Any Muslim who can afford it and is in good health must perform Hajj. But this once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Muslims requires the utmost preparation and planning beforehand.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut out pilgrims from outside of Saudi Arabia from Hajj for the second year in a row, planning for next year can and should start today. Insha Allah next year will very likely be open to more people, and the better prepared you are, the better your chances of going.
Below are some tips to help you start getting ready.
1. Ask Allah
Say Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) and make Dua (supplication) to Allah to help you find the resources and time to perform Hajj next year. Only He can make it happen.
2. Discuss vacation time
You must take off two weeks to one month to perform Hajj. Check the exact dates of Hajj next year, then talk to your family, your employer, and anyone else who needs to be informed about your plans.
3. Start saving up and shopping around
Hajj is an investment. You need to shop around to find a travel agent who can give you the best deal. This is where your meetings with others who have performed Hajj can help.
While Hajj groups may not be posting their information for next year just yet, speak to those who have performed the pilgrimage in your hometown. Ask for recommendations of Hajj groups, gaging cost, comfort, and reliability (very important).
4. Renew your passport or residency proof
You need a number of legal documents to perform Hajj, particularly your passport, health forms, and a visa.
While Hajj groups usually take care of the visa, you can renew your passport or green card now if it has expired. Please note that there have been reported delays in renewing passports because of the pandemic, so the sooner you begin doing this, the better your chances of getting it back in time to make Hajj arrangements next year.
5. Read about how to perform Hajj
Know the different rituals of Hajj, how and when they are performed, as well as the things to avoid and things that are recommended to do during Hajj. There are a number of guidebooks on how to perform Hajj. One of them is A Handbook of Umra & Hajj by Sarwar Alam Raz.
6. Keep yourself physically fit
Hajj is physically demanding. Having to walk in the heat (and next year, Hajj will fall in early July), running from Safa to Marwa, these are just some of the rituals someone performing Hajj will have to do.
Start watching what you eat and walking 30 minutes a day or exercising to keep you physically ready for when you go to Hajj. You can also hire a personal trainer to recommend how to get in shape. Also, get a medical checkup.
7. Make an appointment with those who have made Hajj
Make a formal appointment by phone or in person with someone who has performed Hajj. If you are planning to meet them in person, ask them to bring their Ihram and other things they used during Hajj.
Use this meeting to get tips and practical advice from them which you won't find in most guidebooks.
8. Read the Diary of a person who has performed Hajj
If you know of no one who lives near you who has performed Hajj, read the diary of a Hajji by Ishaq Zahid (it's online and it's free!) to get the inside story on Hajj from someone who has performed it.