THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT
Q1. Why do we perform Hajj?
There are many ways to go about answering this question, all of them can be constituted as satisfactory replies. Hajj is a spiritual journey like no other. Every year we hear or see live pictures of the millions of pilgrims flocking to Makkah, Mina, and Muzdalifah to perform this sacred pilgrimage.
Allah (SWT) has made Hajj compulsory. Just like Salat, Sawm and Zakat, Hajj is compulsory. Every able Muslim who has the finances available (after taking care of all family obligations), is required to embark on this journey once in their life. And since it is the command of Allah (SWT), the Creator of us all, it is the duty of every Muslim to make sure they perform Hajj while they can.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. These pillars make up the core of the Islamic belief. To believe in Allah (SWT) and His Messenger, to perform Salat, to fast during Ramadan, to pay Zakat, and to embark on Hajj; these five things define a Muslim. Every Muslim needs to get this right in order to be identified as a person of the Islamic Faith.
The entire journey takes place over a period of several days in the Islamic lunar month of Dhull Hijah and includes a series of symbolic rites and rituals. Many of which were in fact initiated by the great Prophet Abraham and then laid out directly by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself.
The center point of Hajj is the Kabah, also known as God’s sacred house in Makkah. It was originally built by Prophet Abraham at a time where Makkah was nothing more than a secluded desert in the middle of nowhere. God nevertheless promised Abraham in the Quran that this desolated House would soon receive visitors from around the world in their masses, and today it’s quite clear to see that this promise is nothing short of a reality.
“And [mention, O Muhammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House, [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform Tawaf (circumambulation) and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate. And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.”
The overall journey is said to be a purifying process by which a Muslim becomes closer to God through patience, perseverance, submission, and servitude.
The pilgrimage at times can also be physically enduring and God specifically urges Muslims in the Quran to exercise patience during the days of Hajj through avoiding any argumentation and sinful behavior.
Nevertheless, it is also an extremely humbling experience for pilgrims and one of the biggest life lessons on human equality. In its pure form, Hajj makes no distinctions between the rich and the poor; all people regardless of their social status are required to complete the same rituals under the same guidelines under the same hot sun. This includes all men being limited to two unstitched pieces of cloth and all pilgrims being prohibited from perfume, intimacy and many other luxuries of life.
Hajj is also a long-awaited opportunity for many Muslims to obtain forgiveness for their lifelong sins and to return back to their homes with a cleansed heart. On the Day of Arafat, the most important day of the pilgrimage, pilgrims will, in fact, stand from noon to sunset begging for God’s mercy, forgiveness, and pleasure.
And as expected, the rewards for completing a Hajj pilgrimage are absolutely immense in the eyes of Allah.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, in fact, informed us that: “The one who performs Hajj properly, by abstaining from sexual intimacy, avoiding sins and leaving off argumentation; then he shall return from Hajj pure and free from sins, just as the day his mother gave birth to him.”
The Prophet ﷺ also informed us that: “The reward for an accepted Hajj is nothing less than Paradise.”
We ask Allah (SWT) to accept the Hajj of all pilgrims this year and that He makes their journey safe, blessed and accepted. And we ask Allah (SWT) to grant us all the opportunity to fulfil the pillar of Hajj – this journey of a lifetime.
Q2. Is Hajj obligatory on me?
If you are a Muslim adult that is mentally, physically, and financially able, then Hajj is an obligation on you at least once in a lifetime. To explain more, once the following conditions are met, Hajj becomes an immediate obligation which means you start looking at how to go for Hajj with your local approved Hajj service providers. These conditions are:
As any other Islamic acts of worship, you have to be a Muslim to go for Hajj.
Being of sound min and being an adult. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The pen is lifted from three [and does not record their deeds]: from one who is sleeping, until he wakes up; from a child until he reaches puberty, and from one who is insane until he comes to his senses.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4403; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
So a child is not obligated to perform Hajj, but if the parents would like to accompany their minors on the journey of Hajj, the children get the reward so are the parents. When a woman lifted up a child and asked, “Is there Hajj for this one?” the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Yes, and you will have the reward.”
Narrated by Muslim.
Physically, and Financially;
What is meant by being physically able, is that one is sound in body and can bear the hardship of travelling to the sacred House of Allah. Being financially able means that one has enough funds to get to the sacred House of Allah and back again with the ability to leave enough money for the family behind to survive.
If these conditions are met, then Hajj becomes an obligation that you sin if you decide to delay it as circumstances can and will change.
Q3. There are many Hajj companies, which one do I choose?
The most important step after your intention to perform Hajj, is to choose the right company to service you and act as the best guide in Saudi Arabia. To do that, please consider the following facts:
Fact 1: The company MUST be authorized by the ministry of Hajj with a license from the Saudi Embassy in Canada. Do not choose a company that isn’t licensed and get their packages from another licensed company. And definitely don’t book your package with a company that is abroad in USA or in London England. This way you have rights, and can report any issue to the authorities who take action. To find a list of these companies, please visit the Saudi Embassy website by clicking here to view the whole list.
Fact 2: In North America there are two type of Hajj service providers.
In Canada there are only 2 authorized companies that offer VIP services, no matter what other may claim or advertise, out of these 2 companies, Falcon Travel is the largest VIP Hajj service provider in the country with the largest varieties of Hajj packages.
To understand the difference between both services (VIP & Non-VIP), we have to mention that Umrah is about choosing good hotels across of the Haram, as all the rituals of Umrah take place at the Haram. Where Hajj rituals are performed in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa over the period of 5 days of Hajj (From 8 Dhul Hijja to 13th Dhul Hija). Therefore, the facilities provided in these 5 days are what make the difference between VIP and Non-VIP.
Here are a quick comparison to show the differences in the services provided during the 5 days of Hajj:
Location in Mina:-
VIP: Across of Jamarat (The place where we perform the rituals of Hajj) in an area called Majjar Al-Kabsh “Drag of Ram” the history mentions that in this area, when our prophet Ibrahim was going to sacrifice his son prophet Ismail and Allah (SWT) replaced prophet Ismail with a ram. This the area where the ram was dragged and slaughtered as a sacrifice.
Non-VIP: 4 KM away from Jamarat in an area called Al-Mo’aisam. In Mina there are no transportation because of the crowed, therefore Hajis staying in the area of Al-Mo’aisam MUST walk 45 minutes to an hour under the hear to reach Jamarat and perform the rituals of Hajj
Transfer Between Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa (the areas where we perform Hajj):-
VIP: By train which is 10 minutes each way. Also private A/C buses are available for Hajis with special needs that can’t walk to the train station.
Non-VIP: By government buses called Taradody Buses. Taradody in Arabic means it goes and come back to the same point. In Saudi let us say there is a company of 100 Hujaj, the ministry of hajj will give them 1 Taradody bus, this bus will take 50 Hujaj from one Mina to Arafat, then will return to take the other 50 Hujaj. And so on… that causes waste of time and effort.
Washrooms in Camps:-
VIP: Private washrooms to the companies in the camp. Dedicated cleaning staff. North American style washrooms including (Toilet, shower, and sink).
Non-VIP: Public shared washrooms. No dedicated cleaning staff. Some are western style and some are hole in the ground
Food in Camps:-
VIP: Private. Open buffet catered by certified catering companies. Multi cultural food choices to suit everyone including vegetarians. 24 hours drinks including coffee, tea, water, sodas, and juice.
Non-VIP: Dry food boxes provided by the Saudi authorities. No choices in the box, sometimes there is Pizza and sometimes there are chicken nuggets. Companies are not allowed to bring in their own food.
Access to your room during Hajj days:-
VIP: Yes in selective packages through buildings in Alshisha area which is 10 minutes walk from the VIP camp in Mina. Some VIP providers provide a room in a hotel across of the Haram which is a waste of money as the Haram is 45 minutes away from Mina so it doesn’t make any sense to pay for something you won’t be able to use. Building in AlShisha is more expensive than the hotels at the Haram area, therefore only VIP companies book these buildings. Al Shisha is different than Azizia…Azizia and Kudai are areas in Makkah that are 45 minutes away from Haram and from Jamarat as well, where AlShisha is in Makkah on the border of Mina which is 10 minutes away from Jamarat.
Non-VIP: Access either in Azizia or hotels across of Haram which again not practical as it becomes very far to use while in Mina for the 5 days of Hajj.
Now that we talked about the two service options, let us talk about what else is important after we chose a route (VIP or Non-VIP):
Finances: of course the financial aspect is important, that is why after knowing which route you will take (VIP or Non-VIP) you look for a company that offers package that suit your budget. And has no hidden cost. Meaning everything should be included and should be advertised from the beginning this way you can plan your trip better.
Religious Guidance: It is a privilege but not an essential. It is nice to travel with a Shaykh/Imam/Mawlana/Religious Guide that you like, but any licensed religious guide that is familiar with the different Madhhabs (the 4 Islamic schools of thought) and has performed Hajj multiple times before should be sufficient to guide you on this scared journey. But it is not essential to pay extra for a Hajj package that you don’t really need just to be with your preferred Religious Guide.
Team of Experienced Group Leaders: From our experience, having an experienced group leader to guide you, solve any problem you may come across, assist you and your family during this sacred trip is one of the most important things. Therefore, group leaders should speak at least English, (English and Urdu or Arabic preferred). Group leaders should be young, healthy and have performed Hajj at least 3 times as group leaders.
Airline: Not important at what airline you take on your way going to Hajj but the less stops the better the trip is. Remember the idea is to always save your energy for worship as you are going on a sacred journey and may or may not be able to go on such journey again, so the more energy you have, the more focused you are on your Ibada (worship).
Photo Albums: Any professional company take photos of their facilities during Hajj, in Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa. Ask to see these photos so that you can see the reality of the situation in Saudi and NOT just what is written on a website or a flyer.
With all this in mind, you can easily choose a company that suits and covers your needs. Please take your time asking the company sales representative questions about everything mentioned above, they have to answer all your questions so that the picture is clear of what they can offer and what they can’t offer, then make your decision.
Q4. There are many Hajj packages, how to pick?
Look at any Hajj package in the following order, and you will be able to easily choose between different packages offered by one company OR compare packages offered by different companies:
- Dates of travel. Knowing when you will depart, and when you will be back (Duration of your travel) you can eliminate packages that won’t suit your vacation days or family obligations.
- Makkah or Madinah first. Madinah first is easier than Makkah first. That doesn’t mean that Makkah first is bad…but with respect of crowed handling and operation at the airport; going to Madinah first is the best option. Knowing that you will be able to eliminate some choices.
- Cost. Knowing the total cost of the package will help you determine the cost of the travel and wither it suits you or not.
- Service during Hajj days. As mentioned above the VIP option is always better than the non-VIP option. Knowing if the package is VIP or non-VIP will help you decide which route of services suits your budget.
- Accommodation in Makkah, Madinah and duration. Knowing which accommodation in Makkah and Madinah are included in your package and how long you will stay in each city, will help you compare apple to apple between Hajj packages.
After considering all these 5 factors in the order mentioned above, you will easily see that you are left with one option that suits you better. Asking others of their choices is an easy way to avoid this homework but it doesn’t always ensure your satisfaction, as others may have been looking for something different than what you are looking for.
Therefore, we highly recommend that you do a little homework and choose the option that is better for you.
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