One can assume that the reader of this article is about to embark on a journey to Mekkah for Pilgrimage that would fulfil his mind, body and spirit. In that case, let us begin by congratulating you and we hope you return home relieved, safe and lighter than a feather. Hope is important; it drives us forward, but in testing times confidence in our knowledge and self-assurance in our conduct and behaviour plant our feet firm onto concrete and let us face anything head on. Yes, the hajj is not like being in an inspiring human endurance movie exactly, but it is still a struggle nonetheless, that the hujjaj must overcome and these same principles of care, know-how and confidence apply to the Hajj as well.
When it comes to health and hajj, a proactive attitude must be kept. The idea is to remain healthy throughout the entire hajj process, with the same pace and at every stride with the rest of the Muslim Ummah gathered at the holiest of holies for prayer, instead of recuperating somewhere in a makeshift tent of a health centre, missing out on the journey of your life. The following are the tips that if the reader keeps in mind would result in a confident, healthy and conscious Hajj.
Have a checkup
Before leaving for the hajj the best thing a pilgrim can do is to have the family doctor or a physician give you a medical exam. Tell the doctor about any conditions or ailments you already have and ask him if he would recommend you to perform hajj this year. People, who trivialize this step, again end up looking at a roof made of canvas cloth and praying on praying beads on a hospital bed while the rest gallop between Mount Safa and Marwa. If the pilgrim has a critical heart condition, debilitating arthritis or severe asthma that cannot be controlled by medication, he should either postpone the pilgrimage or intend to perform the Hajj as soon as Allah gives them shifa. One should remember that the intention is all that matters. As our Lord Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once said: “Verily, all actions are but driven by intention and for everyone is what he intended.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Don’t skip on Vaccinations
Please do not give into rumours that associate vaccines to autism or lethargy or the boogeyman. Vaccines help you develop immunity against pathogens and diseases. They do not only protect the vaccinated but also others who for some reason (due to age or unavailability) could not be vaccinated. Immunized people form a protective barrier around the less opportunistic and deter the spread of disease. This phenomenon is called ‘Herd immunity’ in medical science. So in a way, being vaccinated is a form of Sadqah that one gives to oneself as a shield from harm but in the process protects those all around. Now isn’t that beautiful.
The most important of the vaccines is called the ACWY vaccines for meningococcal meningitis. Others include polysaccharide vaccines for respiratory diseases and pneumonia. Please ask your doctor if these vaccines (and others) could benefit you. ACWY vaccine is a must for Hajj, and a certificate needs to be issued that states the chemical/commercial name of the drug administered and the number of doses given to the intending hajji. Also, inquire about an influenza shot as flu is the most common disease that spreads in the times of Hajj. In fact, the locals call it the “Hajj disease” or the “Dul hajj flu”, owing to the regularity of the influenza outbreak that consumes that region in hajj times.
Stretch and have a run(or a brisk walk)
In case the intending pilgrim reading this article is a health enthusiast, a gym fan or a runner, know this we adore you for your life choices, please move to the next suggestion.
For the rest of us, we must come to terms with the fact that the Hajj means movement and is very physically demanding. Fortunately, our bodies can rejuvenate by just giving some attention. Stretch – try touching your toes with your shin and your heels with your quadriceps. If you have lower back pain problems try going for the walk the doctor has been asking you to take every day. Buy yourself some great looking runners, and maybe this time use them for running and not designating them as your driving shoes. The hajj marks a new life; let’s make it a new one and a healthy one. Even if you start a month before the hajj, once you return and look in the mirror you’ll see a new you, both inside and out.
Supplements and medicines
Lightly stock up on medicines and vitamin and mineral supplements. Please take note that Saudi Arabian law bans the use of sedative drugs, so do not bring along non-prescribed aggressive SSRIs or flu medication that induce drowsiness. Ask for medicine from your doctor that keeps you alert and attentive. Bring along medicine that could relieve muscle aches, headaches and bring down fevers. Having Zinc supplements is also a good option, as zinc helps in the rebuilding of worn muscle fibres and increases immunity.
You are what you eat
Among the many problems hujjaj face when they are performing the hajj is diarrhea form consuming poorly cooked or expired food. Consume only freshly cooked food, not more than two hours old to prevent such a predicament. When eating meats, check if the meat is fully cooked or still red. Do not take risk at this stage and eat something that’s subpar. Besides, packaged goods are readily available within the Meeqat domain, eating them would be nutritious and safe.
Water is your only friend
Drink up as much water as you can, especially if you are young and can hold bathroom breaks. Children and the elderly are more prone to dehydration, and relatively women dehydrate more quickly than men. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Do not drink jugs of water all at the same time and remain thirsty afterwards for hours, instead replenish after every ten minutes with a sip or two. The water of Zamzam is a divine miracle and a blessing, drink that to your full as is the Islamic custom and practice. Keep cool and invest in umbrellas. Apply sunblock lotion generously to prevent skin damage. Make sure to buy a sunblock with a greater SPF rating that would stay on even after sweating.
Minimize physical contact
Do not touch surfaces that you think are exposed to bacteria and germs. Buy unscented alcohol-free sanitizers and soaps and keep them with you at all times. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough with a Kleenex or a cloth that you can later dispose of. Try to wear a face mask. Clean your hands often and rigorously especially after going to the toilet. When settling in a new room, clean the door knobs, the power buttons, the top of the commode lid and the lip, the faucet taps, bedside tables and armrests of chairs with sanitizers to kill germs residing there. And above all else do not touch your nose, eyes and mouth without cause.
We all hope you have an amazingly healthy hajj and umrah.