The right mindset

There are many books, lectures, pictures and videos out there, not to mention word of mouth, that can help you prepare for hajj. But the first and foremost thing to do is enter into the right state of mind. It is very important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I going? For Allah? For myself? Or for someone else?
  • What kind of expectations do I have from the travel agent that I am going with?
  • What do I expect to experience once I am there?
  • What kind of behavior do I expect from other hajis?
  • What kind of treatment do I expect from the locals?
  • What do I think the local authorities and management will be like?
  • Do I expect everything to go without a hitch?
  • Am I prepared to deal with stumbling blocks along the way? How will I handle such a situation?
  • How do I intend to carry myself? What will my own behavior reflect?

And the most important question of all:

  • What is the single most important purpose of my trip?

Like the other pillars of Islam, or perhaps any command of Allah, it is very important to do it for the right reasons. Just like praying or fasting can be done if someone is pressurizing you to do it, but it becomes a burden when it should be a relief. Hajj is a very large undertaking and it will become much, much easier if you really and truly want to do it, or at least believe in the importance of doing it.

You are going into a totally different country, at a very extraordinary time. People from all kinds of places, all kinds of backgrounds and all walks of life will be two inches from you every step of the way. Everyone will have their own way of dealing with the crowd, regardless of their education, financial circumstances or professions. People will be shoving others to be the first to get into elevators, buses, or for food, even during tawaf, taking the limited seats ahead of the elderly or women, talking loudly on their cell phones while important instructions are being given. Remember that you are in the state of ihram. Just like you control your actions, reactions, temper and tongue while fasting, you have to do so during hajj as well.

Be prepared for a lot of pushing and shoving at these two places- near the door of the Kaaba and the Maqam-i-Ibrahim.

Be prepared for a lot of pushing and shoving at these two places- near the door of the Kaaba and the Maqam-i-Ibrahim.

Every second will not be spent in spiritual introspect and prayer. A lot of the time will be spent in getting to the right place at the right time. But that is exactly what hajj is about. It is considered to be the height of spiritual awakening, yet it is performed together with millions of people. But somehow people expect that to experience that kind of connection one must go into isolation and pray in complete solitude. Pilgrimage is about being with all people who are all there for the same purpose. Please don’t try to constantly be looking for a way to get away from the crowd. You are a part of the crowd. That is hajj. If you find a quiet corner somewhere, great, but don’t keep waiting to find one before you start praying. Try to use the energy of all the pilgrims that is concentrated in a very small place. Try to find a place in your head where you can go, like I was moved most by thinking about all the prophets and their companions who walked in the same place, looked at the same sky, drank of the same water. This thought transported me to a place where I could concentrate on my prayers without being bothered by the commotion around me.


Mina (Photo credit: Adam Khan)

Secondly, pilgrimage is a unique setting and it tests us in completely new ways. Hajj is a very, very community affair. It throws us into an unfamiliar place surrounded by strangers with little or no sense of privacy and repeated situations that test our patience and forbearance. This is an exceptional circumstance of coming into contact with a large cross section of the entire Muslim Ummah. It’s about being a part of that whole community and using the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of people around you. How you carry yourself in this situation and whether you emerge from the experience a more humble and God-fearing Muslim- that is hajj. Worship in a pilgrimage is not just going into a corner and reciting verses. You have to be there for everyone. Use every opportunity to help others, share your belongings, your food, your medicines, your space with them. That is the spirit of hajj.