Hajj and Umrah                

The Hajj, or 'pilgrimage' to Makkah and Madinah, is a central duty of Islam whose origins date back to the Prophet Abraham (alaihi as-salaam), bringing together Muslims of all races and tongues for one of life's most moving spiritual experiences.

For 14 centuries, countless millions of Muslims, men and women from the four corners of the earth, have made the pilgrimage to Makkah the birthplace of Islam and to Madinah the home of the Most Beloved Prophet (Salla Allahu ta'ala alayhi wa Sallam). In carrying out this obligation, they fulfill one of the 'five pillars of Islam' or central religious duties of the believer.


This handbook uses a large number of technical terms applicable to Umrah and Hajj. They are defined, and where considered necessary, briefly described below. A discussion of terms that require more extensive treatment is deferred until later in the text at the appropriate places. It is strongly recommended that the reader familiarize himself thoroughly with all terms defined. It may be emphasized that since definitions of various terms often incorporate other terms, more than one reading of this chapter may be needed for a fuller understanding of its contents:

Arafat : A desert location approximately nine miles from Makkah where the pilgrim spends the 9th of Dhul Hijjah as a rite of Hajj.

Ayyam ut Tashreeq : The 11th, 12th, and 13th of the month of Dhul Hijjah. The pilgrim performs Rummy in Mina on these days.

Dhul Hijjah : The last month of the Islamic calendar during which Hajj is performed.

Dum : The expiation required of a pilgrim for a willful violation of a prohibition or obligation of the state of Ihram.

Hajj : A set of acts of worship prescribed by the Lord of the Worlds Allah Almighty and by His Most Beloved Messenger Sayyadina Rasulullah (peace and blessings upon him) to be performed in and around Makkah at least once in a lifetime by every Muslim satisfying certain conditions. Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. There are three types of Hajj one may perform as defined below:

Hajj al-Ifrad : The type of Hajj wherein the pilgrim pronounces his Niyyah (i.e.,intention) to perform only Hajj at Meeqat while changing into Ihram.

Hajj al-Qiran : The type of Hajj wherein the pilgrim pronounces his intention to perform both Umrah and Hajj together with the same Ihram at Meeqat.

Hajj ut Tamattu : The type of Hajj wherein the pilgrim pronounces his intention to perform only Umrah at Meeqat when changing into Ihram. A second niyyah, and a second change into Ihram follow on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah for the performance of the remaining rites of Hajj.

Hajar al-Aswad : The Sacred Black Stone built into the south-east corner of the Ka'bah at a height of approximately four feet. The stone does not belong to the geology of the region and is a part of the original construction of the Ka'bah by Prophet Ibrahim (Alaihi as-salaam) Hajar al-Aswad has a special significance for Muslims during Hajj. It was personally installed in the wall of the Ka'bah by Sayyadina Rasulullah (peace and blessings be upon him) himself during its reconstruction following its destruction by a flash flood. The Beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also kissed it during his Last (Farewell) Hajj. Thus, touching and kissing, or Istilam, of Hajar al-Aswad during Umra and Hajj are not only His Sunnah but also constitute an emotional and spiritual bond between Him and His people.

Halq : The act of completely shaving his head by the male pilgrim on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah. This is the last thing he does before getting out of the state of Ihram. See Taqseer also. For female pilgrims, the requirements of Halq and Taqseer are satisfied if they trim their hair by approximately half an inch.

Haram ash Shareef : The Mosque around the Ka'bah in Makkah, as well as the Mosque in Madinah. The latter, also known as Al Masjid un Nabawi contains within its premises the blessed grave of Sayyadina Rasulullah (peace and blessings be upon him).

Hateem : The area adjacent to the Ka'bah on its west side, enclosed by a low semi-circular wall. Tradition has it that Hajar (wife of Prophet Ibrahim) is buried in this enclosure. It is highly recommended that the pilgrim should offer Salaat us Sunnah and supplications to Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) in this area. However, this is not a part of the official rites of Hajj.

Idtiba : The mode of Ihram used during Tawaf al-Qudoom. The male pilgrim drapes one end of the top part of his Ihram over his left shoulder back-to-front. The other end goes across his back, under his right arm, across his front, and is finally draped over his left shoulder.
Idtiba is not observed in any other type of Tawaf. Also, when the pilgrim offers salat us sunnah after Tawaf ul Qudoom or an obligatory salat during this Tawaf, he must cover both his shoulders. In other words, Idtiba is practiced only while actually performing Tawaf ul Qudoom. Female pilgrims wear no Ihram, so that the question of Idtiba for them does not arise.

Ihram : The distinctive garb of the male pilgrim worn during Umrah or Hajj. It consists of two pieces of white, unsewn and plain cloth. One of the pieces is wrapped around the midriff to cover his body from just above his navel to his ankles, and the other is draped around his shoulders to cover the upper body. For ladies, their ordinary, and unpretentious clothes of daily wear constitute their Ihram.

Istilam : The act of kissing Hajar al-Aswad at the beginning and the end of every circumambulation (circuit) of the Ka'bah during Tawaf. If it is not possible physically to kiss Hajar al-Aswad for any reason, the pilgrim may extend his hand to touch the Sacred Stone and then kiss his own hand. If even that is not possible, he may raise his hand towards Hajar al-Aswad and, thereafter, kiss his own hand.

Jamraat : The three stone pillars in Mina which symbolically represent the locations where the devil (shaitan) is stated in tradition to have tried to tempt Prophet Ibrahim (alaihi as-salaam) in an effort to dissuade him from the path of Allah. The pilgrim symbolically stones these pillars on the 10th through the 13th of Dhul Hijjah in commemoration of the rejection of the devil by Prophet Ibrahim (alahi as-salaam), and of his steadfastness to the cause of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala). The Jamraat are located within a few hundred feet of one another in a line and are named as follows:

Jamrat ul Kubra : The last stone pillar in the line. This is also called Jamrat al-Uqabah.

Jamrat ul Ula : The first stone pillar in the line.

Jamrat ul Wusta : The second (middle) stone pillar in the line.

Kaffarah : Another name for Dum.

Marwah : A small knoll (i.e., hillock) located approximately one hundred yards from the Kabah inside Al Masjid al-Haram. The pilgrim performs the devotional rite of Sai between the knolls of Safa and Marwah.

Mahram : The husband, or a male companion of a female pilgrim to whom her marriage is expressly prohibited by the shariah (e.g., father, brother, uncle, nephew, etc.) A woman must necessarily be accompanied by a Mahram for Umra and Hajj.

Masjid al-Haram : The mosque around the Kabah also known as Haram ash-Shareef.

Meeqat : An imaginary boundary around Makkah. A prospective pilgrim cannot cross this boundary without first changing into Ihram. This boundary is anchored by different townships and localities in different directions (Zul Hulaifa in the north, Yalamlam in the south-east, Dhat Irq in the north-east, Juhfah in the north-west, Qarn al-Manazil in the east.) The pilgrim changes into Ihram at Meeqat and pronounces his intention to perform Umrah or Hajj. For people living inside the Meeqat permanently, their place of residence is their Meeqat.

Mina : A desert location approximately three miles from Makkah where several rites of Hajj are performed.

Muallim : A knowledgeable professional who can guide the pilgrim during Hajj; also called a Mutawwif.

Muhrim : A pilgrim in the state of Ihram.

Multazam : The part of the Ka'bah between its door and Hajar al-Aswad. This is a specially sacred part of the Ka'bah. It is recommended that, if possible, the pilgrim should touch the Kabah at Multazam and offer supplications to Allah. However, this is not a part of the official rites of Hajj.

Maqam-o-Ibrahim : The step-stone used by Prophet Ibrahim (alaihi as-salaam) during the original construction of the Ka'bah. The stone carries the imprints of his feet, and is housed in a glass enclosure on the north side of the Ka'bah.

Mutamatti : One who has performed Hajj ut Tamattu.

Mutawwif : See Muallim.

Muzdalifah : A desert location approximately midway between Mina and Arafat. The pilgrim spends the night of the 10th of Dhul Hijjah here.

Niyyah : Intention. All acts of worship are preceded by an appropriate Niyyah.

Qarin : One who has performed Hajj ul Qiran

Qasr : The mode of shortened prayers usually offered when on a journey.

Ramal : The ritual in which male pilgrims are required to walk briskly with their chests thrust forward and with their shoulders rolling slightly during the first three circuits of Tawaf ul Qudoom. Ladies are not required to practice Ramal.

Rummy : The act of symbolically stoning the devil (shaitan) in Mina on the 10th through the 13th of Dhul Hijjah. This commemorates the tradition that Prophet Ibrahim (alaihi as-salaam) was tempted three times by the devil, and rejected all three of his overtures by stoning him, and driving him away. These three locations are symbolized by three stone pillars in Mina.

Safa : A small knoll approximately half a mile from the Kabah inside Al Masjid al-Haram. The pilgrim performs the devotional act of Sai between the knolls of Safa and Marwah.

Sai : The devotional act of walking seven times back and forth between the knolls of Safa and Marwah. This act retraces the footsteps of Hajar (wife of Prophet Ibrahim alaihi as-salaam), during her desperate search for water for her infant son Ismail after they were left in the desert by Prophet Ibrahim in response to a divine vision.

Salaat : Obligatory or supererogatory prayers.

Shawt : One complete circumambulation, or circuit, of the Kabah. Each shawt (pl. ashwaat) starts and ends at Hajar al-Aswad. Seven ashwaat constitute one Tawaf.

Talbiyah : A devotional recital of the following words by the pilgrim during Umra and Hajj.

(Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik. Labbaik, La Shareek Laka, Labbaik. Innal Hamdah, Wan Nematah, Laka wal Mulk, La Shareek Laka)
Trans: "Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners."

The Talbiyah is a prayer as well as an assertion of the pilgrim's conviction that he intends to perform Hajj only for the glory of Allah. The pilgrim starts the recital upon changing into the Ihram, and continues to recite it frequently throughout Hajj. Male pilgrims recite the Talbiyah loudly whereas female pilgrims are required to recite it in a low voice.

Taqseer : Shortening or clipping of the whole head of hair by the male pilgrim following the completion of Hajj. This may be performed in lieu of Halq. However, snipping off a few hairs here and there is not acceptable. The Sunnah of The Beloved Rasulullah (peace and blessings be upon him) supports only Taqseer and Halq.

Tawaf : The devotional act of circumambulating the Ka'bah while reciting prayers. It constitutes an integral part of Umra and Hajj. There are five different types of Tawaf one may perform:

Tawaf al-Ifadah : The Tawaf performed by the pilgrim on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah as the last formal rite of Hajj in Makkah after changing into street clothes (also called Tawaf uz Ziyarah).

Tawaf un Nafl : A devotional Tawaf which may be performed any time.

Tawaf al-Qudoom : The initial Tawaf performed by the pilgrim upon entering Al Masjid al-Haram in Makkah pursuant upon his intention for Hajj.

Tawaf al-Umra : The Tawaf performed as a rite of Umra.

Tawaf al-Wuda : The Farewell Tawaf performed by the pilgrim just before leaving Makkah for his next destination.

Umra : A set of religious and devotional rites performed in Makkah in an order ordained by Allah and His Beloved Messenger Sayyadina Rasulullah (peace and blessings be upon him). Umrah can be performed at any time of the year and, unlike Hajj, does not involve the rites at Mina, Muzdalifah, and Arafat.

Yaum un Nahr : The 10th of Dhul Hijjah. This day is designated as the preferred day of sacrifice during Hajj.

Yaum ut Tarwiyah : The 8th of Dhul Hijjah signifying the start of Hajj. The pilgrim proceeds to Mina on this day.



Before you leave

3.1 General

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. All Muslims who fulfill certain conditions must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. What are these conditions? Are there any prerequisites of Hajj? The answers to these and many other similar questions can help you in making decisions, and in planning for Hajj in a better and more efficient fashion.

3.2 Who Must Perform Hajj

Every Muslim who fulfills the following conditions must perform Hajj at least once in his lifetime:

a.He must be of sound mind, and in full control of his mental faculties.

b.He must be old enough, and mature enough to understand the full import, and significance of what he is setting out to do.

c.He must be financially sound enough to be able not only to bear all of his expenses for Hajj but also to provide adequately for his dependents during his absence and until his return.
3.3 Prerequisites Of Hajj

Since Hajj is an act of worship, it must be performed in peace, and with single minded devotion. There are a number of simple, yet important, things you can do to get in the right frame of mind for this unique experience. All of these are self-evident and are based on common sense. They are reiterated below for completeness of the discussion and as a reminder:

a.Your intention must be to perform Hajj solely for the sake of Allah. Considerations of pleasing or impressing others with your show of piety should never be a factor.

b.All Hajj expenses must be paid out of money obtained through legitimate (Halaal) means. Money obtained through illegitimate or doubtful means is not acceptable.

c.All of your debts and financial obligations must be fully discharged before you start your journey and, where necessary, a written acknowledgement of the transaction obtained for future use.

d.You must make an honest effort to resolve your outstanding differences with others and seek forgiveness from those you may have hurt in any way in the past. This is based on specific instructions of Sayyiduna Rasool Allah (pbuh) and must be followed for the Hajj to be meaningful.
3.4 Preparations For Hajj

Since Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people, the importance of early and adequate preparation cannot be over-emphasized. There is a considerable investment of money, time, and physical effort required for the Pilgrimage to be fulfilling and meaningful. Information has to be collected, itineraries must be worked out, and documents have to be readied. The purpose of these preparations is not only to minimize physical discomfort, emotional aggravation and monetary expenses, but also to enable you to perform Hajj in relative peace of heart and mind. Therefore, it makes sense to be as ready as possible for this momentous journey of self-discovery, self-appraisal, and spiritual enlightenment.

Arrangements must be started early enough so that you are not rushed for time in the few days before your voyage commences. The paperwork, shopping, finalizing your travel and residential arrangements inside Saudi Arabia etc., consume a great deal of time. Three to four months ahead of your actual date of departure is a good estimate for starting your preparations. Your travel agent, or a knowledgeable friend who has performed Hajj recently, can also guide you in your preparations. Be sure to apply a "factor of safety" to their recommendations and allow yourself a somewhat greater period of preparation than they advise!

The following guidelines are intended to get you started in the right direction. Since individual needs and preferences vary widely you will, in all probability, add to the list as you prepare for the journey:

1.Travel Agent
Choose a travel agent who offers a wide selection of "packages" for Hajj. There are a large number of travel agencies all over the country that offer Hajj services, and not all of their products are of equal quality and value. Choosing the right agent is of crucial importance. Hopefully, a representative of your travel agent will be your constant guide and trouble shooter during Hajj. Invest time and effort in this essential phase of your preparation.

Talk to friends and acquaintances who may have recently used the services of various companies and ask them for recommendations. The quality of service and commitment to the comfort and well-being of the pilgrims vary significantly among travel agents. Whereas a good and responsible agent can "make" your Hajj, a bad one can just as easily "break" it.

Be sure to ask the travel agent specific questions and have him give you specific answers:

a.What will be the duration of your stay in Makkah and Madinah? What dates? Is the program flexible or will it allow no changes once it is made? Is there any additional cost to such changes? If so, what is it?

b.How far away will you be staying from Haram ash Shareef, both in Makkah and in Madinah? If your place of residence is not within easy walking distance (10-15 minutes), what type of transportation to and from Haram ash Shareef will be made available? How often during the day will it be available?

c.Will a representative of the travel agent who is fully conversant with the rites of Hajj, and Saudi rules and procedures for customs, immigration, and travel be with you at all times? Will he stay in Saudi Arabia for the duration of your visit? You do not want to be left in Saudi Arabia without adequate guidance and assistance. The laws and procedures there can be very difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming.

d.Will the representative of the agent be conversant with the Arabic language? If not, will an interpreter be provided in Saudi Arabia? Most Saudi authorities do not speak English, and your command of Arabic is likely to be limited.

e.Will you have the option of travelling within Saudi Arabia, (for example from Makkah to Madinah), in a taxi hired by you at your own expense instead of the prepaid bus provided by your muallim? How about possible return by air from Madinah to Jeddah on your way out of the country instead of the usual prepaid bus? Get a good idea of this additional expense.
You may want to use the above options in view of the fact that the bus journeys during Hajj season can be nerve-racking. For example, a bus journey from Makkah to Madinah (approximately 400 km or 250 miles) can take as long as twenty to thirty hours, whereas a taxi will cover the same distance in three to four hours. The small additional cost you will incur is well worth the money in terms of time saved and physical discomfort avoided.

If you choose to use any of the alternate travel options (and it is highly recommend that you give them very serious consideration), be sure to redeem your unused bus coupons at Jeddah airport on your way out. Your travel agent should be able to help you in this.

f.What kind of arrangements will be made for your stay in Mina and Arafat? How about the food arrangements in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah?

g.Does the price of your package include meals? See if the agents make an effort to vary the menu. You may have to supplement your meals with milk, fruits etc. Food supplied by the agents tends to be monotonous, and the lack of variety is likely to kill your appetite after a couple of days!

h.Will the agent arrange for a sacrifice on your behalf on the 10th of Zul Hijjah? This is a common service agents often provide for a small fee. They will inform you of the time of the sacrifice so that you may perform other rites accordingly.

You will need certain vaccinations for the issuance of a Hajj visa. The World Health Organization (WHO) issues annual guidelines and requirements concerning vaccinations for travel to various countries including Saudi Arabia. Your physician will have the necessary information or will be able to access it readily.

Check either with your travel agent or the Saudi Arabian Embassy for additional requirements. The Saudi Government requirements are usually stricter than the WHO recommendations. For instance, whereas the WHO recommended immunization against only meningococcal meningitis for travel to Saudi Arabia in 1997, the Saudi authorities required immunization against cholera also.

Your doctor may recommend additional vaccinations in the light of his knowledge and experience. The writer's doctor (a specialist in infectious diseases) recommended and administered immunization against typhoid fever, polio, pneumonia, diphtheria/tetanus (D/T) and malaria.

This may sound like "over-kill" and it probably is in most cases. However, it can also save you a lot of worry and misery in those unfortunate instances where extra care is needed. To cite an example : in 1997 there was an outbreak of typhoid in India and some of the pilgrims in the writer's group, who travelled to India after Hajj, became seriously ill with the illness while there. It is possible that they contracted the disease from carriers among the Indian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, or they may have contracted the disease in India itself. In any case, earlier vaccination against the disease would have saved them from much suffering and anxiety. Had they contracted typhoid in Saudi Arabia itself from the Indian pilgrims, they would have had serious problems completing their Hajj.

Be sure to obtain an official Vaccination Record Book (the "Yellow Book") from your County or State Health Department. Have your physician fill it out, sign it, and stamp it. Anything less may be unacceptable to the Saudi visa authorities, and you don't want your visa application rejected for a small detail like this. Keep the vaccination record book with your other important documents and take it with you to Saudi Arabia. You never know when you may need it.


a.Saudi Government regulations require your passport to be valid for at least six months past the date of your departure. If it is not, have its validity extended or get a new passport well ahead of time. It takes several weeks for a passport to be issued or extended under normal circumstances. Your local post office should have the necessary forms and other relevant information.
If you are not a U.S. citizen and hold a "green card", your passport also needs to be valid for six months past the date of your departure. Your travel agent will be able to advise you of any additional requirements.

b.You will need a round-trip ticket to Saudi Arabia for a Hajj visa to be issued. Your travel agent will ask you for a specific package of documents to be submitted with your visa application. Normally, the agent will take care of the visa application as a part of his services.

c.Your travel agent will probably ask you for four to five passport-sized pictures for a visa and other paper work. Have an additional four to five copies of the photos made and take them with you to Saudi Arabia. They may be needed for ID cards issued by your muallim and other Saudi documents and procedures. Having spare pictures on hand will save you the time, aggravation, and expense involved in having them made in a foreign land.

d.If you were born in the U.S.A., you may be required to have a certificate issued by a competent authority (e.g., the Imam of your local mosque) stating that you are a Muslim. Since non-muslims are not allowed in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, such a document is of crucial importance, especially if you do not happen to have a typical Muslim name. Your travel agent or the Saudi Embassy can advise you about the details of the said certificate.

e.Prepare a Last Will and Testament and have it properly notarized. Consult an attorney if it is a complicated will, or if you have concerns about your assets and property in case of something untoward happening to you during Hajj. Leave the original in a safety deposit box accessible to a member of your family. The executor/executrix of your will should also be given a copy, and your attorney should probably retain a copy also. Have him explain to you, and the immediate members of your family affected by the will, the probate laws of your state and advise them as to the best course of action in case of your death abroad.


a.You will be exerting considerable physical effort during Hajj. All Hajj rites (Tawaf, Sai, Rummy etc.) require a great deal of strength and endurance. The constant crush of hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims, each trying to perform the same rites at the same time in limited spaces and very hot weather, compounds the demands on your physical conditioning and mental toughness.
In order to be prepared for the rigors expected of you, you must be in good physical shape. To achieve this, start a program of brisk walking and jogging for twenty to thirty minutes a day about three to four months before your departure. Gradually increase this regimen to an hour every day or every other day.

After a few days of walking/jogging start reciting audibly the Talbiyah and the prayers for Tawaf.This will keep your mind occupied during the monotony of the exercise, and will also help you get in a peaceful frame of mind. Concentrating on the meaning of the prayers will help you get ready for the actual Hajj as well.

b.Obtain and study books on Hajj and its rites if you wish to know more about its history and traditions. Familiarize yourself with all aspects of the Hajj process. Memorize the prayers you will be reciting and also learn their meaning. It requires very little effort to do so and it is so much more fulfilling and rewarding when you understand what you recite. It serves little purpose to recite prayers mindlessly with no comprehension of the words spoken.
The more you know about Hajj, its obligations, and prohibitions, the more comfortable and at peace you will feel during the whole process. You will be confident of what you are doing, and will also be independent of the advice and prompting of your friends or a mutawwif. Your prayers will bear the hallmark of the single-mindedness and devotion born of knowledge and confidence. You will also be able to help and guide your less knowledgeable companions, answer their questions, and allay their fears.

Some people do not take the trouble of learning the rites and prayers of Hajj themselves and, consequently, depend on professional mutawwifs for the performance of these rites. You will find such people performing the Tawaf under the leadership of these professionals, trying to keep up with their "leader" in the milling throngs of pilgrims around the Kabah, and at the same time, trying to repeat the prayers intoned by their mutawwif! With a little bit of effort, you can avoid the problems and frustrations of trying to follow some one else closely enough in a vast, moving crowd to listen to and parrot his intonations.

c.A female pilgrim must travel in the company of her husband or a mahram i.e., a member of her immediate family with whom her marriage is expressly prohibited by the shariah e.g., father, brother, son, uncle, etc.

3.5 Things To Take With You

The following is a fairly comprehensive list of things you will need to take with you to make your journey, and subsequent stay in Saudi Arabia safe, convenient, and relatively care-free. Since personal needs and preferences vary, you may want to make changes in this list to suit your own requirements.

The Ihram consists of two pieces of white, unsewn and plain cloth, either 100% cotton or light terry-cloth. These are cool to wear and also provide for better absorption of the heavy perspiration you will inevitably experience during Hajj. The sizes of the two pieces are as follows:

Bottom Part : 45" (1 1/4 yd) x 120" (3 1/3 yd)

Top Part : 45" (1 1/4 yd) x 72" (2 yd)

a.Tear off two, two to three inch wide strips of a sufficient length from the same material. Use one as a belt to secure the bottom portion of the Ihram. Keep the other as a spare. An ordinary belt or waist belt may also be used for the same purpose, but a strip of Ihram cloth is a lot more practical, and unobtrusive. It keeps the Ihram firmly in place and, unlike a fanny belt or pouch, does not have to be inspected by the police at the entrance to the Haram ash Shareef.

b.Tear off an eight to ten inch wide strip of sufficient length from the same material. Use it to secure money, credit cards, airline ticket, etc. around your midriff under the Ihram. Use a plastic sandwich bag inside this make-shift pouch to keep these things dry, and secure. This is as pilfer-proof as possible and,unlike a belt or waist pouch, does not attract the unwanted attention of pickpockets and thieves. You may still use a waist pouch to carry other things such as medication, pen, a handkerchief, and a small amount of money for daily use. Your waist pouch will be inspected by the police at the entrance to Haram ash Shareef in Makkah and Madinah. Be patient and understanding as the police are only doing their job.

Gastrointestinal and respiratory infections are very common during Hajj. People from all over the world bring with them all kinds of infections, and the unavoidable closeness of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims facilitates easy spread of these illnesses. Fatigue, and lack of sleep from the physically demanding regimen of Hajj rites as well as the over-enthusiastic exertions in prayers and devotions, lower one's immunity and resistance, thereby making one more vulnerable to disease. However, you can take elementary precautions to minimize your chances of becoming ill, and also to ensure that you will get back on your feet faster should you get sick. Getting and staying in good physical shape by regular exercise prior to your departure is a good first step. You can also carry certain medicines with you for use later.

a.Ask your doctor to prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to be taken prophylactically (i.e., as a preventive measure) throughout your stay in Saudi Arabia. The writer's doctor prescribed 250 mg of the antibiotic CIPRO to be taken daily. He found it to be very helpful and effective as he was about the only person in his group of approximately seventy five people who remained healthy and free of all infections during his stay. CIPRO is easily available in Saudi Arabia. Some people were prescribed AMOXICILLIN by Saudi doctors and pharmacists with good results. Most medicines are available over the counter in Saudi Arabia, and even pharmacists readily prescribe medication. However it is preferable to consult your doctor in the Europe/U.S.A. for your needs for obvious reasons.

b.Carry a reasonable supply of over-the-counter drugs such as :

TYLENOL PM (as a sleep-aid)

BENGAY, ASPERCREME (for muscular pain)


EMETROL (for nausea)


1.Waist Pouch
Keep valuables (documents, money, travellers' checks, keys, credit cards, etc.) in the fanny pouch around your waist at all times. Do not ever leave your home without it. Be especially careful and wary in crowded places. Unfortunately, there are thieves and pickpockets even inside Haram ash Shareef! Hold on to the pouch with your hand in crowds e.g., while doing Tawaf or when visiting Al Masjid un Nabawi in Madinah. Buy a good quality waist belt or pouch. It is a small but a very good investment.

Hard-cased, high quality luggage with a built-in locking system is highly recommended. Do not use a soft, vinyl suitcase with outside hasps for locks. Both the suitcase as well as the locks can be easily cut and the contents stolen. Many people have the mistaken notion that every one in and around the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and Al Haram ash Shareef is a God fearing, devoted Muslim. Therefore, they feel immune from criminal activity. Unfortunately, that is just not true. Inspite of the severe punishments awarded to convicted criminals by Saudi authorities, crime does exist. Pickpockets and crooks find it easy to prey on unsuspecting pilgrims whose guard is down because of their preoccupation with Hajj activities.

Always keep your suitcase locked and do not ever leave money, important papers or other valuables in it.Your residential room will be periodically cleaned by the cleaning staff, and the best way to keep every one honest is not to offer any temptation. Take two sets of keys for your suitcase. Keep one set in the waist pouch, and the other in a separate, and safe location.

Take a sufficient amount of currency to cover your projected expenses. It is difficult to recommend an amount since individual needs, travel and living arrangements, shopping plans etc. vary widely. Only you can decide on the amount to carry. In any event,do not advertise to others either the amount of money you possess or its place of safekeeping. You can never be too careful.The following are some useful guidelines in this area:

a.Have most of your money in the form of travellers' checks. They are safe to carry, can be cashed almost anywhere, and are easily replaced in case of theft or loss. Since your passport will have been taken from you for the duration of your stay by the Saudi authorities in Jeddah, the ID card issued by your muallim will most probably be used for check cashing purposes. The importance of this card cannot be over-emphasized. Take good care of it!
Besides the Saudi banks, the travellers' checks can also be cashed at the numerous "sarrafs" (money changers) located in the market in Makkah and Madinah.

b.Carry a small amount of Saudi riyals with you. A minimum of one thousand riyals (1 Dollar = 3.75 Riyals) is recommended. You can purchase them at almost all currency exchanges located in major American airports. This Saudi currency will help you take care of your immediate expenses upon your arrival until you become familiar with the local system. You will also save time and aggravation associated with making trips to the banks to cash your checks. All banks tend to be crowded during the Hajj season and may also be closed at certain times of the day and certain days of the week.

c.Take only one credit card with you to minimize problems in case of its loss. Make sure that you can use it to charge telephone calls also. Do not forget to carry the information required to contact the credit card issuing institution in case of its theft or misplacement.

d.Take some U.S./Euro currency also with you. You can exchange it for Saudi currency everywhere in emergencies, and may need it immediately upon your return to the Europe/U.S.A.

Saudi Arabia is a very hot part of the world most of the year. The presence of two to three million pilgrims during Hajj in rather congested spaces with the inevitable pushing and shoving adds to the discomfort. The Hajj rites, ziyarat (i.e., visiting places of religious or historical interest), shopping, etc. require considerable walking and physical exertion. Consequently, light and airy clothes for street wear are the best.

Take enough changes of clothes to make your stay comfortable, but be careful not to overburden yourself with unnecessary clothes. In the hot Saudi Arabian weather, one set of clothes lasts only a day. Professional laundry facilities are available in Saudi Arabia, though coin-operated laundries are a rarity. Getting your clothes cleaned professionally is quite expensive, particularly as the prices tend to sky-rocket during the Hajj season.

Some do-it-yourself light laundry may be necessary and is, indeed, highly recommended. It is a good idea to pack some laundry detergent, and wash your Ihram and other light items yourself. You will have a considerable amount of spare time before and after Hajj. Use it for "housekeeping".

For street wear, Indo-Pak shalwar-qamees, and kurta-pajama as well as the Saudi thoub (Jubaah-a one-piece head-to-toe garment) are ideal and are recommended. Thoubs are easily available everywhere in Saudi Arabia.

Depending on the time of the year, you may want to pack a light sweater for early morning wear in Madinah, which tends to be cool at that time of day in November and December.

There is no real need for you to carry items of food with you. Everything is readily available in Saudi Arabia at a reasonable cost. Saudi authorities do not allow perishable food items to be brought into the country in significant quantities anyway. Packaged and canned products in limited quantities, however, may be brought in by tourists and pilgrims. For emergencies and during periods of long waiting (e.g., at Jeddah airport) carry-on food may come in useful and handy. All kinds of food are available at Jeddah airport also. Some people may, however, prefer to use their own food immediately upon arrival in a foreign land. Some general guidelines are given below:

a.A couple of packs of cookies and crackers are helpful and provide a good snack. Remove them from their boxes; they occupy much less space as individual rolls. Granola bars, packaged dates, fig newtons and similar items are recommended also.

b.All varieties of fruits are easily obtainable everywhere in Saudi Arabia and provide much needed flavor and nutrition. Peelable fruits (bananas, oranges etc.) are recommended to minimize exposure to infection from insanitary handling. Wash all fruits carefully before use, and avoid fruits and food exposed to the elements.

c.Soft drinks of all kinds are obtainable in Saudi Arabia at all major and minor shopping establishments, and are entirely safe to drink. Bottled water is cheap, and should be the only water you drink.Tap water or water from any other source (except, of course, the Zam-Zam water) should not be used for drinking purposes.

d.Milk, yogurt, buttermilk, ice cream, and other dairy products are widely available, and should be liberally used to supplement your diet.

e.Take two 18-oz cans of powdered POWERADE or GATORADE with you. Mixed directly with a bottle of cold water, they make for a nutritious and delicious drink and also serve to replenish body salts and chemicals lost through the inevitable heavy perspiration.

The following is a list of items of daily use you should carry with you. They will make your life easier, and your stay in Saudi Arabia more comfortable.

a.multi-blade pocket knife, can opener, nail clipper, small scissors.

b.tooth brush, tooth paste, disposable razors, shaving cream, small mirror, comb, toilet paper (2 rolls), napkins, soap (2 cakes), plastic soap dish, small shampoo bottle, deodorant, chapstick, small vaseline, tooth picks.

c.pocket Quran, tasbeeh, pen, pencil, notebook.

d.slippers (flip-flops, thongs, chappals), sneakers, folding umbrella, sunglasses (or clip-on sunshades), small flash light with extra batteries, travel alarm clock, elastic eye-glass holder, sun-hat, 10 zippered sandwich bags, 4 garbage bags, plastic spoons, laundry detergent, 6 plastic grocery bags.

e.towels (2 large, 2 small), musalla (i.e. prayer rug), one heavy sheet, inflatable pillow.


When you get there

4.1 General

Very little information is available about Saudi Arabia in books on Hajj. Answers to the many questions you will have are hard to come by. What should you expect in Saudi Arabia in terms of living conditions, rules and regulations, customs and travel? What is going to happen in Jeddah? Where is Meeqat, and what facilities for shower and bath, if any, are available there? What precautions and arrangements will make your stay more comfortable? These and other similar questions are dealt with in this chapter.

4.2 At Meeqat

Your travel agent will inform you about the location of your Meeqat. There, you will shower if possible, take care of general personal hygiene and then change into Ihram.

Wrap the larger of the two portions of the Ihram around your waist to cover your body from just above the navel to about the ankles. Secure the Ihram either with a belt or with a two to three inch wide strip of fabric torn from the Ihram material. Drape the other part of the Ihram over the back and the shoulders. Do not cover your head even for salat while in a state of Ihram. You may use perfume before changing into Ihram, but be sure not to apply it directly to your Ihram.

You are now a Muhrim (i.e., one in a state oh Ihram) and are subject to certain obligations and prohibitions which are given later in this chapter.

Offer two rakah salat us sunnah and pronounce your intention to perform Umra or Hajj, as the case may be. Start reciting the Talbiyah loudly and frequently, and continue to do so until you arrive at the Masjid al-Haram.

Ihram for ladies consists of their simple and unpretentious clothes of daily wear. They are required to keep their hands and faces uncovered in the state of Ihram.

While in Ihram, you may use certain things for comfort and convenience. You may wear flip-flops, or similar slippers, provided that they cover as little of your feet as possible. You may also wear eyeglasses or a watch, use an umbrella, take a shower or a bath, wash and change your Ihram, use unscented soap, use a belt and a pillow, and cover yourself with a blanket during cold weather leaving your head and face uncovered. Ladies may continue to wear intimate apparel and socks but may not use gloves.

4.3 Obligations And Prohibitions Of Ihram

A Muhrim must observe certain obligations and prohibitions. A willful violation of any of them will require a Dum or Kaffarah, while an inadvertent violation carries no penalty. A Dum is not designed to punish you for your violation! It simply reminds you of your special state and offers you an opportunity to renew your commitment to perform Hajj according to the dictates of Allah Ajwaajal and the Sunnah of Sayyiduna Rasool Allah (pbuh). The rules of Ihram are as follows:

a.Keep your head uncovered at all times. Ladies will keep their heads covered.

b.Do not shave, cut your hair, clip your nails, use perfume, or wear sewn clothes of any kind.

c.Do not perform a marriage (nikah) or enter into one yourself.

d.Do not kill an animal of any kind for any reason unless it poses a danger to you or to other people around you.

e.Do not enter into conjugal relations with your spouse. Avoid suggestive and provocative talk or gestures, and remain focussed on your mission of Hajj.
4.4 Dum

As has already been mentioned, you are not accountable for inadvertent violations of the prohibitions of Ihram. Should you violate the sanctity of the Ihram knowingly and willfully, you are required to offer a Dum by way of expiation and of renewing your commitment to Hajj. There are three ways you may offer this Kaffarah:

a.By offering a sacrifice.

b.By feeding six indigent and poor people.

c.By fasting for three days.
You must offer the Dum as soon as possible. However, you may delay it to a more suitable time and place if absolutely necessary.

4.5 Jeddah And On To Makkah

There are legal formalities to be completed and paperwork to be done at Jeddah airport, and they will take a lot of time! To put things in perspective : Makkah, which is usually the first stop after Jeddah for most people, is a mere fifty miles from Jeddah. You will, in all likelihood, spend as many as eight to twelve hours completing formalities and travelling in a bus to cover this distance. Be patient. There is not much you can do to speed up the process.

After going through a maze of procedures, paperwork, customs and immigration, travel coupons for internal travel within Saudi Arabia will be attached to your passport and you will be escorted to government buses for your journey to Makkah. At this time, your passport will be taken away. Do not expect a receipt; none will be provided. The passport will be kept by the muallim assigned to you by the Saudi government, and you will next see it again at Jeddah airport the day you leave for home! You will be issued a picture-ID card in Makkah by your muallim in lieu of the passport. Take good care of this vital document until your passport is returned to you.

The bus will take you first to the Hujjaj Reception Center on your way to Makkah. After your papers are checked once again over an indeterminate period of time, you will be taken to your muallim's office in Makkah. There you will be issued a plastic bracelet or some other form of a document with the name, address and the telephone number of your muallim printed on it. Be sure always to have it on your person. If you ever get lost or are in an accident, the bracelet/document will be your passport to the right people. Without it you may face tremendous difficulties in returning to your place of residence. Your agent will next take you to your residence in Makkah.

Once you put your belongings safely away, and finally settle down, you will be ready to go to Masjid al-Haram for Tawaf ul Qudoom!

4.6 Travel Within Saudi Arabia

Travel within Saudi Arabia is highly restricted. As a pilgrim, your travels will be limited to the cities of Makkah and Madinah, to the tent cities of Mina and Arafat, and to Muzdalifah. Inter-city travel (for example between Makkah and Madinah) will require you, or your travel agent, to inform your muallim's office twenty four to forty eight hours before the projected time of your departure. You will travel by government bus using one of your travel coupons. You may also be able to travel by taxi at an additional cost to you. In either case, your passport will be handed over to the Saudi bus/taxi driver (a non-Saudi driver is not acceptable) by the muallim. The driver will personally hand the passport over to the relevant Saudi authority at your destination. At every such exchange of the passport, request to see the document in order to ensure that it really is yours! You do not want to reach your destination only to discover that someone else's passport has been inadvertently substituted for yours! This can happen. Be pro-active, alert and informed of everything that is happening at all times.

It may be to your advantage to use private taxis at an extra expense to you for inter-city travel. Your travel coupons are designed to be used for such trips by government buses only. However, the paperwork, government bureaucracy, and the bus system are excruciatingly slow, especially during the Hajj season. To cite a couple of examples :

a.The Jeddah-Makkah journey (a distance of merely fifty miles) may take eight to twelve hours by bus from the time you land to the time you reach your residence in Makkah.

b.The Makkah-Madinah journey (a distance of about 250 miles) may take twenty to thirty hours by bus from the time you report to the muallim's office to when you arrive at your final destination. Some people in the writer's group spent forty hours during this journey in a government bus!
A taxi will make short work of these trips in one and a half to two hours and three to four hours, respectively. The paper work is also abbreviated because you arrange for the taxi yourself and don't have to wait on other passengers, nor are you at the mercy of the bus driver. You will pay for the taxi out of your own pocket, but the time, frustration, and physical toll this will save far outweighs the small monetary expense. Talk to your travel agent beforehand to ensure that this highly desirable option will be available to you.

Also, remember to redeem your unused travel coupons at Jeddah airport on your way out of the country. Your agent should be able to help you in this matter. Do not forget to inform your muallim of your plans to travel by taxi well ahead of time, otherwise he will remove the coupons from your passport and you will not be able to have the appropriate amount of money refunded.

There is no civilian airport at Makkah, but there is one in Madinah. You may choose to fly from Madinah to Jeddah at your own expense. However, with the extra paperwork, the drive to the Madinah airport, and the inevitable wait there, you will probably end up spending as much time flying as you will spend by travelling in a taxi.

4.7 The DO'S and DONT'S Of Hajj

The following are some suggestions based on common sense and the experience of the writer and his fellow pilgrims. They will make your life easier and your Hajj experience more pleasurable, Insha Allah:

The DO'S:

1.DO carry sufficient money with you to cover your expenses comfortably. Even if your agent has made adequate arrangements for your meals, you will want to eat out at times, and then there is shopping! You may also choose to travel by taxi between cities at an additional charge to you. It is no fun running short on funds in a foreign country, especially during Hajj.

2.DO wash all fruits in clean water before consumption. Stick to fruits that have to be peeled before use. Avoid pre-cut fruits, salads, and food handled in an insanitary fashion. Avoid all food exposed to the elements. Fast food is available at some places but tends to be of somewhat lower quality than its American counterpart. It is, however, safe and sanitary.

3.DO keep the name, address and the telephone number of your muallim as well as of your place of residence with you at all times. DO wear the bracelet issued by the muallim and DO carry your picture ID card at all times. They will prove to be invaluable should something happen to you or if you get lost.

4.DO be aware of the heat and the problems it can cause (e.g., dehydration, heat stroke). Drink plenty of water (bottled water only, with or without GATORADE), soft drinks, and fruit juices. Stay in the shade when possible and use an umbrella and sunglasses to protect yourself from the harsh sun.

5.DO pace yourself in everything, including acts of worship. Know your physical limits and stay well within them. It is only too easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and exceed the boundaries of your strength and stamina. Pilgrims often try to spend every spare moment of their time in prayers and devotionals in Haram ash Shareef and often become sick. It is very painful and frustrating to get sick in a foreign country and an illness during Hajj is even worse as it defeats the purpose of your visit.

6.DO carry an ample supply of general purpose medicines for personal use. Most medicines are readily available in Saudi Arabia over the counter. Talk to a pharmacist or see a doctor promptly if you need help.

7.DO spend some time in studying and memorizing the layout and the location of your tent at Mina and Arafat, and your place of temporary stay in Muzdalifah with respect, possibly, to a nearby permanent landmark. All tents and pilgrims look alike. Should you get lost or confused, you will be faced with an extremely difficult, even an impossible, task of getting back to your base.

8.DO be patient, understanding, caring and compassionate. The hot weather, the tremendous crush of the pilgrims, and the considerable physical demands of Hajj tend to make people irritable and short of temper. You can avoid potentially awkward situations and unnecessary arguments by remaining focussed on your mission of Hajj, and by maintaining a positive and caring attitude towards others.

9.DO try to be responsive to others in need of guidance or help. Realize that your physical stamina and mental toughness will be repeatedly tried during Hajj.

1.DON'T ever leave money or other valuables (eg. papers, jewelry etc.) in your room. Always carry them with you on your person and be aware of people around you. Unfortunately, there are pickpockets and thieves in and around the Haram ash Shareef. Keep your waist pouch covered by the top part of your Ihram in order to avoid drawing unwanted attention.

2.DON'T expect Hajj to be a pleasure trip. Try to take your frustrations, hardships, and disappointments (and there will definitely be many!) in stride as a part of the sacrifice expected of you. See if you can ease someone else's burden a little by offering your support.

3.DON'T break or try to circumvent Saudi laws and regulations. The rules are clear and rigid, and the authorities are very strict.

4.DON'T get involved in unnecessary religious discussions with anyone. You will see slight variations in religious and Hajj practices among different people. Someone may even point out to you the "wrongness" of your ways. Be patient and walk away from a difficult situation. Patience and understanding go a long way towards making your Hajj more meaningful and enjoyable.
4.8 Prices In Saudi Arabia

The following prices in Saudi Riyals (SR) of a few representative items are intended to give you an idea of what to expect in the marketplace. Haggling for prices is common and, indeed, seems to be expected. Talk to knowledgeable people (e.g., your travel agent or a local friend) to decide on an opening price for an item. In the experience of the writer and his fellow pilgrims, 75% to 85% of the asking price appeared to be an acceptable opening figure:

Casual Shirt : SR 10-15

Average Quality Thoub : SR 20-25

High Quality Thoub : SR 60-80

Musalla : SR 15-20

Bottled Water (1 liter) : SR 1

(2 liters) : SR 2

Soft Drinks (12 oz can) : SR 1

Fruit Juice (12 oz can) : SR 1-2

Ice Cream (2 scoops) : SR 2

Milk (1 liter) : SR 3-4

Vegetarian Dinner : SR 5-7

Non-Vegetarian Dinner : SR 7-10

Deep-fried Chicken Dinner : SR 10-12

Barbecued Chicken Dinner : SR 12-15

Flip Flops (Thongs) : SR 10

Taxi (Maccah-Medina) : SR 50-60 per person

Halq/Taqseer (Haircut) : SR 10