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Most people who have been to Hajj can attest to the fact that it is one of the most memorable experiences of a lifetime! And provided that they have the means to perform Hajj again, they would undoubtedly do so.
If you are fortunate to be honored with the opportunity of performing Hajj, it is important to make the most out of this blessed experience. Here are some tips on how you can take your Hajj experience to the next level, In sha Allah.
1. 'Taqwa' is the most important thing to bring on your trip
If there is one thing you can bank on during your trip, it is that you will be tested, over and over. It doesn't matter if you have a 5-star package and access to amenities that most others don't, you cannot escape the tests that Allah will place before you.
You may experience long delays in getting from point A to point B. You may get ill. You may get stuck with a fellow Muslim in your group that annoys you. You may lose your luggage or your passport. You may get lost from your group. Something may happen that throws your whole Hajj in jeopardy. The bottom line is: you will face challenges along the way. This has always been the case, right from when Hajj was first instituted until now.
Our Master and Creator has provided us with some advice in the Qur'an on how we can respond to the tests that He will send.
"… And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O people of understanding" [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 197].
Allah teaches us how we can prepare for those tests. It is taqwa that you should carry with you every step of the way because it will give you the strength to bear the tests that Allah will place upon you to test your faith and strengthen your imaan and maybe even, raise your status with Him .
Taqwa here means to have an elevated consciousness of Allah , to be constantly aware that He is watching over you at every moment. With this awareness comes a desire to please Allah even in moments of distress. When your buttons are pushed, you control your emotions and act rationally with patience.
2. Internalize your dua
Many people who plan on going for Hajj spend a lot of time focusing on what belongings they should take with them on the trip. They try to prepare themselves for the situations they expect to face.
What gets neglected often, however, is preparing for the moments in which you have the opportunity to make lots of dua and adhkar. There will be no shortage of these situations, because they will present themselves throughout the trip. For example, tawaf and sa'ee are times of making lots of dua and lots of dhikr of Allah . There will be idle moments you have in between the fardh (obligatory) prayers. Even while traveling between locations, sitting on a bus or waiting at the airport, there are idle times that can be utilized.
As part of your Hajj preparations, factor in these precious moments that you will have. Try to memorize as much of the dua you want to recite as possible and thoroughly understand its meaning. So, when you are in front of the Ka'bah doing tawaf, or performing sa'ee or even in your nawafil prayer, the dua will come from the heart. The words you recite will reflect the emotions in your heart. When you are calling upon your Master, your heart calls out too. You won't get this level of spiritual connection by reading from a book of adhkar that you don't know the meaning of. However, it's certainly recommended to repeat the supplications which the Prophet taught us.
Practice and rehearse your dua in the weeks leading up to your trip. So when it's time to perform on the big stage, you are able to maximize the opportunity In sha Allah.
3. Make a master dua list for the day of Arafat
Arafat is Hajj. This is the pinnacle of your pilgrimage. This is why you spent thousands of dollars on this trip and exhausted your vacation days for the year. This is the day in which you come to Allah humbled in the simplest of dress, standing in a barren desert, disheveled, with your hands outstretched, pleading with all your emotions hanging out.
Between Dhuhr/Asr (because you will combine these prayers) and Maghrib, is time for you and Allah . Find your own comfortable spot, away from any distractions that might disrupt your dua. This is where you want to make dua for all the things you desire for yourself and your loved ones, both in this dunya and in the akhirah. This is the time where you want to make istighfar, like you've never done so before. And this is the time where you want to feel connected to Allah .
To make the most out of Arafat, start planning for it while you are making your other preparations for Hajj. Sit down and brainstorm an exhaustive master list of all the dua you want to make. If there are Prophetic duas or Qur'anic duas related to what you're asking for, include those on the list. Categorize and group your master list so that it flows following the etiquette of dua. Review and revise this list until you're satisfied.
If you can memorize all of these duas, all the better. If not, having a list to prompt and guide you will certainly be helpful in this situation.
4. Relive the stories of Prophet Ibrahim
Performing Hajj and Umrah is a commemoration and remembrance of the great sacrifices made by Prophet Ibrahim and his family. These sacrifices were so important, that Allah chose to preserve them until the Day of Judgment through the Qur'an and through these rites of worship. When performing your Hajj and Umrah obligations, try to develop a deep connection to Prophet Ibrahim's story. It will give greater purpose to the ritual actions.
For example, when you are doing sa'ee, reflect upon when Prophet Ibrahim left his wife Hajar and son Isma'il alone in a barren, uninhabited desert without sufficient food. Isma'il began crying out of hunger, forcing Hajar to seek out water in the desert. She ran frantically back and forth between Mount Safa and Marwa desperately in search of water. And then suddenly by the will of Allah , the water of the Zam Zam well sprouted out from the ground, and an abundance of water became available. Eventually, the city of Makkah was gradually established around this water source.
As you are performing sa'ee, try to recreate the desperation that Hajar had when she was moving between Safa and Marwa. Call out to Allah with the sincerity, humility and desperation that Hajar showed.
When you are performing tawaf, remember the great efforts Ibrahim and his son Isma'il went through in raising the foundations and building the Ka'bah. When they had completed building this house of worship for Allah , Prophet Ibrahim didn't have any complacency. He turned and called out in dua:
"Oh my Lord, accept this effort from us. Most certainly, You Hear everything and You Know everything" [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 127].
Just like Prophet Ibrahim did, we should ask Allah to accept the efforts we are putting in for our Hajj and Umrah.
During the days of Mina, ponder over the story of Prophet Ibrahim's dream where Allah instructed him of the mighty task of slaughtering his son Isma'il as a sacrifice. Without any hesitation, he proceeded to honor the command of Allah . On his way, shaytan tried his utmost best to influence him to not carry out the command.
When you proceed to perform the stoning rituals during Hajj, reflect upon Prophet Ibrahim's situation as he was about to slaughter his son, and how he fought off the influence of shaytan.
Reflecting upon these incidents and what it might have been like for Prophet Ibrahim and his family during those times, will bring an added sweetness to performing these rituals.
5. Days of Tashreeq are days for remembrance
The days following Eid-ul Adha are known as the Days of Tashreeq (the 11th, 12th and 13th days of Dhul Hijjah).
Allah says "And remember Allah during the [specific] numbered days" [Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 203].
According to many interpretations of this ayah, the days referenced here are the Days of Tashreeq. These are days designated for celebration and worship, days in which we can enjoy eating, drinking, and relaxing. However, don't lose sight of the instruction in the ayah: to remember Allah .
When coming out of the state of ihram for Hajj, it is a joyous occasion. The preceding days were strenuous and tiring, so it's a relief to come out of the state of ihram and be in your comfortable clothes again. It's key to balance the time during your remaining days in Mina with the remembrance of Allah . The people around you may get caught up in a lot of relaxation and merriment. Remain patient and have taqwa of Allah during these days, and try to dedicate long periods of the day for remembering Allah .
May Allah bless your Hajj journey and may you have an accepted Hajj (Hajj Mabroor). Ameen!
Now please share with us your tips, reflections and/or your thoughts on the best way to prepare for the blessed hajj journey.
About the Author:
Nabeel is an active member of the Muslim community in Toronto. www.twitter.com/ilmaddict
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