HEALTH GUIDELINES FOR HAJJ AND UMRAH by Dr. Farouk Haffejee (MBChB MCFP) In the Name of Almighty Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful. Assalamualaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu The performance of Hajj is obligatory on all adult Muslims who have the means to make the trip to the Holy City of Makkah. Umrah is regarded as a minor pilgrimage with only part of the required rituals performed. Whosoever enters the Mi'qaat (boundary of the Holy Land) has to perform Umrah which includes seven circuits around the Holy Kabah. One must be in good health, not only to enjoy Hajj and Umrah but also tom make maximum use of the opportunity to make as much ibadat as possible, that is, extra Salaah and extra Nafl Tawaaf's. We are guests of Allah Subahanahu Wata 'ala whilst we are in Makkah and guests of Rasulullah Salallahu Alaihi Wassalum whilst we are in Madinah. We must, therefore show enthusiasm whilst we are there and perform Ibadah enthusiastically. The following is a guideline and must be accompanied by your own Doctor's advice pertaining to your own health needs. Physical fitness: The more physically fit one is, the easier it would become to perform the many rituals associated with a complete Hajj. If one has decided to perform a walking Hajj, then it would be very important for one to be as fit as possible. This will require one to walk as much as one can, starting about 4 to 6 weeks before departure, walking greater and greater distances as the time of departure arrives. One should be able to walk briskly for about an hour continuously, taking a few hills into one's walk. During Hajj, one will not be walking in one's designer walking shoes but in thongs or a slipper, which is not sewn, or which does not cover the high arch on the top of one's foot in the case of men. These can be quite uncomfortable. For this reason, one should practice one's walking in similar footwear so that one's feet can get used to the slippers and form calluses where they are required. Men are not allowed to cover their heads during Hajj. Furthermore, the heads of men would have been shaved recently from the performance of Umrah. It would therefore become necessary for one to expose one's head to the sun whilst exercising so that one's head may become used to the sun. The sooner exercise is started, the better. If one is young and can jog, then this will do fine. Even if one is not performing a walking Hajj, the exercise will help tremendously. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallum often spoke of the importance of physical fitness in general. Physical fitness is therefore very important. Climate in Arabia: Jeddah is on the coast of the Red Sea and therefore enjoys a slightly humid climate in summer. It becomes less humid in winter. Makkah is about 70 kilometres inland. It has an escarpment around it. The only natural source of drinking water is from the well of Zam Zam and the well of Abu Dawwod. The rest of the water from bore holes and wells is brackish, unfit for human consumption. Because of the escarpment, the climate is dry and harsh. There is very little vegetation in and around Makkah due to the low rainfall. The Great Arabian Desert is all around Makkah. The climate is dry. Temperatures are extremely high, usually in the forty degree Celsius range and sometimes going into the fifties. It becomes so hot that even the buildings do not get a chance to cool down overnight. Even in winter, it is hot! It is sometimes referred to as the hottest place on earth! Medinah is situated about 500 kilometres north and is about 100 kilometres from the coast. It is a large oasis with the Great Arabian Desert all around it. Because of the numerous wells providing excellent drinking water, it has date orchards spreading out on to the outskirts of the city. The climate is dry and hot, the temperatures not reaching as high as in Makkah. In winter, it can become cool to cold especially around Tahadjud and Fajr times. Since the climate of Medinah is less hot and dry than that of Makkah, spending 8-10 days in Medinah before coming to Makkah helps to allow our bodies to acclimatise. Drinking Water: Tap water is not safe to drink anywhere in Arabia. Drinking water has to be bought in the form of bottled water. However, Zam Zam is available freely in Makkah and in Medinah. Since this is an opportunity to drink as much Zam Zam water as possible, one can fill containers with Zam Zam water and bring it to one's room. One can make tea and coffee with the Zam Zam water. Zam Zam water is only for drinking. Please respect it. Because of the hot weather conditions, it becomes necessary to drink water in abundance. Less urine is passed due to the hot conditions. The body conserves water by concentrating the urine. It is not good to pass very concentrated urine for a variety of reasons. Drink enough water so that the urine is clear. Passing clear urine indicates good hydration. Ice that is available to cool the Zam Zam water is not always of good quality. Unscrupulous people may make the ice with only brackish water or mix the brackish water with drinking water to save on costs. This results in the brackish water contaminating bottled water or Zam Zam water. Drinking Brackish water causes a sore throat, abdominal pains and a cough from the irritation in the throat. People may use antibiotics thinking that the cause of the sore throat is an infection. It is better to drink Zam Zam water directly from the well in the Haram Shareef or taking the water from the numerous taps available outside the Harram Shareef. Zam Zam water that is available in storage containers in the Harram Shareef are cooled by adding ice. This ice may not always be of good quality. Although the authorities provide disposable cups for drinking Zam Zam in the Haram, people unfamiliar with this practice often mix the used cups with the unused ones resulting in confusion. If one is unsure, rinse out the cup well before use. It is through the sharing of cups that infections can spread from one pilgrim to another. People come from all parts of the world with different hygienic control. What one may find offensive may be quite normal for another. The important thing to do is to avoid picking up infections from this source. Please make sure that drinking water is safe. Drink adequate amounts of fluids especially water throughout your stay.