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Question: I am planning to go for hajj this year. I want to know about the proper etiquettes that I should follow in order to derive maximum spiritual benefits from my hajj.
Answer:

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is the peak and culmination of the acts of worship. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever performs the rites of hajj, while having refrained from acts of lewdness, obscenity and wrangling, will be returning home like a new born (i.e. free from all sins).” He also said, “A virtuous hajj entails no other reward than paradise.”

The question, however, remains: What is meant by a virtuous hajj?

The answer is not hard to find when one closely peruses the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as well as the wise instructions of the scholars and imams.

First of all, a virtuous hajj is a hajj that fulfills the two important conditions: Firstly, it must be done in accordance with the prescribed way; secondly, it must be done with sincere intention of pleasing Allah, the most Exalted and Glorious.
In order to realize the first condition, while performing hajj, one must take care to conform to the form and manner of hajj as taught by the Prophet, peace be upon him. The Prophet, peace be upon him, reminded us during his farewell hajj, “Learn your hajj rites from me.”

It is not difficult to learn the correct form of hajj: It can be done either by following the teachings of any of the acceptable Schools of Jurisprudence, or by close study of the Qur’an and the Sunnah under a qualified teacher. By ignoring to do so, one is remiss in fulfilling the hajj rites as prescribed by Allah and His Messenger. For it is important to remember that in acts of worship, we must never mix our personal opinions with religion.

Once a person has learned the basics of hajj, it is also important for him-- whenever he/she faces issues that are not clear-- to seek opinion from those who have been endowed with knowledge. One must never act based solely on one’s own personal opinions, without sufficient knowledge.

Coming to the issue of sound intention, it is important to know that while the form of the hajj is important, equally, if not more, important is the spirit and soul of hajj. Unless a person is keen to guard the spirit of hajj, hajj becomes nothing more than empty rituals devoid of any deep meaning. It is only by diligently preserving the spirit of hajj that we can hope to gain the maximum benefits from the same.

With this purpose in mind, let me list some of the most important points to keep in mind before embarking on hajj as well as during the course of hajj.

1) Those who are planning to undertake hajj should make sure that the fare and expenses of hajj are earned through lawful sources of income, free from all taints of haram. A hajj funded through unlawful means merits no reward.

2) It is equally important to make sure that they undertake the journey with a clean state as much as possible. In order to achieve this, they should pay off their debts, seek forgiveness of those whom they may have offended or hurt, reconcile with those they have strained relations. While it is important to reconcile with everyone, it is even more crucial to reconcile with their own close blood relations such as parents, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, from both paternal and maternal sides. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “One who severs blood relations cannot hope to enter paradise.” Therefore, by ignoring to make up with one’s blood relations prior to going for hajj, one is depriving themselves of the true rewards of hajj.

3) Those who are leaving behind dependents must ensure that they are provided for and taken care of, during their absence.

4) One should leave a will stating one’s obligations and liabilities towards others and how to discharge them in case of being unable to return.

5) It is a true sign of piety to advise one’s family members who are left behind to be mindful of Allah and observe the path of rectitude;

6) One should also try as much as possible to travel in the company of those who are knowledgeable and pious. For the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that one should watch the company one keeps as they have either a beneficial or harmful influence on them. By keeping the company of the righteous one can hope to be inspired and enlightened spiritually and morally, thus hoping to reap the full benefits of hajj.

7) One should also be diligent in performance of dhikr before, during and after returning from hajj. There are prescribed du’as to be recited before and during the journey as well as while performing the various rites of hajj. Besides, one should also try to make one’s tongue and heart always supple with dhikr (remembrance of Allah). One may be inspired to do this by reminding oneself that dhikr Allah is the true soul of hajj.

8) One can never exaggerate the importance of nurturing patience and tolerance both during the journey as well as during the hajj. Doing everything one can to help others, or at least sparing others of one’s harm should be the consistent policy to follow.

9) Finally, one should inflame one’s heart with true love of Allah and His Messenger and perform all of the rites of hajj while being attentive to their inner meanings, with a sense of awe and reverence. And remember always the Prophetic saying, “Show mercy to others if you wish to receive Allah’s mercy.”

May Allah accept from all of us our acts of worship, and may He grace us with His vision on the Day Resurrection-aameen.

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