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The fact that Haj has been granted the status of being the fifth pillar of Islam is itself an indication of its importance in Deen. Indeed, such stress has been laid on the performance of Haj that no person upon whom Haj has become compulsory should ever delay in fulfilling this obligation. Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “The one who was not prevented from Haj by a definite need, or a tyrant ruler, or a severe illness and he passed away without having performed the Haj, then he may pass away if he wishes as a Jew or, if he wishes, as a Christian” (Daarmi). Allahu Akbar! What a stern warning! A person who delays in performing the obligatory Haj without a valid excuse is being warned of a bad death (may Allah Ta’ala protect us all). Hence Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “He who intends to perform (the obligatory) Haj should hasten in performing it” (Abu Dawood).

Therefore the one who can afford to perform Haj must never delay in doing so. The one who delays its performance without a valid reason will be sinful. Despite this great stress to perform the Haj as soon as one can afford to undertake the journey, many people postpone it for various reasons which are not acceptable in the light of the Shariah.

In many instances a person delays the performance of Haj because he does not have sufficient funds to take his wife along as well, though he can afford to perform Haj alone. In this case if he has sufficient funds for the expenses of his own Haj and for the basic needs of his family while he is away, he must proceed for Haj immediately. Sometimes Haj is delayed because one’s son or daughter is about to be married soon. Hence the money which should have been spent on the performance of Haj is used instead for lavish wedding feasts and other wasteful, baseless customs. This, however, is not a valid excuse for delaying Haj.

Often many young (baaligh) people have saved up enough money which would enable them to perform Haj. However Haj is delayed on the pretext of school, university or some other such excuse. It should be remembered well that the obligation of Haj cannot be postponed on such grounds.

Once it is confirmed that one will be going for Haj, the preparation for Haj must commence in earnest. The preparation for Haj is of two categories. One is the easier and less important preparation. This entails acquiring one’s passport, visa, tickets and other necessities for the journey. Most Hajis are normally fully prepared in this regard.

The second and more important preparation is the inner preparation — the preparation of the heart and soul to imbibe the barakah (blessings) and hidayah (guidance) from the sacred places. Without this preparation the journey of Haj will become just a physical exercise without any substantial spiritual benefit other than the obligation of Haj being discharged. It will become more of a shopping trip and a holiday. Therefore the spiritual preparation is imperative. It is the spiritual preparation that will add to the quality of the Haj. Allah Ta’ala also declares in the Qur’anul-Kareem: “And take your provisions (for the journey of Haj). Certainly the best of provisions is taqwa.” The more taqwa one acquires prior to one’s departure for Haj, the more one will be able to acquire from the Haj itself. It is the quality of taqwa that will enable one to spend one’s time fruitfully.

Taqwa will enable one to refrain from sins of the eyes (as well as other sins) right in the Haram Shareef. While en-route to the mubarak lands, or at the airports or at any other place, it is the taqwa that will enable a person to perform his salaah on time. Simply, any person who takes along the provision of taqwa will insha-Allah come back as a new person. Otherwise there is a strong possibility that one may waste this tremendous opportunity of changing one’s life and returning as a changed person.

In order to prepare spiritually, one must read authentic literature which gears one up spiritually to undertake this journey. To this end one must thoroughly read the book “Virtues of Haj” by Sheikul Hadith Moulana Muhammad Zakariyya Saheb (R.A.). Apart from this to condition the heart and generate at least to some extent the fervour of Imaan, before departure one should spend some time out in the path of Allah Ta’ala (at least three days). One should also stay in the company of a Sheikh (spiritual mentor and guide) with whom one can easily relate to and attempt to acquire from him the love of Allah Ta’ala, the constant consciousness of His presence and the reality of taqwa.

Also part of the spiritual preparation is to acquaint oneself with the procedure of Haj and all the masaa’il that pertain to it. Without sufficient knowledge of at least the basic masaa’il of Haj one is prone to making errors which will ruin one’s Haj.

Thus when one will perform Haj in the correct manner physically and spiritually, one will receive the rewards that have been promised in the Ahadith, some of which are:

Total forgiveness of one’s sins.
Entry into Jannah.
The permission to intercede on behalf of four hundered people on the Day of Qiyamah (Musnad Ahmad).
Acceptance of all one’s duas.

Therefore, when all these and many more great virtues are to be received for a proper Haj, can one risk ruining it all due to negligence, not fulfilling the etiquettes and by engaging in those things which are prohibited? Ruining this opportunity to earn all the above virtues and rewards is indeed a terrible loss.

May Allah Ta’ala accept the Haj of the Hujjaj and make it a means of changing their lives for the better. Aameen.

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