A Hajj Guide for First-Timers
What to Expect at Hajj
The following post contains a Hajj guide and personal reflections from the author’s Hajj journey. If you know anyone embarking on the journey of Hajj this year, send this along as they may find it useful! If you are going yourself, congratulations! What an honor, mashallah! We wish you a safe and life-changing pilgrimage and ask you not to forget us in your duas!
Assalamu Alaikum ladies! Hajj season is upon us! If you are going to Hajj this year, you might be feeling anxious – and you have every right to feel this way. No matter how many people describe the journey of Hajj to you, it’s not something you can understand until you personally experience it. Just remember, the ability to perform Hajj is an invitation from Allah (S), and He treats His guests with nothing but the best!
I wanted to share my Hajj journey and reflections with you all because it is something I wish I had prior to my pilgrimage. I’m hoping my memories will help somewhat in preparing you for Hajj. I break down the entire journey step by step below:
Typically, you’ll first arrive in Madinah. This where you should really brace yourself and build your stamina for ibaadah (worship).
After Fajr, I typically would shop a little then go back to sleep around 7:30-8:00 am on the mornings that we did not sightsee. That usually gave me a solid 4-5 hours of sleep, which helped me get over my jet lag. Since you will have more time in Madinah, try to finish any gift shopping there (prayer beads, prayer mats, gold, etc.).
Two things I bought immediately were a basic black abaya and a white abaya (cost was approximately $30 USD). I wore them to the ground and then donated them before returning home. They were light and airy – perfect for the immense heat. While the heat is indeed extreme, you will probably be cold more than you will be hot because of the blasting A/C’s. My husband also got his thobes and pants to wear underneath for a very nice price.
We shopped in the mall where KFC was, as well as a shop across from the ‘I Love Madinah’ store. If you are looking for high-end abayas, then I recommend you wait until you get to Makkah. But for normal wear and tear and usage as well as little girls’ abayas, shop for them from Madinah.
One of the challenges in Madinah was getting to the Rawdah (the Prophet (S)’s grave). Make sure you follow your leader and try not to be in a big group. Our few moments there were comparative to, I would imagine, being spun in the washing machine. Continue to read duas and once you can pray your nafl, get ready for the water works, SubhanAllah!
We stayed at Movenpick in Madinah, and our gate was number 15. Typically, US groups stay around that area.
Enjoy your time in Madinah and try to imagine the history when you visit areas like the Mountain of Uhud and Quba Mosque, to name a few. Live in that moment; it’s so powerful to think of all that our Prophet (S) did for our Ummah and how we tend to take it for granted.
Whether you are traveling by bus or plane, you will cross the Miqat, at which point you will make niyyah (intention) for Umrah. At that point, you will start reciting the Talbiya:
“Labbayka Allahumma labbayk, labbayka la sharika laka labbayk, inna alhamda, wal ni’mata, laka wal mulk, la sharika lak.”
For me, this was such an emotional moment. I was reminded of how powerful Allah (S) is. He has granted me the opportunity to perform Hajj, and for that – and everything He’s bestowed upon me – I am eternally grateful. Again, be prepared for the waterworks.
From this point forward, you will be in Ihram and will not be able to use any scented items. This is where all your non-scented wipes, hand-sanitizer, deodorant, lotion, hand wash and possibly shampoo will come in handy. Depending on your timeline, once you arrive in Makkah, you will rest a little, eat and then head for Umrah. Your hotel room will have scented toiletries, but remember, you cannot use them or you will invalidate your Ihram!
I can’t urge you enough to try to perform your Tawaf on the first level. They’ve really opened it up and the feeling there is like no other. It will take anywhere from 25-40 minutes (versus 2 hours or more on other levels). On the first level, you will be able to see the Kabah constantly as you perform Umrah.
For safety reasons, your leader might push for other levels. Stick with them, but at least one time, whether it’s during a nafl tawaf, Hajj tawaf/ Tawaf al Ziyarah or Tawaf al-Wada’ (Farewell tawaf), try to experience the first level. One thing I want to mention is that all my life, I had heard to look down while walking towards Kabah and then as you come upon it, look up and make dua and it shall be accepted.
However, while we were at Hajj, the Shaykhs said that was a cultural thing. You will come across a lot of “cultural” suggestions, so please be wary and ask a scholar about anything you are unsure of.
Remember, you are at Hajj so keep your defenses on the minimum and your Nafs in check! Try to take advantage of any opportunities for good deeds and give as much charity as you can (I often gave to the workers cleaning the Haram in Madinah and Makkah or the women cleaning the bathrooms in Mina).
Safa wal Marwah
For the Sa’ey of Safa wal Marwah, it doesn’t matter what level you walk on. Just beware of the wheelchairs (they should be in their designated aisle). During this part of Umrah, try imagining Hajar being left by Ibrahim (AS) and trying to find water for her son.
After the Tawaf and Safa wal Marwah, you still need to cut your hair to complete your Umrah. It’s better if you bring your own hair cutting scissors from the US. I didn’t, and let’s just say I had to get a significant amount chopped off when I came back home to get it fixed. Nevertheless, it’s a fun bonding time with your Hajj sisters.
After your Umrah is complete, the exhaustion and hunger will set in, so shower, change your clothes and eat!
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