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The Hajj. A sacred occasion, culminating in the fulfillment of the fifth pillar of Islam. Travelling to the holy city of Mecca at least once in your life and embarking on the same journey as the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Each year, millions undertake this voyage of worship — a journey you are now blessed to be a part of, Insha’Allah.
Last year, the Hajj pilgrimage was a predominantly domestic affair with the bulk of the pilgrims consisting of Saudi nationals and residents. For this year’s Hajj, the Saudi Arabian government has allocated a quota of 1 million Hajj slots for both international and local pilgrims.
Hajj news 2023 – latest updates
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj recently confirmed Western Muslim pilgrims intending to participate in the annual Hajj pilgrimage must now apply through a government website, thereby, abolishing the role of travel agencies to register, book and pay for Hajj packages, accommodation and permits, in the process.
The Kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj stated that pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia must apply for their space via the government’s Motawif website.
Following that new process, the Western pilgrims will be randomly selected to attend Hajj by an “automated lottery,” or online draw, after which they can book and purchase their transport and accommodation directly with the Saudi government.
Moreover, successful candidates will be directed to three separate packages, which will include flights and accommodation. However, no confirmation has been made by the Kingdom on the price range of these packages or when the results of the draw will be announced.
Furthermore, the authorities have also confirmed that the proposed Hajj packages for western pilgrims will NOT be protected by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) protection scheme for British pilgrims, covering holiday packages sold by UK travel companies.
Please note that aspiring pilgrims who have already booked their Hajj deals and packages through their respective travel agencies are recommended to seek a refund for their deposits and payments.
Before you begin the Hajj
Note: Should the Hajj season is being held this year, in light of the pandemic, all pilgrims will be required to have been inoculated for COVID-19 in order to attend the Hajj. Those who for whatever reason are unable to do so will not be granted entry into the kingdom.
Prepare the appropriate garments beforehand, as well as the physical grooming before entering ihram (shaving of hair and facial hair, etc.) For women, there are no prescribed ihram garments, but ensure the clothes adequately cover the body, and are not conspicuously decorative.
Understand the rules and restrictions of ihram before entering into it, including what is forbidden and what is makrooh. In doing so, you won’t impose unnecessary additional restrictions on yourself, and your Hajj will be a smoother experience.
Do some physical exercise in the months before you leave for Mecca, to prepare yourself for the rigors of the Hajj. From the tawaf to Arafat, you will walk significant distances and spend some time under the sun. Preparatory exercise ensures you don’t succumb to exhaustion or illness. It can be as simple as going for walks to break in your Hajj footwear.
Ensure you have completed the obligatory vaccinations, as required by Saudi regulations. Apart from the mandatory COVID vaccinations, the Saudi Ministry of Health also encourages all international pilgrims to be “vaccinated against seasonal influenza before arrival into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly those at increased risk of severe influenza diseases, including pregnant women, children under 5 years, the elderly, and individuals with underlying health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, and chronic heart or lung diseases.”
Bring copies of important documents in addition to your electronic versions. These include your travel documents, vaccination documents, extra passport-sized photos, and Islamic certification for converts. Check with your travel agent to ensure you’ve met the requirements. Also, you may need to bring your so-called ‘vaccine passport‘ to certify your COVID inoculation status.
Bring along disinfectant, hand sanitizer and wash your hands as often as you can. In light of the pandemic, the wearing of masks especially in crowded areas will no doubt be mandatory. Disposable wipes and tissues should also be used instead of handkerchiefs. Bring along a few rolls of toilet paper and extra plastic bags and ziploc bags just in case.
Bring some toiletries in your carry-on. As the wait during processing can be very long, toiletries will help to provide refreshment. Bringing some snacks with you will also keep you comfortable while you wait.
During the Hajj
It is important to know how to perform the Hajj as Muhammad did. Certain actions you might see while on Hajj are in fact, innovations and not in adherence to the Prophet’s actions. An example of this includes throwing items other than stones at Jamarat, as well as loudly cursing the devil. Contrary to the belief that you are stoning real devils, this ritual is about remembering Allah (swt).
Wear your mask and attempt to maintain social distancing. While the official health and safety protocols of the Hajj season 2023 have yet to be announced, it stands to reason that proper social distancing and mask-wearing would need to be observed at all times. We’ll be sure to update you on additional safety protocols as details become available.
Be aware of public safety, especially during tawaf and walking between Safa and Marwa. Take care not to jostle because you wish to touch the Ka’aba or other sacred iconography. You may adhere to the requirements of the Hajj without having to go close to the Ka’aba. Every pilgrim is obligated to treat their fellow pilgrims gently.
As you perform the Hajj, be aware of the itinerary. From timings when you may leave a location to when scheduled events take place, following your guide’s itinerary avoids unnecessary worry. Knowing the Hajj itinerary also means you know what happens next, and you’ll avoid getting lost, and also have sufficient time to rest.
Journalling down your experiences as you undertake this transformational journey can be beneficial to your experience, as you pen down your thoughts and reflections. These notes will also be helpful in the future when advising others intending to go on the Hajj.
Before you begin the Hajj
Avoid taking loans to garner the finances required to go on the Hajj, especially those involving riba (as it is haraam). It is more important to pay off your debts than to have financial clashes due to your participation in the Hajj. Ensure that you have enough to take care of your loved ones, and can repay your debtors when due.
Always book your Hajj packages from trusted and authorized travel agents It is advised that pilgrims should only sign agreements with those who have been approved by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and hold a valid Air Travel Organizer’s License and payment should be made via bank transfer into a traceable business bank account to avoid the Hajj fraud. You can check our article on how to book your Hajj packages below:
Don’t tire yourself out before the Hajj begins. If you do too much in Medina, you won’t have the energy to perform the Hajj in good health and might fall sick. Take Vitamin C to keep your immunity up, and bring cough drops to avoid the Hajj Cough.
During the Hajj
When in ihram: Muslim women are not to cover the face when they are in ihram. Make-up, cologne and perfume are also not to be worn.
Don’t push. The crowded conditions are already injury-prone, so take care of yourself and others around you.
Don’t avoid water. Even though the facilities might not always be conveniently accessible, it is more dangerous to be dehydrated. Have water on you at all times.
Avoid bringing a camera, as they may be confiscated. Also, taking a photo in your ihram attire contradicts the sincerity of your actions, making it seem like you’re doing it for yourself and not Allah (swt).
Don’t be disheartened. A lot of people have found themselves disappointed by the conditions and environments during the Hajj, from cleanliness to the long stretches of waiting. Set your expectations low and things can only get better. Focus on Allah (swt), and not your situation, and you’ll find a change in your mood.
An annual demonstration of unity and devotion, the Hajj is performed to Allah (swt) alone, as you repent and find a deeper understanding in pleasing Him. As you prepare your heart and mind, remember that is the primary reason for your participation in the Hajj, not personal gain. Everyone else is also here to worship, so have sabr, help others, and you will have a memorable time.
If you wish to learn more in preparation for your Hajj, there is a wealth of informative videos online (such as this series by ROAD2WISDOM), and other websites to facilitate your learning. You should also seek guidance from your local imam on the basics of the Hajj.