Hajj is for making dua. Arafat is the day when duas are accepted and sins are forgiven. But not all duas are good. Allah says, “But among people is one who only says: ‘Our Lord, give us in this world’ and he will not have in the hereafter any portion” (2:200). On an occasion such as Hajj, it is inappropriate to only ask for Allah’s favors for this material life. The right course of action is outlined as follows:
“And from them are those who say ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the hereafter and save us from the punishment of the fire’. For them there is in store a goodly portion out of that which they have earned. Allah is swift at reckoning.” (2:201-202)
In other words, those who ask for Allah’s blessings in this world and the next will get both. And those who ask only for this world get nothing in the hereafter. Hajj is the time to ask Allah for anything, but striking a balance between this world and the next is critical.
An advice for the pilgrims: make a list of things you want from Allah. Then on the Day of Arafat, ask Allah for all of that. In particular, ask Allah to accept the Hajj, for forgiveness of all sins, and for the best in this life and the next. And don’t forget me in your duas 🙂
Time is limited during Hajj. The perfection of the Hajj includes not wasting any time. One of the most important and fruitful uses of time during Hajj is the remembrance of Allah. This is hinted at in the verses of Hajj revealed in Surah Baqarah (196-203), where the remembrance of Allah is mentioned 4 times to emphasize the importance remembering Allah. Allah says, “So when you have emerged from Arafat then remember Allah at the Sacred Spot (Muzdalifah); and remember Him as He has guided you for surely you had been misguided before” (2:198). Here, the remembrance of Allah is encouraged post-Arafat at Muzdalifah. Also mentioned in the verse is a key element of remembrance of Allah: remembering Him as He instructed through the actions of the Prophet.
Some ways to remember Allah are: reading the Quran, reciting the talbiyah excessively, repenting from sins, repeating the Prophetic invocations and making lots of dua. Some times where Allah specifically encouraged His remembrance is at Arafat, after Arafat at Muzdalifah (2:198), asking for forgiveness after emerging from Muzdalifah (2:199), after completing the rituals of Hajj (2:200) and during the stay at Mina (2:203).
To put this to practice, set some goals for Hajj. For example, aim to read a juz a day during Hajj. Carry a pocket-size mushaf throughout the Hajj and read it during the times when waiting to proceed from one step of the Hajj to the next. Another goal could be to make a specific dhikr a specific number of times as instructed by the Prophet. (e.g. subhan Allahi wa bihamdihi 100 times in the morning and evening).
Hajj planning and preparation is an established tradition of the Prophet. It is encouraged by Allah in the Quran as He says, “And take provisions along, but the best of provisions is God-consciousness. And be afraid of me, oh people of intelligence!” (2:197). The command to take provisions indicates the importance of planning and preparing for Hajj.
Hajj planning and preparation is two-fold: physical preparation and spiritual preparation. Physical preparation consists of packing sufficient food, medicine, personal accessories (e.g. extra pair of glasses) so no time is wasted in Hajj worrying about these things. The Hajj shopping list is a handy tool to help prepare the provisions for Hajj, and the Hajj workout plan provides advice on how to physically get ready for the stresses of Hajj.
The spiritual preparation does not happen overnight; it takes time. Consistent acts of worship such as increased optional prayers, praying more regularly in congregation (especially Fajr and Isha prayers), reading Quran with understanding, learning about Hajj and the significance of its rituals are a few ways to prepare spiritually for Hajj.
In Hajj, you lose your personal space. People bump into you, push you, grab on to your clothes, cough and sneeze on you. How will you react? Allah says, “So whoever undertakes the duty of performing Hajj in the month of Hajj then he/she shall not enjoy sexual relations, nor indulge in sins, nor engage in quarreling or bickering during Hajj. And whatever good you do, Allah knows it well” (2:197). All the things mentioned in the verse require one thing: patience. This is the hardest part of Hajj; far harder than the physical or monetary stress that will be encountered during Hajj.
When I went to Hajj, the thing that annoyed me the most was people stepping on my bare feet in the Haram during tawaf. It is little things like this that test one’s resolve over anything else. If you display patience once, displaying it the next time becomes easier. But the moment you “lose it”, that is when Shaitaan has won (albeit temporarily). It helps to display patience by putting this verse from the Quran to practice, “Give glad tidings to the patient. Those when any unpleasant situation reaches them they say, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon (truly we are for Allah and truly to Him we will return)” (2:155-156).
For some, Hajj is just a vacation. For others, it’s a life-changing event. Aiming for perfection during Hajj is one of the keys to making Hajj a life-changing event. Allah says, “And perform fully the Hajj and the Umrah for Allah” (2:197). Allah used the word atimmu (perform fully), which comes from tamma (to be complete). Allah didn’t just say “perform the Hajj”; Allah said, atimmul Hajja wal Umrah, perform the Hajj and Umrah fully and completely indicating the need to aim for perfection in the rituals of Hajj and Umrah.
The other important lesson from the aforementioned verse is that Hajj and Umrah is to be performed “for Allah”. This means that the intention of the pilgrim and the motivation behind the pilgrimage must be the desire to please Allah; it cannot be contaminated with the desire for praise or attention. Even the Prophet made the prayer before his Hajj, “Allahumma hajjatan la riya’aa feeha wa la sum’a“, which means “Oh Allah, enable me to perform Hajj with no riya’ (showing off to get attention) in it nor sum’a (showing off to get compliments) in it”.
To maximize the Hajj experience, the pilgrim has to realize the importance of the journey they are about to embark upon. Hajj is a tradition of Ibrahim, respected and performed throughout the ages even by the pagan Arabs. It is not a mere ritual; it is a way to establish life on Earth. Allah alludes to this in the Quran when He says, “Allah has made the Ka’bah, the Sacred House, the sacred month, the sacrificial animal, and the necklaces put around sacrificial animals as a qiyam for mankind” (5:97). Qiyam means that by which something is made to stand/prop. The Ka’bah, the sacred months and sacrificial animals are called the prop for mankind because Allah propped life in Arabia using Hajj and its rituals.
The Ka’bah and its precincts were made a place of safely and security wherein hostilities and violence were prohibited. Similarly, the institution of the sacred months (Dhul Qa’dah, Dhul Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab) prohibited killing and violence. Highway robbery was checked by making the sacrificial animals apparent with their necklaces, allowing them and the pilgrims safe passage to the Ka’bah.
Without Hajj, the pre-Islamic Arabs could well have looted and killed each other due to constant fighting. Hajj is not just a ritual. Life was established in Arabia due to the Hajj.