Hajj is one of the five
pillars of Islam. All Muslims who fulfill certain conditions must
perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. What are these
conditions? Are there any prerequisites of Hajj? The answers to
these and many other similar questions can help you in making
decisions, and in planning for Hajj in a better and more efficient
Who Must Perform Hajj
Every Muslim who fulfills the
following conditions must perform Hajj at least once in his
- He must be of sound mind,
and in full control of his mental faculties.
- He must be old enough, and
mature enough to understand the full import, and significance of
what he is setting out to do.
- He must be financially
sound enough to be able not only to bear all of his expenses for
Hajj but also to provide adequately for his dependents during
his absence and until his return.
Prerequisites Of Hajj
Since Hajj is an act of
worship, it must be performed in peace, and with single minded
devotion. There are a number of simple, yet important, things you
can do to get in the right frame of mind for this unique experience.
All of these are self-evident and are based on common sense. They
are reiterated below for completeness of the discussion and as a
- Your intention must be to
perform Hajj solely for the sake of Allah. Considerations of
pleasing or impressing others with your show of piety should
never be a factor.
- All Hajj expenses must be
paid out of money obtained through legitimate (Halal) means.
Money obtained through illegitimate or doubtful means is not
- All of your debts and
financial obligations must be fully discharged before you start
your journey and, where necessary, a written acknowledgement of
the transaction obtained for future use.
- You must make an honest
effort to resolve your outstanding differences with others and
seek forgiveness from those you may have hurt in any way in the
past. This is based on specific instructions of Rasool Allah (pbuh)
and must be followed for the Hajj to be meaningful.
Preparations For Hajj
Since Hajj is a
once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people, the importance of
early and adequate preparation cannot be over-emphasized. There is a
considerable investment of money, time, and physical effort required
for the Pilgrimage to be fulfilling and meaningful. Information has
to be collected, itineraries must be worked out, and documents have
to be readied. The purpose of these preparations is not only to
minimize physical discomfort, emotional aggravation and monetary
expenses, but also to enable you to perform Hajj in relative peace
of heart and mind. Therefore, it makes sense to be as ready as
possible for this momentous journey of self-discovery,
self-appraisal, and spiritual enlightenment.
Arrangements must be started
early enough so that you are not rushed for time in the few days
before your voyage commences. The paperwork, shopping, finalizing
your travel and residential arrangements inside Saudi Arabia etc.,
consume a great deal of time. Three to four months ahead of your
actual date of departure is a good estimate for starting your
preparations. Your travel agent, or a knowledgeable friend who has
performed Hajj recently, can also guide you in your preparations. Be
sure to apply a "factor of safety" to their
recommendations and allow yourself a somewhat greater period of
preparation than they advise!
The following guidelines are
intended to get you started in the right direction. Since individual
needs and preferences vary widely you will, in all probability, add
to the list as you prepare for the journey:
- Travel Agent
Choose a travel agent who
offers a wide selection of "packages" for Hajj. There are
a large number of travel agencies all over the country that offer
Hajj services, and not all of their products are of equal quality
and value. Choosing the right agent is of crucial importance.
Hopefully, a representative of your travel agent will be your
constant guide and trouble shooter during Hajj. Invest time and
effort in this essential phase of your preparation.
Talk to friends and
acquaintances who may have recently used the services of various
companies and ask them for recommendations. The quality of service
and commitment to the comfort and well-being of the pilgrims vary
significantly among travel agents. Whereas a good and responsible
agent can "make" your Hajj, a bad one can just as easily
Be sure to ask the travel
agent specific questions and have him give you specific answers:
- What will be the duration
of your stay in Mecca and Medina? What dates? Is the program
flexible or will it allow no changes once it is made? Is there
any additional cost to such changes? If so, what is it?
- How far away will you be
staying from Haram ash Shareef, both in Mecca and in Medina? If
your place of residence is not within easy walking distance
(10-15 minutes), what type of transportation to and from Haram
ash Shareef will be made available? How often during the day
will it be available?
- Will a representative of
the travel agent who is fully conversant with the rites of Hajj,
and Saudi rules and procedures for customs, immigration, and
travel be with you at all times? Will he stay in Saudi Arabia
for the duration of your visit? You do not want to be left in
Saudi Arabia without adequate guidance and assistance. The laws
and procedures there can be very difficult, frustrating, and
- Will the representative of
the agent be conversant with the Arabic language? If not, will
an interpreter be provided in Saudi Arabia? Most Saudi
authorities do not speak English, and your command of Arabic is
likely to be limited.
- Will you have the option
of travelling within Saudi Arabia, (for example from Mecca to
Medina), in a taxi hired by you at your own expense instead of
the prepaid bus provided by your muallim? How about possible
return by air from Medina to Jeddah on your way out of the
country instead of the usual prepaid bus? Get a good idea of
this additional expense.
You may want to use the
above options in view of the fact that the bus journeys during
Hajj season can be nerve-racking. For example, a bus journey
from Mecca to Medina (approximately 400 km or 250 miles) can
take as long as twenty to thirty hours, whereas a taxi will
cover the same distance in three to four hours. The small
additional cost you will incur is well worth the money in terms
of time saved and physical discomfort avoided.
If you choose to use any
of the alternate travel options (and it is highly recommend that
you give them very serious consideration), be sure to redeem
your unused bus coupons at Jeddah airport on your way out. Your
travel agent should be able to help you in this.
- What kind of arrangements
will be made for your stay in Mina and Arafat? How about the
food arrangements in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah?
- Does the price of your
package include meals? See if the agents make an effort to vary
the menu. You may have to supplement your meals with milk,
fruits etc. Food supplied by the agents tends to be monotonous,
and the lack of variety is likely to kill your appetite after a
couple of days!
- Will the agent arrange for
a sacrifice on your behalf on the 10th of Zul Hijjah? This is a
common service agents often provide for a small fee. They will
inform you of the time of the sacrifice so that you may perform
other rites accordingly.
You will need certain
vaccinations for the issuance of a Hajj visa. The World Health
Organization (WHO) issues annual guidelines and requirements
concerning vaccinations for travel to various countries
including Saudi Arabia. Your physician will have the necessary
information or will be able to access it readily.
Check either with your
travel agent or the Saudi Arabian Embassy for additional
requirements. The Saudi Government requirements are usually
stricter than the WHO recommendations. For instance, whereas the
WHO recommended immunization against only meningococcal
meningitis for travel to Saudi Arabia in 1997, the Saudi
authorities required immunization against cholera also.
Your doctor may recommend
additional vaccinations in the light of his knowledge and
experience. The writer's doctor (a specialist in infectious
diseases) recommended and administered immunization against
typhoid fever, polio, pneumonia, diphtheria/tetanus (D/T) and
This may sound like
"over-kill" and it probably is in most cases. However,
it can also save you a lot of worry and misery in those
unfortunate instances where extra care is needed. To cite an
example : in 1997 there was an outbreak of typhoid in India and
some of the pilgrims in the writer's group, who travelled to
India after Hajj, became seriously ill with the illness while
there. It is possible that they contracted the disease from
carriers among the Indian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, or they may
have contracted the disease in India itself. In any case,
earlier vaccination against the disease would have saved them
from much suffering and anxiety. Had they contracted typhoid in
Saudi Arabia itself from the Indian pilgrims, they would have
had serious problems completing their Hajj.
Be sure to obtain an
official Vaccination Record Book (the "Yellow Book")
from your County or State Health Department. Have your physician
fill it out, sign it, and stamp it. Anything less may be
unacceptable to the Saudi visa authorities, and you don't want
your visa application rejected for a small detail like this.
Keep the vaccination record book with your other important
documents and take it with you to Saudi Arabia. You never know
when you may need it.
- Saudi Government
regulations require your passport to be valid for at least six
months past the date of your departure. If it is not, have its
validity extended or get a new passport well ahead of time. It
takes several weeks for a passport to be issued or extended
under normal circumstances. Your local post office should have
the necessary forms and other relevant information.
If you are not a U.S.
citizen and hold a "green card", your passport also
needs to be valid for six months past the date of your
departure. Your travel agent will be able to advise you of any
- You will need a round-trip
ticket to Saudi Arabia for a Hajj visa to be issued. Your travel
agent will ask you for a specific package of documents to be
submitted with your visa application. Normally, the agent will
take care of the visa application as a part of his services.
- Your travel agent will
probably ask you for four to five passport-sized pictures for a
visa and other paper work. Have an additional four to five
copies of the photos made and take them with you to Saudi
Arabia. They may be needed for ID cards issued by your muallim
and other Saudi documents and procedures. Having spare pictures
on hand will save you the time, aggravation, and expense
involved in having them made in a foreign land.
- If you were born in the
U.S.A., you may be required to have a certificate issued by a
competent authority (e.g., the Imam of your local mosque)
stating that you are a Muslim. Since non-muslims are not allowed
in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, such a document is of
crucial importance, especially if you do not happen to have a
typical Muslim name. Your travel agent or the Saudi Embassy can
advise you about the details of the said certificate.
- Prepare a Last Will and
Testament and have it properly notarized. Consult an attorney if
it is a complicated will, or if you have concerns about your
assets and property in case of something untoward happening to
you during Hajj. Leave the original in a safety deposit box
accessible to a member of your family. The executor/executrix of
your will should also be given a copy, and your attorney should
probably retain a copy also. Have him explain to you, and the
immediate members of your family affected by the will, the
probate laws of your state and advise them as to the best course
of action in case of your death abroad.
- You will be exerting
considerable physical effort during Hajj. All Hajj rites (Tawaf,
Sai, Rummy etc.) require a great deal of strength and endurance.
The constant crush of hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims,
each trying to perform the same rites at the same time in
limited spaces and very hot weather, compounds the demands on
your physical conditioning and mental toughness.
In order to be prepared
for the rigors expected of you, you must be in good physical
shape. To achieve this, start a program of brisk walking and
jogging for twenty to thirty minutes a day about three to four
months before your departure. Gradually increase this regimen to
an hour every day or every other day.
After a few days of
walking/jogging start reciting audibly the Talbiyah and the
prayers for Tawaf.This will keep your mind occupied during the
monotony of the exercise, and will also help you get in a
peaceful frame of mind. Concentrating on the meaning of the
prayers will help you get ready for the actual Hajj as well.
- Obtain and study books on
Hajj and its rites if you wish to know more about its history
and traditions. Familiarize yourself with all aspects of the
Hajj process. Memorize the prayers you will be reciting and also
learn their meaning. It requires very little effort to do so and
it is so much more fulfilling and rewarding when you understand
what you recite. It serves little purpose to recite prayers
mindlessly with no comprehension of the words spoken.
The more you know about
Hajj, its obligations, and 	prohibitions, the more
comfortable and at peace you will feel during the whole process.
You will be confident of what you are doing, and will also be
independent of the advice and prompting of your friends or a
mutawwif. Your prayers will bear the hallmark of the
single-mindedness and devotion born of knowledge and confidence.
You will also be able to help and guide your less knowledgeable
companions, answer their questions, and allay their fears.
Some people do not take
the trouble of learning the 	rites and prayers of Hajj
themselves and, consequently, depend on professional mutawwifs
for the performance of these rites. You will find such people
performing the Tawaf under the leadership of these
professionals, trying to keep up with their "leader"
in the milling throngs of pilgrims around the Kabah, and at the
same time, trying to repeat the prayers intoned by their
mutawwif! With a little bit of effort, you can avoid the
problems and frustrations of trying to follow some one else
closely enough in a vast, moving crowd to listen to and parrot
- A female pilgrim must
travel in the company of her husband or a mahram i.e., a member
of her immediate family with whom her marriage is expressly
prohibited by the shariah e.g., father, brother, son, uncle,
etc. A female pilgrim, who is forty five years of age or older,
may be allowed to travel with a group of pilgrims without a
mahram if a family in the group sponsors her. Ask your agent for
Things To Take With You
The following is a fairly
comprehensive list of things you will need to take with you to make
your journey, and subsequent stay in Saudi Arabia safe, convenient,
and relatively care-free. Since personal needs and preferences vary,
you may want to make changes in this list to suit your own
The Ihram consists of two
pieces of white, unsewn and 	plain cloth, either 100% cotton
or light terry-cloth. These are cool to wear and also provide for
better absorption of the heavy perspiration you will inevitably
experience during Hajj. The sizes of the two pieces are as follows:
Bottom Part : 45" (1 1/4
yd) x 120" (3 1/3 yd)
Top Part : 45" (1 1/4
yd) x 72" (2 yd)
- Tear off two, two to three
inch wide strips of a sufficient length from the same material.
Use one as a belt to secure the bottom portion of the Ihram.
Keep the other as a spare. An ordinary belt or fanny belt may
also be used for the same purpose, but a strip of Ihram cloth is
a lot more practical, and unobtrusive. It keeps the Ihram firmly
in place and, unlike a fanny belt or pouch, does not have to be
inspected by the police at the entrance to the Haram ash Shareef.
- Tear off an eight to ten
inch wide strip of sufficient length from the same material. Use
it to secure money, credit cards, airline ticket, etc. around
your midriff under the Ihram. Use a plastic sandwich bag inside
this make-shift pouch to keep these things dry, and secure. This
is as pilfer-proof as possible and,unlike a belt or fanny pouch,
does not attract the unwanted attention of pickpockets and
thieves. You may still use a fanny pouch to carry other things
such as medication, pen, a handkerchief, and a small amount of
money for daily use. Your fanny pouch will be inspected by the
police at the entrance to Haram ash Shareef in Mecca and Medina.
Be patient and understanding as the police are only doing their
respiratory infections are very 	common during Hajj . People
from all over the world bring with them all kinds of infections, and
the unavoidable closeness of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
facilitates easy spread of these illnesses. Fatigue, and lack of
sleep from the physically demanding regimen of Hajj rites as well as
the over-enthusiastic exertions in prayers and devotions, lower
one's immunity and resistance, thereby making one more vulnerable to
disease. However, you can take elementary precautions to minimize
your chances of becoming ill, and also to ensure that you will get
back on your feet faster should you get sick. Getting and staying in
good physical shape by regular exercise prior to your departure is a
good first step. You can also carry certain medicines with you for
- Ask your doctor to
prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to be taken
prophylactically (i.e., as a preventive measure) throughout your
stay in Saudi Arabia. The writer's doctor prescribed 250 mg of
the antibiotic CIPRO to be taken daily. He found it to be very
helpful and effective as he was about the only person in his
group of approximately seventy five people who remained healthy
and free of all infections during his stay. CIPRO is easily
available in Saudi Arabia. Some people were prescribed
AMOXICILLIN by Saudi doctors and pharmacists with good results.
Most medicines are available over the counter in Saudi Arabia,
and even pharmacists readily prescribe medication. However it is
preferable to consult your doctor in the U.S.A. for your needs
for obvious reasons.
- Carry a reasonable supply
of over-the-counter drugs such as :
ASPIRIN, TYLENOL, ADVIL or
ALEVE (for pain)
TYLENOL PM (as a sleep-aid)
BENGAY, ASPERCREME (for
PEPTOBISMOL, IMMODIUM (for
EMETROL (for nausea)
MULTI-VITAMINS, BAND-AIDS, ANTI-BACTERIAL CREAM (for cuts)
- Waist Pouch (Fanny
(documents, money, travellers' checks, keys, credit cards, etc.)
in the fanny pouch around your waist at all times. Do not
ever leave your home without it. Be especially careful and
wary in crowded places. Unfortunately, there are thieves and
pickpockets even inside Haram ash Shareef! Hold on to the pouch
with your hand in crowds e.g., while doing Tawaf or when
visiting Al Masjid un Nabawi in Medina. Buy a good quality fanny
belt or pouch. It is a small but a very good investment.
Hard-cased, high quality
luggage with a built-in locking system is highly recommended. Do
not use a soft, vinyl suitcase with outside hasps for locks.
Both the suitcase as well as the locks can be easily cut and the
contents stolen. Many people have the mistaken notion that every
one in and around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and Al
Haram ash Shareef is a God fearing, devoted Muslim. Therefore,
they feel immune from criminal activity. Unfortunately, that is
just not true. Inspite of the severe punishments awarded to
convicted criminals by Saudi authorities, crime does exist.
Pickpockets and crooks find it easy to prey on unsuspecting
pilgrims whose guard is down because of their preoccupation with
Always keep your suitcase
locked and do not ever leave money, important papers or other
valuables in it.Your residential room will be periodically
cleaned by the cleaning staff, and the best way to keep every
one honest is not to offer any temptation. Take two sets of keys
for your suitcase. Keep one set in the fanny pouch, and the
other in a separate, and safe location.
Take a sufficient amount of
currency to cover your projected expenses. It is difficult to
recommend an amount since individual needs, travel and living
arrangements, shopping plans etc. vary widely. Only you can decide
on the amount to carry. In any event,do not advertise to others
either the amount of money you possess or its place of safekeeping.
You can never be too careful.The following are some useful
guidelines in this area:
- Have most of your money in
the form of travellers' checks. They are safe to carry, can be
cashed almost anywhere, and are easily replaced in case of theft
or loss. Since your passport will have been taken from you for
the duration of your stay by the Saudi authorities in Jeddah,
the ID card issued by your muallim will most probably be used
for check cashing purposes. The importance of this card cannot
be over-emphasized. Take good care of it!
Besides the Saudi banks,
the travellers' checks can also be cashed at the numerous "sarrafs"
(money changers) located in the market in Mecca and Medina.
- Carry a small amount of
Saudi riyals with you. A minimum of one thousand riyals (1
Dollar = 3.75 Riyals) is recommended. You can purchase them at
almost all currency exchanges located in major American
airports. This Saudi currency will help you take care of your
immediate expenses upon your arrival until you become familiar
with the local system. You will also save time and aggravation
associated with making trips to the banks to cash your checks.
All banks tend to be crowded during the Hajj season and may also
be closed at certain times of the day and certain days of the
- Take only one credit card
with you to minimize problems in case of its loss. Make sure
that you can use it to charge telephone calls also. Do not
forget to carry the information required to contact the credit
card issuing institution in case of its theft or misplacement.
- Take some U.S. currency
also with you. You can exchange it for Saudi currency everywhere
in emergencies, and may need it immediately upon your return to
Saudi Arabia is a very
hot part of the world most of the year. The presence of two to
three million pilgrims during Hajj in rather congested spaces
with the inevitable pushing and shoving adds to the discomfort.
The Hajj rites, ziyarat (i.e., visiting places of religious or
historical interest), shopping, etc. require considerable
walking and physical exertion. Consequently, light and airy
clothes for street wear are the best.
Take enough changes of
clothes to make your stay comfortable, but be careful not to
overburden yourself with unnecessary clothes. In the hot Saudi
Arabian weather, one set of clothes lasts only a day.
Professional laundry facilities are available in Saudi Arabia,
though coin-operated laundries are a rarity. Getting your
clothes cleaned professionally is quite expensive, particularly
as the prices tend to sky-rocket during the Hajj season.
Some do-it-yourself light
laundry may be necessary and is, indeed, highly recommended. It
is a good idea to pack some laundry detergent, and wash your
Ihram and other light items yourself. You will have a
considerable amount of spare time before and after Hajj. Use it
For street wear, Indo-Pak
shalwar-qamees, and kurta-pajama as well as the Saudi thoub (a
one-piece head-to-toe garment) are ideal and are recommended.
Thoubs are easily available everywhere in Saudi Arabia.
Depending on the time of
the year, you may want to pack a light sweater for early morning
wear in Medina, which tends to be cool at that time of day in
November and December.
There is no real need for you
to carry items of food with you. Everything is readily available in
Saudi Arabia at a reasonable cost. Saudi authorities do not allow
perishable food items to be brought into the country in significant
quantities anyway. Packaged and canned products in limited
quantities, however, may be brought in by tourists and pilgrims. For
emergencies and during periods of long waiting (e.g., at Jeddah
airport) carry-on food may come in useful and handy. All kinds of
food are available at Jeddah airport also. Some people may, however,
prefer to use their own food immediately upon arrival in a foreign
land. Some general guidelines are given below:
- A couple of packs of
cookies and crackers are helpful and provide a good snack.
Remove them from their boxes; they occupy much less space as
individual rolls. Granola bars, packaged dates, fig newtons and
similar items are recommended also.
- All varieties of fruits
are easily obtainable everywhere in Saudi Arabia and provide
much needed flavor and nutrition. Peelable fruits (bananas,
oranges etc.) are recommended to minimize exposure to infection
from insanitary handling. Wash all fruits carefully before use,
and avoid fruits and food exposed to the elements.
- Soft drinks of all kinds
are obtainable in Saudi Arabia at all major and minor shopping
establishments, and are entirely safe to drink. Bottled water
is cheap, and should be the only water you drink.Tap water
or water from any other source (except, of course, the Zam-Zam
water) should not be used for drinking purposes.
- Milk, yogurt, buttermilk,
ice cream, and other dairy products are widely available, and
should be liberally used to supplement your diet.
- Take two 18-oz cans of
powdered POWERADE or GATORADE with you. Mixed directly with a
bottle of cold water, they make for a nutritious and delicious
drink and also serve to replenish body salts and chemicals lost
through the inevitable heavy perspiration.
The following is a list of
items of daily use you should carry with you. They will make your
life easier, and your stay in Saudi Arabia more comfortable.
- multi-blade pocket knife,
can opener, nail clipper, small scissors.
- tooth brush, tooth paste,
disposable razors, shaving cream, small mirror, comb, toilet
paper (2 rolls), napkins, soap (2 cakes), plastic soap dish,
small shampoo bottle, deodorant, chapstick, small vaseline,
- pocket Quran, tasbeeh,pen,
- slippers (flip-flops,
thongs, chappals), sneakers, folding umbrella, sunglasses (or
clip-on sunshades), small flash light with extra batteries,
travel alarm clock, elastic eye-glass holder, baseball cap, 10
zippered sandwich bags, 4 garbage bags, plastic spoons, laundry
detergent, 6 plastic grocery bags.
- towels (2 large, 2 small),
musalla (i.e. prayer rug), one heavy sheet, inflatable pillow.