The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam — mandatory for every Muslim that is physically and financially able to make the journey. For centuries, adherents to Islam have traveled from every corner of the earth to fulfill their religious duty.
This spiritual exercise takes place over the course of five days, the 8th to the 12th of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. The detailed rituals of the pilgrimage include purification, wearing modest white robes, walking counterclockwise around the kabaa, and stoning evil, or shaytaan.
In a little more than a week’s time, close to three million people will complete the pilgrimage. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be one of the pilgrims participating in Hajj 2017. After hours of research on how to prepare for hajj, I’ve established five Hajj preparation essentials to help you make the best of your trip.
HAJJ PACKING LIST
1. Creature comforts.
· Extra clothes.
Travel clothing should be easy to wash and wrinkle resistant. Males should bring 2-3 sets of ihram clothes. Women should bring at least two abayas. It is also worth considering bringing moisture wicking leggings/tops to wear underneath your abaya. To say Saudi Arabia’s weather is on the warmer side is quite the understatement. Dress for the heat. Make sure to include plenty of light colored and breathable clothing on your hajj packing list.
· A microfiber travel towel
Get one that is easily packed and dries quickly.
· Good quality flip/flops or slippers and a plastic bag to carry them in. Public bathrooms can be dirty or flooded and cheap shoes can break or hurt your feet. Invest in a decent quality pair to last through the trip.
· Pocket prayer mat.
Don’t underestimate the value of a clean prayer mat – floors can get quite dusty here!
· Personal toiletries.
Don’t assume that everything you need will be available to purchase in Mecca. Contact solution, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer and other items are easily taken for granted – until the pharmacy is sold out and you have to face a crowd of several million. Don’t forget to take extra prescribed medicines!
· Pocket sized guides, Qur’an, and the Fortress of a Muslim Du’a Book
In addition to these reference materials on how to perform hajj, bring a pen/small notebook to record your reflections. If you don’t want to carry the books, download these references to your smart phone.
· Sun protection
Bring sunscreen (unscented), sunglasses, and umbrellas to shield yourself from the harsh sun.
· Small shoulder bag
Don’t forget to bring a bag to hold all this stuff!
2. A du’a list
During Hajj, time is going to fly. A written list of prayers and people will jog your memory when you need it.
3. A clear mind.
Thorough hajj preparation will ensure you can focus on the journey ahead.
· Copy all travel documents (passport, booking references, contact information). Leave a copy of your itinerary and documents with someone at home. Bring a photocopy of everything and store it separately from the originals. Store all emergency contacts in your phone, and written down somewhere else just in case.
· Create a will and get your affairs in order before you leave.
It is a somber reality that the Hajj can be dangerous, just like any other day on earth.
· Resolve any personal conflicts.
You are going on the spiritual journey of a lifetime – don’t be weighed down by emotional baggage. Some things can’t be helped, but do what you can to leave for Hajj without any festering battles.
· Study the rituals of Hajj and memorize as much of it as you can.
Being confident in the required and recommended steps of how to perform Hajj can alleviate anxiety and allow you to devote more time and energy to worship.
4. An energized body
The pilgrimage is physically demanding. Praying, walking, and even just standing in the hot sun takes its toll on even the fittest and healthiest individual. Build up your stamina beforehand with long walks. Get plenty of fluids and rest on your journey.
5. An open heart
The most important step in preparing for Hajj is to open your heart to the experience. This journey is going to demand patience, understanding, and full trust in divine decree. There will be misunderstandings, times of discomfort, but simultaneously opportunities for mercy and forgiveness.
Soak up the lessons of these five days. Quiet the white noise of life, and turn your focus inward. Don’t forget the purpose of this journey. Let go of everything, seek forgiveness, and go forward with an open heart. Hajj is a journey, not a destination.
K.T. Lynn is an American Muslim convert living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. She is a corporate writer by day and novelist by night. She blogs about her misadventures at www.ktlynn.com
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