Deciding to go for Hajj
One of the greatest things I learnt in preparing for Hajj is that it is Allah's call,and if He calls you, no matter the obstacles, you will go for Hajj.
I had mentally made my decision to go for hajj at the beginning of 2007. It was my second year working, I had paid off my debts,and felt it was time to go for Hajj. I wished I could go with my wife, but several things were not clear yet.
Could I afford to pay for the cost of our trips? Do we take our 30 months old daughter along?
Which package and which hajj agency?
The year flew along, then come Ramadan, I started to see posters of several Hajj Packages all around the Masjid; Super Deluxe Hajj- $6500 , Extra Exclusive Hajj - $7000 .
At this point, I was not sure I was going to Hajj anymore, because I had been planning on the previous hajj estimates of around $4000.All the packages with different names like car-wash packages seemed way above my budget.
Then, at an Iftar get-together during the middle of Ramadan, a brother shared an email from Muhammad alShareef with me asking; "Do you want to go for Hajj with me?" It was an opportunity too great to miss. An Almaghrib-Hajj?
After Iftar , I rushed off to the website, hajj.outstandingmuslim.com , chose the cheapest package ,and sent an email off ,indicating my interest. Soon enough, a reply came back asking me to pay a refundable fee of $47 to secure my space,and then go to Almanasik.com and register for Program 2. I could not believe it was that simple.
Off I rushed to Almanasik.com, and the website said " We are sold out". I had to go back and forth between Shaykh Muhammad and Almanasik a couple of times, before I was able to get permission to register.
Program 2 was going to span from Dec 10-27, and cost about $4650 (Udhiyyah and Hajj visa fees not included). That looked right within my budget, as it included transportation from JFK to Saudi and back, all the in-country accommodation and feeding during hajj. In total we ended up paying $5100 dollars to cover everything.The trip was worth every dollar. Thereafter they sent us a list of things needed to get the visa, which can be found on the AlManasik site . I however had to arrange my return ticket from Houston to New York.
Weeks later, I registered my wife too with the same group, going with Muhammad alShareef, and we decided to leave our daughter with our cousins in Houston. Our decision was based on advice that being our first hajj, and since our daughter was so little, it might be a bit distracting to take her along. Masha Allah, it was very good advice as we were to later find out.
Learning the Hajj Rites
The next issue was even though my wife had taken the Almaghrib Rizq Management class which covered Hajj, we felt we needed to study for the Hajj to make it a good experience.
One of the greatest sources of information we used was the book :Getting the Best out of Hajj By Abu Muneer Ismail Davids . We also found an accompanying video on Google Videos. This was the best material we used,as it covers the logistics and spiritual rites of Hajj,and mentally prepares you for hajj. The book is also fun to read. We did remember to pray for the author during Hajj.
And then came an incomparable yet free source; HajjCoach.Com; a series of videos on Hajj preparation by none other that Shaykh Muhammad alShareef. It was also posted on YouTube. It was so excellent, that I copied it on my mp3 player,and took it along for Hajj. It covered several aspects of the Hajj Preparation; shopping list, setting your goals, and my favorite part; preparing a "Massive Dua List".
We also watched the DVD on Hajj by Shaykh Hafiz Waheed, and read some books from Darussalam on Hajj.
Very soon it was time to go for hajj, and we flew from Houston to New York where we were scheduled to fly via Cairo on Monday December 10 (1 Dhul Hijjah, 1428), and thus the journey began...