For many Muslims, the hajj represents one of the most profound and meaningful religious experiences of their lives. Not only does this pilgrimage to Mecca represent an opportunity to deepen one’s faith. This pillar of the Islamic faith also gives pilgrims a chance to interact and engage with other members of Islam from different countries, resulting in many opportunities for cultural exchange and relationship and friendship building. In the past, millions of Muslims from all over the world would descend on Mecca during the hajj season, during the final month of the lunar calendar.
This is why it has been so unfortunate that for the past two years, the number of pilgrims who participated in the hajj has been severely limited, in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Currently, only residents of Saudi Arabia and those who have special residency permits will be allowed to make the pilgrimage. This is not likely to be the case forever, however, so in preparation for the time when Mecca will be reopened to pilgrims again, here are some helpful tips on how to prepare for the hajj.
Pack the Appropriate Supplies and Clothing
The hajj is a religious pilgrimage, and as such, it’s not simply another vacation. There are a few items that those who go on it would be advised to bring, including a personal copy of the Quran in the language of their choice, as well as their own prayer beads. Fortunately, those who do not wish to pack physical versions of these items can turn to Muslim Pro instead. The Muslim Pro app has many useful features and functionalities built in, including a virtual seven-bead counter, a compass pointing to Mecca, globally synchronized prayer alarms, and a copy of the Quran in more than 40 languages.
Pilgrims are also advised to bring their Ihram clothing. For men, this is composed of two white cloths: the izar, or the cloth that covers the man from waist to ankle, and the rida, or the cloth that covers all of the torso except the right shoulder. For women, an ihram dress can simply be an unadorned, loose fitting robe, in either white or black.
The entire world is still dealing with the effects of the spread of the coronavirus, but fortunately, a vaccine for the disease has been made widely available. Anyone who intends to travel, whether for hajj or for other purposes, is highly encouraged to have themselves inoculated against the virus. Admittedly, getting the vaccine against COVID-19 is not an assurance of 100 percent protection against it. However, many studies have shown that vaccinated individuals are far less likely to acquire it or pass it on, and most importantly, those who have been vaccinated usually only have relatively mild symptoms and almost never need intensive care due to COVID-19.
There are practical considerations to be accounted for as well, when it comes to vaccination and the hajj. Current health protocols state that hajj pilgrims must present proof of full vaccination before being allowed to go on their pilgrimage. This means producing a vaccination card with labels for:
- Two doses of the Moderna vaccine
- Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine
- Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine
- One dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine
Pilgrims who are unable to produce this documentation will likely not be allowed to enter Mecca, so take the time necessary to prepare your documentation and get vaccinated.
Prepare Your Body
Unbeknownst to many, the hajj is a highly physical activity that in some cases may require pilgrims to walk or run certain distances. There may also be activities that require participants to stand or kneel for extended periods of time, which may be a challenge for older pilgrims.
Take some time prior to the trip to begin training your body to withstand the rigors of the hajj. Going on a daily walk for at least 30 minutes is a low-impact activity that will improve your cardiovascular health and lung capacity, in preparation for your pilgrimage.
It’s also worth noting that for pilgrims from other countries, Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia and is prone to extreme temperatures throughout the day. During the daytime, it can get very hot, but the temperature also drops quite precipitously in the evenings. Pilgrims are therefore encouraged to pack and dress appropriately for their comfort.
When done right, the hajj can be a truly transcendent experience and every effort should be exerted to make it a memorable and joyous one as well. Speaking to other hajji about their experiences will help prepare you for your own by setting your expectations and giving you an idea of what is likely to happen during your own hajj. And while the global coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on, it will only be a matter of time before pilgrims will soon be able to complete this vital part of their faith journey.