Preparation for Hajj

Hajj Al-Baqarah 2.197

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

If Allah has selected you as a hujjaj this year – alhamdulillah!

If Allah has yet to answer your Hajj du’a – alhamdulillah ‘alaa kuli haal (in all circumstances), because whatever Allah has ordained for us is always good for us. His blessings are not just in what He gives, but also in what He withholds or takes away. Alhamdulillah!

Regardless of our circumstances, most of us know the importance of Hajj, so we long to attain Hajj Mabrur (Hajj that is accepted by Allah). Thus it is really critical for every Muslim to learn about Hajj, its manasik (rituals), and its history so that we can be prepared when that call comes, fully appreciating it and utilizing its every moment in the best manner.

Alhamdulillah there are many articles about the importance of Hajj and its manasik that are readily available on the internet, but this post will be focusing on preparation before Hajj, more specifically, on the akhlaq and character that we should be striving for starting now, before the days of Hajj come. Allah s.w.t. specifically mentions 3 traits that must be avoided during Hajj:

The Hajj is (in) the well-known months
So whosoever intends to perform Hajj therein,
then he should not have [rafath], nor commit [fusuq], nor [jidal] during Hajj.
And whatever good you do, Allah knows it.
And take a provision for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa.
So fear Me, O men of understanding [Ulul Albab]!
[Al-Baqarah 2:197]

Rafath, Fusuq, and Jidal
Allah s.w.t. says that one must not do [rafath], [fusuq], and [jidal] during Hajj. Ibn Kathir rahimahullah provided their meanings in his tafseer:

[Rafath] means sexual relation with your spouse, including anything that might lead to it, such as embracing, kissing, and talking -even hinting!- about it or any other similar topics, by both men and women. Rafath also include bad and foul words.

[Fusuq] means all types of sins and disobedience, including cursing others, insulting one another with bad names, and slaughtering animals for other than Allah.

[Jidal] means arguing and getting into disputes.

At this point, we might be thinking that there’s no way we’ll end up doing these things during Hajj – after all, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

But think about it. Out of the many types of disobedience, why are these 3 things mentioned specifically in this ayah?

Because Allah s.w.t. will definitely TEST US especially with these three things during Hajj. Allah s.w.t. is teaching us to not feel safe from falling into sins, because it may be due to our haughtiness or ignorance that will cause us to fall into the very sins we were so confident of not doing. If we ask the experienced hujjaj, they will say that they were tested so many times throughout the journey – confusion and disorder at the immigration, luggage went missing, bus got delayed, weather was strikingly hot, got pushed during tawaf, got bumped during sa’ie, got thrown by a pebble at the jamrah – and so many other incidents that might cause rafath, fusuq or jidal – if we’re not careful!

And one of the more difficult tests comes from our own selves – and that is negative self-talk. Have you seen someone who started off thinking badly about a small minor issue, and then eventually started thinking that everything else is just as bad? When things don’t go as per schedule, some people might start thinking to themselves:

“Why is this so difficult?”
Then… “This group is terrible!”
And then… “I’ve paid so much for this package, but this is the kind of service I get??”
And eventually… “That’s it! I’m never doing Hajj and Umrah again! These people are not worth my time! And everything is so difficult and a waste of my money!”

Negative self-talk can be triggered by something so minor, and if not managed, will eventually consume the thought of that person about everything else. Even if we can be physically patient by not saying anything bad with the tongue, we can still cause damage to our sabr if we constantly do negative self-talk within ourselves. And if we do not manage those negative self-talks, then we’re allowing ourselves to be taken advantage by shaytan, and end up physically acting on those negative emotions. That’s how people end up doing rafath, fusuq or jidal.

So how do we manage negative self-talk?

  1. Stop at the very first layer of negative self-talk, and replace it with something that is good. Instead of thinking “Why is this so difficult?!” replace it by thinking “This is a test from Allah, and He will reward me immensely for my patience.”
  2. Move away from the scene or person who is causing you distress. For example, if you’re having a hard time with one of the hujjaj, move away from him until you’ve calmed down. Bear in mind that negative self-talk can create false accusations in our thoughts – we might think negatively about a person from the way he talks or treats us, when in reality, that person has absolutely no grudge whatsoever against us. It’s not people’s flaws that we should be focusing on, but rather our own.
  3. It’s your frame – change it. Meaning we can choose to look at the scenario with a different lense. We HAVE the capability to choose to respond in the best manner that will attain the Mercy and Forgiveness of Allah. And the best of frame / manner that will attain such Mercy is by being merciful towards one another. Rasulallah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:“The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven, will show mercy to you.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]

Developing these beautiful characters must start now, ahead before the days of Hajj come. So if someone is rude to you on the road, choose to be merciful towards him, let him have the way first instead. If you’re in a conversation that is about to get heated, excuse yourself in a respectful manner, remove yourself from the scene, and then come back once you’ve calmed down. Know that these beautiful characteristics are not only important for Hajj, but they’re just as important in every aspect and day of our lives.

The Rewards of Hajj Mabrur
Always, always bear in mind that things will never go 100% smoothly during Hajj, no matter what package or group we’re in. Not everything will go our way, and that is actually part of the ‘ibadah and tests of Hajj.

One may wonder, we are all going for Hajj to do acts of worship, so why are we tested so much during Hajj? Because the rewards of Hajj Mabrur are immense and invaluable. Rasulallah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

“Whoever performed Hajj to this (Sacred) House and did not commit Rafath or Fusuq,
will return sinless, just as the day his mother gave birth to him.”

[Sahih Bukhari]

“And the reward of Hajj Mabrur is nothing except Paradise.”
[Sahih Bukhari]

“Make the Hajj and ‘Umrah follow each other closely,
for they remove poverty and sins
as the bellows removes impurity from iron and gold and silver,
and an accepted Hajj brings no less a reward than Paradise.”
[Sunan An-Nasaa’i]

If we want to come back to Allah s.w.t., rebuild that connection with Him with a clean slate, then there is nothing more beautiful than coming out of Hajj Mabrur completely sinless like the first day we were born. And on top of that, Rasulallah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salaam specifically said that an accepted Hajj brings no reward EXCEPT Jannah. Subhanallah.

These great rewards will not be given away to anyone so easily. So all these tests that we will face during Hajj are simply prerequisites for us to attain these rewards. Rejoice when Allah tests you, be patient when He does, and always think well of your Rabb for He is The Most Merciful and is never unjust to His creations.

Ulul Albab – The People of Intellect
Notice that Allah s.w.t. mentions [Ulul Albab] in the ayah that we talked earlier:

The Hajj is (in) the well-known months
So whosoever intends to perform Hajj therein,
then he should not have rafath, nor commit fusuq, nor jidal during the Hajj.
And whatever good you do, Allah knows it.
And take a provision for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa.
So fear Me, O men of understanding [Ulul Albab]!
[Al-Baqarah 2:197]

One of the wisdoms why Allah s.w.t. mentions Ulul Albab in this ayah about Hajj is because we must have knowledge in order to attain Hajj Mabrur, and the best of sources to attain authentic knowledge is the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Hajj Mabrur is free from shirk – and the smallest form of shirk is pride – as well as bid’ah. Every hujjaj who aspires to attain Hajj Mabrur must follow the Sunnah of Rasulallah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as close as possible to the best of their capability.

Ulul Albab does not just mean people of knowledge, but they’re also people who do a lot of thinking and reflecting. Hajj is an act of ‘ibadah that requires us to do a lot of contemplation. When something seemingly bad happened to us, do not complain, instead listen to the unsaid. When we are tested, always take ourselves to account – muhasabah, seek what Allah is teaching us through that test for everything that happens has a reason and lesson.

May Allah s.w.t. allow all of us to do Hajj in the best way possible that is most pleasing to Him, and grant us all Hajj Mabrur – Allahumma ameen!

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