For those of us not going to Hajj this year, it's easy to dismiss the journey of a lifetime.
After all, we aren't rushing to make travel plans, secure a visa, pack and master the rituals of this fifth pillar of Islam all in less than a month. So, it's easy to ignore the excitement of those going.
But we non-Hajjis can swing into the Hajj spirit too, and we should. We must always remember that one day, when our health and finances are in the right shape, we too must make this journey to the House of God.
Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Help a Hajji
There's so much to do and so little time before leaving for Hajj. Any help you can offer a family member or friend about to make Hajj will be welcome. You can offer to make phone calls to various travel groups, cook or baby-sit so the pilgrim-to-be can pack, run errands for them or come up with a list of items they need to take with them. Ask them how you can be of most help.
2. Read/watch/learn about Hajj
When it comes to prayer and fasting, we tend to know much more about these pillars of the faith than Hajj. Most of us tend to put off finding more until we actually go. But who knows how long you have before going, so why wait? If books aren't your thing, find a video, an audio CD, a CD-rom or a DVD that can give you the basics.
You can and should also read travel accounts and diaries of those who have gone for Hajj. Their insights provide a more personal perspective of the journey.
3. Throw a party!
What better way to get into the spirit than to hold a party in honor of the person going for Hajj? This is also a great way to get kids interested in the topic of Hajj. It will also provide some much-needed relief from the stress before going to the pilgrim-to-be.
You can also hold a bash after your friend/family member returns as an official "Hajji."
4. Ask them to remember you in their Duas
Knowing that someone's praying for you at the House of God will no doubt help you remember Hajj. But don't just say the standard, "remember me in your Duas." Try to ask for at least one specific thing they can ask for on your behalf. Whether it's a job, a child, passing a difficult class or a better relationship with your spouse, remember that only God can grant us what we need and want. And what better place to ask than the House of God?
5. Arrange to give a presentation about Hajj to your or your child's class or at a local community center
One of the best ways to retain information is to teach it. Perhaps this is why the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, The best of you are the ones who learn the Quran and teach it to others (Al-Bukhari).
Arrange with your teacher, your child's teacher or your local community center to organize a brief lecture/workshop on Hajj. The aim is to familiarize both Muslims and non-Muslims about this pillar of Islam, as well as to share the common Abrahmic heritage the Muslims, Jews and Christians. Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, and his family are the main characters in the story of Hajj.
6. Read the Prophet's Last Sermon
The Prophet Muhammad's last sermon was offered on the occasion of the only Hajj he ever performed in his lifetime. Peace and blessings be upon him. Read the sermon not only for the wisdom it offers, but also, try to close your eyes and picture yourself there, with the thousands of other Muslims who were.
It will be hard not to cry.