Many feel the jitters, fears and inhibitions of going to perform the hajj or umrah. Some of it is the excitement, some just baseless worries others are legitimate concerns. Some Muslim brothers get nervous, about taking the family along even though, they themselves have performed the pilgrimage many times, individually. Some fidget and worry about visa permissions, or about imaginary scenarios at the Saudi airports, or about infant or young children. The following are ways the religious traveller might find ease and relaxation before going to the pilgrimage.
Invite the protection of Allah
If someone is about to embark on a journey, or a major test, the best surah to invite the protection and guidance of Allah, is the Surah Mudathir, the 74th chapter of the Holy Quran. Mudathir is an Arabic word that means ‘one who has wrapped himself’ or ‘the one bundled up’ (out of fear or cold). It was revealed at the time when Prophet Muhammad did not receive any Devine revelation for months, and a period of grief set on the Holy Prophet (SAW) because he began to be extremely worried. But then the grief was lifted by this surah, consoling him that the period of no communication was to rest his nerves and to develop them to receive the entire Quran. The first seven ayah prepared Muhammad (SAW), and perhaps would also prepare the pilgrim of the journey ahead.
“1.O you who lies wrapped up, 2. arise and warn 3. and proclaim the greatness of your Lord. 4.And keep your garments pure,5. and avoid filth, 6. and do not favour (others) expecting to get more,7. and be patient for the sake of your Lord.” [74:1-7]
Make these and surahs like this your routine, a pick me up. This is sure to console and prepare you for the most important journey of your life ahead.
Knowledge is power
Join Umrah and Hajj travel blogs. Google search the top few or check threads on Reddit. The information they provide would seem haphazard in the beginning but as you keep reading and exploring you will begin to understand the experiences of the hujjaj before you, and begin to create a picture in your mind. Ummah forum can also be of help. A lot of useful information is posted there by the Hajj and Umrah industry veterans most of the discussions happen to take place there. You will not be able to retain the entire information, and that is okay. The real reason for you to read the information is to not be completely clueless. The information the blogs provide might be a year or two old, and perhaps not as relevant, but the picture in your mind of ‘what is to be expected’ should start to become vivid by the end of two to three days of information gathering.
The information is going to help; unexplained void patches in your knowledge will keep you on your toes for an abrupt change in tactics. Do not let pessimistic people or blogs who only talk of disappointment in agents, friends, family members bring you down, and listen to what they say but move on. You, Inshallah are the fortunate, because unlike them, you are doing the research required. Regarding Umrah rites, it’s best to take a handbook with you as well and remember the prayers. Most of these books also include Ihram restriction details, which you need to know for sure before you go. You don’t want to scramble through pages after committing a violation. If you can read Urdu, “Rafeeq Ul Haramain” is a book many recommend. There are a lot of English guides available as well on the market.
Trust us, the “I will see and follow” approach greatly backfires.
Health care and Emergency Contacts
Before leaving, have a physical health check up. Tell your doctor that you are going for Hajj/Umrah which is a high-risk area for respiratory infections. Get adequately vaccinated against diseases. Try to jog and run, or at least brisk walk if you are not a health enthusiast. If your insurance provider can provide you with a travelling insurance or other healthcare insurances, grab them. In any case, talk to them, and let them know that you are leaving to a foreign country and whether they extend their services to Saudi Arabia.
Lastly, check and list all your friends in Saudi Arabia. Give that list to family members that you are leaving behind. Ask your friends in KSA if they could buy a SIM card for you to have when you arrive in Saudi Arabia. SIM cards are also available on the Saudi Airports as well. Distribute your phone number to all you deem important, and get their information in a diary (not just on the phone) as well. List also all the numbers for emergency services.
Picture off and on how amazing this trip would be. Imagine the first seamless and clear view of the Kaabah, seeing the minarets of the Masjid-e-Nabvi and kissing the Aswad stone. Imaginations are usually wild, but they are also powerful. Use them to your advantage.
Activate rather than hyperventilate
If you think you are anxious now, try doing nothing until the very last day, or for some people in this world, the very last hour. You would be right to throw fits then, but in order to prevent such an embarrassing situation, how about going to the bank early. Buy the garments you would like to wear there and do let your card company or bank know that you would be travelling soon, so they do not flag your card while purchasing something in KSA. If your laptop needs a battery change, or you need to buy hajji slippers, or you need to learn what to do on an umrah do it early and proactively.
Choose an agent wisely
As Hajj and umrah visas can only be done through travel agents, its best to research the agent, you are booking with, well. Read some reviews, check their accreditations, at least ATOL. Once you have done it all, discuss all aspects of your umrah package in detail before booking. And once you go ahead, trust them with your trip. That’s what the agents are for. They will take your booking worries and take care of all of them. You should concentrate on preparations.
Familiarize with hotels and flight itinerary
Before and after booking, familiarize yourself with how your flights are going to unfold. If they are stopping somewhere, how good or bad is the airport? Stuff like that. Also, avoid booking long stops as they exhaust you. Familiarize yourself with the hotel surroundings, using google earth or maps. Look for eateries around, as mostly only breakfast is added (4 star and up), so having lunches and dinners outside will be your routine.
Keep in touch when you are finally in KSA
Even if you are doing fine, and we are sure you would do fine, let your loved ones at home know that you are. Let them know about anything that you enjoyed, experienced or any new friends you made from different countries. Involve them in your experience. This would relieve your stresses more than you think when you get there.