Friday, 15 October 2010

Hajj Awareness Week 2010 launches at the House of Lords

Hajj Awareness Week 2010
Launches at the House of Lords

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Hajj Awareness Week, like every year, was launched in the House of Lords on the 6th of October, 2010 by the Association of British Hujjaj (ABH). This is a preparation campaign for the British Hujjaj who will be travelling for pilgrimage to Makkah. The ABH is the only national Hajj specific organisation which organises high profile publicity campaigning throughout the year through the printed and electronic media, by special Television programmes on various TV channels, and also held seminars. The ABH will have grand annual seminar in Birmingham.

Let us begin with the two terms or words used in the title; Hajj and Awareness. First of all, what is Hajj? It is the fifth pillar of Islam, the peak of the spiritual exercise. It has every aspect in itself, social, moral, physical, hygienic and spiritual. Whosoever wants to perform Hajj should prepare himself with information for Hajj. There are stages through which Allah the Almighty prepares Muslims to reach to that stage of Hajj.

Shahada or belief in the Oneness of God, monotheism is the basic, the foundation of Islam. Once the foundation is laid, the other actions start. After Shahada comes the Salat, the five times prayer. I think you know how the command comes from Allah for the prayer. Prayer is actually a gift from Allah through the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to meet our Creator, to be close to Him. It comes after the meeting of Our Prophet with Allah the Almighty in the night of Miraj. This prayer has all the aspects to prepare Muslims socially, morally, ethically, spiritually to be in front of Allah. The ablution cleans the body and prayer purifies the heart and prepares the worshiper to be in front of Allah the Almighty.

The third stage is Zakat. It is again the act of purification, the purification of wealth by sacrificing some portion of the wealth for the poor people, for the community. Just as the performance of the salat (prayer) is both an individual and a communal obligation, so payment of the zakat instills a sense of communal identity and responsibility.

Zakat purifies the property of the people with means and clears it from the shares which do not belong to it anymore, the shares which must be distributed among the due beneficiaries.

Zakat does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the giver. As a result, the society at large will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.

Again, at this stage Allah the Almighty prepares Muslims to be able to make greater sacrifice to meet Allah. Here again, there are social, ethical, spiritual dimensions involved. Zakat is thus a vivid manifestation of the spiritual and humanitarian spirit of responsive interactions between the individual and society.

After Salah and Zakat comes Sawm, fasting, the next stage to come near to Allah, the self-control, restraining oneself from all evil deeds, thinking, and wrong doings in remembering the presence of Allah the Almighty. All adult Muslims, whose health permits, are to abstain completely from food, drink, and sexual activity. Ramadan is a time for reflection and spiritual discipline, for expressing gratitude for God's guidance and atoning for past sins, for awareness of human frailty and dependence on God, as well as for remembering and responding to the needs of the poor and hungry.

This is not only the physical training but also the ethical, moral and spiritual training before reaching to the highest, the peak of the spiritual exercise. This is the fourth stage which prepares Muslims again socially, ethically, morally and spiritually to meet his Creator.

The fifth pillar of Islam, the peak of the spiritual, social and ethical exercise is the pilgrimage. It is the highest order of sacrifice to come closer to Allah the Almighty spiritually, that’s why, the Hajjis come to the House of Allah with only two pieces of cloth and saying Labbaika Allahumma Laik. Allah I am here, Allah I am here. Every adult Muslim physically and financially able is expected to perform the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah at least once in his or her lifetime.

Hajj was made a model of piety, fear of God, purity, simplicity and austerity. The pilgrims were ordered to purify themselves spiritually, to give up worldly things, to avoid all sexual desires, even refrain from intercourse with their wives, and to totally refrain from using bad and abusive language.

Combined with the Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, and looked at as a whole, you will see that Hajj constitutes a preparation for the great task which Islam wants Muslims to do. This is why it has been made compulsory for all who have the money and the physical fitness for the journey to the Ka’ba.

Allah the Almighty prepares human beings from the day one, after the Shahada, the belief in the Oneness of Allah the Almighty (Tawheed), monotheism, to meet him. As I said earlier, in Hajj, there are Prayers, sacrifices and circumambulation (tawaf) of the Ka’ba. The only cry that one could hear was that which arose from the heart of the pilgrim: Labbyk, Allahumma labbayk, labbayk, la sharika laka labbauyk, inna ‘l-hamda wa‘n-ni’mata laka wa ‘l-mulka la sharika lak

Here am I before Thee, O God, doubly at Thy service. Before Thee I am, there is no partner unto Thee, doubly at Thy service here am I. All praise and blessings are Thine, and power. There is no partner unto Thee.

Hajj Awareness
That is what Hajj actually is and the pilgrim must have knowledge and information related to Hajj. Hajj is such a duty that the pilgrims have to know many aspects about this before travelling to Makkah. People were prohibited from starting out on Hajj without taking adequate provisions. Clarification was made that not taking provisions of a journey in this world did not mean, as was popularly believed, that one was thereby taking provisions for the Hereafter: And take provision for yourselves, but the best provision is God-consciousness (al-Baqarah 2: 197).

Nobody can be prepared to undertake this journey until and unless he has love of Allah in his heart as well as fear of Him, and is convinced that Allah wants him to do what he is doing. From the time of deciding and preparing for Hajj to the time of returning home, a tremendous impact is made on the hearts and minds of pilgrims. The process entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, and sacrifice of many physical desires and pleasures---and all this simply for the sake of Allah, with no worldly or selfish motive.

The first is the physical fitness. It means not only medical but it includes everything; pilgrim must be physically fit to travel to Saudi Arabia and to complete every rite of Hajj, such as Tawaf and Saie, go to Mina and staying there and travelling to Arafat, Muzdalifah and back to Mina. All these pilgrims have to perform within a very short period of five or six days. That’s why you need to be physically fit.

It requires that Pilgrim must consult his GP about his health and take all other medicines that he requires. For this, it is necessary to make the pilgrims aware about their health and safety. For the last twelve years, the ABH has been carrying out this voluntary service of making people aware about the necessity of health and safety.

The second important thing is financial and economic aspects about which the pilgrims must have information. It is already said that those who are financially solvent Hajj is only obligatory for them, not for those who are not financially capable to bear their expenses. So far as the financial aspect is concerned, it is not only the financial solvency, it requires to have information and knowledge of all other relevant aspects and issues related to it, such as tickets, accommodation and also the expenses to be incurred during the period of staying. Nowadays, travel agents or tour operators are offering Hajj package. Pilgrims need to know about the terms and conditions of the Hajj package, the genuineness of the tour operators and all other issues related to it.

The third important thing is the religious aspect, i.e. to know the details bits and pieces about different rites of Hajj from Makkah, Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina and other related issues.

Fourthly, pilgrims must be aware about the service and benefits they can get when they are in Saudi Arabia. About this, there is British Hajj Delegation which has been operating since 1998 and for the last twelve years, the British Hajj Delegation in cooperation with the British Consular officials and staff carried out both the medical and consular services. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has already distributed a leaflet – Hajjis – which informs, instructs and explains pilgrims what they have to do (see below).

Besides these, I think and I have seen many people want to know about the situation in tawaf, saie, tents in Arafat and stoning in Jamarat. Recently, people also wanted to know about the transportation. About this, they must be informed. The facilities provided by the Saudi Authorities in Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat, I would like to inform and aware the pilgrims in the next issue.

Hajj is an obligatory duty in a lifetime for every capable, both physically and financially to perform Hajj in a lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. As it is an obligatory duty, it is essential that every Muslim who is planning to go for Hajj is to make himself abreast about different aspects of Hajj. It is necessary to know about the social, economical, moral, educational and religious aspects of Hajj.

That’s why there is a necessity to create awareness among the pilgrims. In both Muslim and Muslim minority countries, there is arrangement to give some training to the pilgrims about Hajj. It is done both at the government level as well as at the non-governmental level, by voluntary organisation or at the travel tours level.

Mosques played an important role everywhere irrespective of Muslim majority and Muslim minority countries to inform pilgrims, train them, giving them a brief introduction and training how to perform Hajj and what are its different rites.

British Hajj Delegation
Recently, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has distributed a leaflet entitled “HAJJIS” which instructs and informs British Muslims what they have to do. Let us begin with what it said to British Muslims:

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) know how deeply important the Hajj is to all those who attend it. This year thousands of British Nationals will attend the Hajj. The aim of the FCO Hajjis leaflet is to assist British Hajjis in preparing for the Hajj and to explain what services the British Hajj Delegation can offer British pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has now established 21 hospitals to provide health care to pilgrims free of charge. Make sure that you have been vaccinated with the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (ACWY). You will be required to produce a valid vaccination certificate. Consult your GP if you are in any doubt.

The FCO also strongly recommends that travellers to the Hajj have a seasonal influenza vaccination prior to embarking on the trip.

For more information on health advice for travellers, visit and

Arrival and Departure
Travel within Saudi Arabia will be limited to Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. If you choose to travel elsewhere your travel agent will need to inform the Tawafa Establishment giving at least 24 hours notice. Pilgrims travel by buses provided by the General Cars Syndicate, using coupons provided by the Tawafa Establishment.

Help and Assistance
This year thousands of British Nationals will attend the Hajj. We hope that, like many thousands of Hajjis, you will have a trouble-free Hajj. However, if something does go wrong, the British Hajj Delegation, working with the British Consulate-General can provide you with a range of consular services. The information on this website can also be found on our Hajj leaflet which can be downloaded in English, Urdu, Bengali and Arabic.

The British Hajj delegation will be located at the Elaf Al Khalil Hotel (see Useful Contact Details below).

The Delegation can:
*provide information on how to transfer money
*arrange for replacement passports
*provide appropriate help if you are a victim of crime or are ill or in hospital
*do all we properly can to contact you within 24 hours of being told that you have been detained
*make special arrangements in case of civil disturbances or natural disasters
*provide contact details for local lawyers and provide a list of medical facilities
*arrange for next of kin to be told of an accident or a death and advise on procedures

The Delegation cannot:
*provide medical care
*become involved in private disagreements e.g. pilgrim and tour operator disputes
*rearrange travel bookings
*pay your hotel, legal, medical or travel bills
*get you out of prison
*give legal advice
*intervene in court cases
*investigate a crime

Travellers Checklist
Check the FCO travel advice to make sure that you are up-to-date with the situation in Saudi Arabia at or call 0845 850 2829. Check that you have the correct tickets and ticket details. Make sure that you book your tickets through an ATOL registered tour operator to avoid unnecessary difficulties. For more information please visit

Have contact details for your tour operator in the UK and their representatives in Makkah. Get travel insurance for all aspects of your journey. Shariah compliant insurance policies are available.

Check that you have had the required vaccinations for your pilgrimage and that you have vaccination cards with you.

Ensure that your passport is in good condition and the necessary visas are in place. Make copies of your passport, insurance policy plus emergency numbers and ticket details. Leave these copies, your itinerary and correct contact details with family and friends.

Individuals on medication should make sure that they have adequate quantities to get them through the Hajj period. Existing medication should be clearly labelled for each individual.

Ensure you have good quality footwear as you may have to walk long distances.

Ensure all your luggage is clearly labelled by placing stickers both on the outside and inside of your luggage showing your name, nationality, passport number, air carrier, flight number, hotel name and a contact telephone number.

Make sure you have the contact details of the Hajj Delegation and local consulate.
Please note any kind of photography (still or video) is strictly prohibited inside and around the two Holy Mosques. Anybody violating this will have their equipment and material confiscated.

Useful Contact Information in Saudi Arabia
Elaf Al-Khalil Hotel
Ibrahim Al-Khaleel Street
Behind the Hilton Towers
Tel: 02 573 2555
Fax: 02 573 2666
British Consulate General, Jeddah:
Tel.: 02 622 5550
Fax: 02 622 6249

No comments: