experience, strangely many pilgrims do little by way of preparing themselves for this great Journey beyond getting hold of the travel documents and hopping on to a plane. They leave the rest to the local guides, mu'allims, mutawwifs and vakeels and inevitably their Hajj gets defined and constrained by whatever experience -generally indifferent - they go through at the hands of their guides. So while they spend their valuable time, money, energy and emotions on this most important journey of their lives, yet at the end of it all they come back with little more than the honorific, Al-Hajj or Hajji.
Every Pilgrim needs someone to guide him/her through the place and procedures the moment he/she disembarks in Saudi Arabia. but they are not enough. It is very important that the pilgrim too has a fairly reasonable idea of what is involved and why it s so. What and what not to expect and how to cope with the unforeseen. there you need guide books and the help of those who have been there before. Unfortunately, so far, English and other European languages do not have as yet a good library of books on the subject. the substantial ones are of the 'orientalist' type and the good ones are not very well written.
This short Handbook by an Indian-born US-resident civil engineer, Sarwar Alam Raz, is born out of the author's own experience of the Hajj of 1997. Divided into seven chapters - How to use this Handbook, Glossary, Before you leave, When you get to Saudi Arabia, Hajj and 'Umrah, Prayers and Supplication, and A visit to Madinah [al-Munnawarah] - the handbook provides most of the essential and practical information that an average pilgrim normally needs. The text is illustrated and written in the form of short notes and is easy to follow. There are four pages of flow diagrams and a short list for further reading.
The Handbook us what it claims to be, a handbook about the procedural aspects of the pilgrimage, but intending pilgrim would do well to do some more reading - the more the better - and try to understand and imbibe what the Great Journey is really about. No less than 1.5 million Muslims have been performing Hajj every year, yet their impact on their societies is negligible. This says something about the quality of the Hajji millions.
-Impact International, December 1999