Important Tips for Hajj and 'Umrah
There is no special day to begin or end Hajj within the 4 sacred months, including Friday. Neither is there any 'type' of Hajj with different names and days. Every pilgrimage has the same value and a Friday ending does not make a Hajj greater (Akbari).
Once at Mecca, typically the 'Umrah portion can be completed within 2 hours. The entire pilgrimage (Mecca to Mecca), needs a minimum of 5 days to complete it comfortably. After 'Umrah, since the present road to 'Arafat goes via Mina, it is not wrong to halt at Mina on the way, but this halt is not a part of the pilgrimage steps. After 'Arafat and Muzdalifah, the pilgrim is required to spend at least 2 days at Mina for the animal sacrifice and Jamraat stoning rites.
Be comfortable, cheerful and mentally free from confusion. No religious duty is meant to be a hardship. Do not deliberately make things hard on yourself or try to look miserable and burdened. Never innovate religious rules or prohibitions.
Cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety. Avoid arguments, misconduct, bad language and losing your temper.
Maintain regular hygiene practices such as bathing and washing. It is not wrong to use soap or brush teeth with toothpaste.
There are no Salat (Contact) Prayers in Islam, except the 5 daily prayers, regardless of pilgrimage or Ramadan month etc. You cannot do extra prayers, adjust units, omit or combine these prayers, or skip holding the Friday congregation prayer at Hajj or any other time. It is also extremely wrong to prohibit women from doing the Salat prayer, or performing pilgrimage, or fulfilling any religious obligation during their menstruation. The religious practices for men and women are the same.
Kissing of the black stone (Ka'bah) or seeking its blessings is wrong. The stone is not holy and there is no 'special' side for it.
Touching and commemorating Abraham's supposed footprints (on display) is wrong and has nothing to do with pilgrimage.
Zam Zam water is not 'magic' or 'holy water'. Ablution or bathing in Zam Zam water does not enhance your prayer value.
The animal sacrifice offered on the first morning in Mina commemorates God's intervention to save Ismail and Abraham from Satan's trick. You do not have to physically sacrifice the animal yourself and can have someone else do it for you.
Rushing to complete the stoning ritual exclusively before noon on the first morning in Mina is a false belief.
Visiting Madinah or other locations for religious purposes is not part of Islam. There is only one Sacred Masjid (Ka'bah) designated by God. Offering prayers at prophet Muhammad's tomb or to commemorate anyone except God is idol worship (shirk), and nullifies all worship and acts of righteousness in life.
Take measures to keep well and be safe to enjoy and focus on your pilgrimage: It gets hot in the day. Your skin can blister or you could suffer from heat stroke, so keep yourself protected accordingly. Water, food, shade and first aid are available so make appropriate use of them. Stay with your groups to avoid getting lost. Keep your money and travel documents safely. Watch out for pickpockets and people posing as guides or officials.
There is no religious Idd (Eid) festival to be celebrated by the world. Obviously, since there is no particular day to end Hajj. If people want to celebrate completion of a great obligation to God, it is okay as long as they do not make it a religious law.
Dealing with certain Hajj and 'Umrah situations. Quran verse 2:196 is self-explanatory for these situations:
"You shall observe the complete rites of Hajj and`Umrah for GOD. If you are prevented, you shall send an offering, and do not resume cutting your hair until your offering has reached its destination. If you are ill, or suffering a head injury (and you must cut your hair), you shall expiate by fasting, or giving to charity, or some other form of worship. During the normal Hajj, if you break the state of Ihraam (sanctity) between `Umrah and Hajj, you shall expiate by offering an animal sacrifice. If you cannot afford it, you shall fast three days during Hajj and seven when you return home - this completes ten - provided you do not live at the Sacred Masjid. You shall observe GOD, and know that GOD is strict in enforcing retribution."
Clearing misconceptions about going on Hajj or 'Umrah
Hajj does not wipe out all your past or future sins. It is just one of your religious duties. You still have to worship God alone, live righteously and uphold His laws throughout your life.
Hajj does not mean you are special or blessed for the rest of your life and that everything will go great thereon.
Doing Hajj on particular days, especially ending on Fridays or on days which prophet Muhammad 'apparently' did them does not make any difference. These do not enhance the value of the pilgrimage. Performing 'Umrah during Ramadan does not make it better. The 4 sacred months allow for the world to fulfill their obligations comfortably.
Proxy Hajj: No one can do a pilgrimage for anyone else, dead or alive, just like no one can fast or do Salat for someone else. If you cannot make pilgrimage for whatever reason, you have to pray and wait till God arranges it for you someday, if He so wills.
There is also a false belief that a woman can only perform pilgrimage if she is accompanied by a male relative such as father, brother, son or husband, referred to as 'Mihrim or 'Mehram'. This means that a spinster who does not have a father or brother may find it impossible to do Hajj or will have to legally declare a male to be like her father or brother. This is a falsehood and we look forward to God changing this soon.
You must do Hajj when you can afford it. It is not required to sell your assets and become poor to go on Hajj and spend the rest of your life in debt and misery. God is Most Merciful.
You should also consider going on Hajj when you have developed your soul well so you can relate to this once in a lifetime opportunity. Likewise, just taking a child on Hajj is not being fair to the child by telling it that it has fulfilled its obligation for life. Also, passing over 'Arafat in a plane or such absurd ideas does not mean you have done Hajj.
Remember, a pilgrimage is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a great occasion to come very close to God and develop your soul. Be well prepared for it mentally, spiritually and financially. Keep in mind that Satan will try and corrupt your Hajj as he has already corrupted several rites and laws in the religion. Most of what you will be told to do at Hajj is from Hadith & Sunnah books (Satanic innovations) and has no basis in Quran -- God's only book of religious law for Muslims.