The essential steps for a healthy Hajj

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A policeman sprays pilgrims with cooling water near Al-Haram Mosque. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Air conditioned comfort in the ‘Tent City’ of Mina, near Makkah. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Pilgrims in Makkah.
Updated 10 August 2018

The essential steps for a healthy Hajj

LONDON: Today’s Hajj pilgrims will experience unprecedented comfort compared to those of even just 20 years ago. In the last decade the Saudi government has pumped billions of dollars into providing modernized services and amenities to accommodate the millions of Muslims who make the annual pilgrimage.

But the spirit of Hajj itself remains unchanged, said Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis (CBH).
“Everything about getting to and staying around Makkah is easier now, thanks to streamlined systems and electronic processing, but the five days of Hajj are the essence of the journey and remain authentic,” Mogradia told Arab News.
Mogradia, who has completed the Hajj journey five times himself, will join around 25,000 fellow Brits this year as he once again travels to Makkah for the ultimate spiritual journey.
“When you’re in the barren desert and wearing nothing but two pieces of cloth, you leave the creature comforts behind. This is the real Hajj experience. It is ever challenging and spiritual,” he said.

Physical preparation
As the Hajj consists of a series of physically demanding rituals, pilgrims have to be in their best physical condition. Conducted over five days, it includes rigorous exercises such as the circular, counter-clockwise procession around the Kaaba, and the symbolic stoning of evil.
Mogradia advised: “There is a lot of walking involved, so it’s important to invest in decent footwear. Once you’ve bought the footwear, make sure you walk similar distances in the new shoes before you travel to Makkah.”
Zohra Sarwari, a California-based Muslim author and coach, recommends walking long distances before the Hajj. “You should walk at least two to five miles a day,” she said.
Her words are borne of hard experience: “When we did the Hajj it was just after my daughter had been born ... I had not exercised for almost two years. I thought because I was young it would be a piece of cake for me. Boy, was I wrong.”
Although she managed to walk “most of the way” from Makkah to Mina and back, she admitted: “Let’s just say I wanted a wheelchair due to the difficulty of it all,” she said.
The international life and business coach also recommends “doing cardio and being in shape” because this will make the Hajj experience easier and more relaxing.
She added: “It’s also important to eat healthily before the trip and on the trip itself to maintain energy levels. The food is very fattening in some of the Hajj packages. Go for the lighter items, you will find it easier to perform your Hajj properly without feeling exhausted.”

Prepping mind and soul
In the words of Dr. Aslam Abdullah, resident scholar at online Muslim community, the Hajj is “more than an adventure.”
“It is a journey into self-reflection and personality development. It’s an experience that allows Hajjis to live the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. It is a journey for learning the art of sacrifice; it allows pilgrims to connect with the divine,” he said.
“Many pilgrims prepare for decades before embarking on this journey … so when they experience any hardship at Hajj, they use the endurance and strength they have built over years to overcome it.”
Sarwari emphasized being spiritually and mentally steeled. “You are there to connect to your Creator, to appreciate all that you have, and understand the purpose of this life a bit more.”
The coach said pilgrims should read books and watch videos to learn about the process of Hajj beforehand. “This is so they understand what each step means, so that they know how to perform them and appreciate why we do them,” she explained.
Sarwari also said it is important to ask people about their experiences to get their thoughts on what to do and what to avoid during the trip.
The coach added that pilgrims should “clarify their intentions” before embarking on the Hajj.
“Personally, I didn’t use the phone except to let my dad know that we got there safely. I wasn’t there to talk on the phone, or record everything. I was there to connect to my Lord,” Sarwari said.
“I wanted to make sure I prayed on time, I did my dhikr (remembrances), read the Qur’an, helped others and taught the sisters. Immerse yourself in the moment and be there. Forget about the world while you’re there.”
Mogradia said Hajj pilgrims have a “moral obligation” to bring the experience back with them and share it with their community — Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
“Hajj (pilgrims) are guests of God and they should bring that experience back to the community. The Hajj experience shows that people from all corners of the world can actually get along,” said Mogradia.

Silent on Cohen, Trump says Manafort conviction ‘a disgrace’ but ‘does not involve me’

Updated 48 min 27 sec ago

Silent on Cohen, Trump says Manafort conviction ‘a disgrace’ but ‘does not involve me’

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump says the conviction of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial crimes is “a disgrace.”
But he hasn’t publicly reacted to former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s guilty pleas to felonies, including campaign finance violations he stated he carried out in coordination with Trump.
Manafort was convicted Tuesday in Virginia on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice. Cohen pleaded guilty in New York, saying he and Trump arranged the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.
Trump told reporters in West Virginia that Manafort’s conviction “has nothing to do with Russian collusion.” Of Manafort’s crimes, he says: “It doesn’t involve meRudy Giuliani  Trump’s personal lawyer says criminal charges against Michael Cohen don’t include the assertion he made in court that Trump directed him to make hush-money payments to influence the election.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that there’s “no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges.”
Giuliani’s comments came after Cohen pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud.
The charging documents say Cohen made the payments “at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign.”
Cohen told a judge that he and Trump arranged to pay Daniels $130,000 and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal as the 2016 election loomed.

Both women claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he denies.

Giuliani echoed Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami’s assessment that the charges against Cohen “reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”

Michael Cohen’s lawyer is suggesting President Donald Trump should face criminal charges for directing his longtime “fixer” to make hush-money payments to two women to influence the election.
Lawyer Lanny Davis tweeted on Tuesday: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?“
Davis’ comments came after Cohen pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud.
Both women claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he denies.
Davis tweeted that by pleading guilty Cohen was “fulfilling his promise” to “put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump.”
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to charges involving hush-money payments should open the door to questioning President Donald Trump about “what he knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it.”
Cohen said in court on Tuesday that he coordinated with Trump to pay Daniels $130,000 and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to influence the election. Both women claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he denies.
Daniels said she and lawyer Michael Avenatti felt vindicated and look forward to apologies “from the people who claimed we were wrong.”
Avenatti is flirting with running for president in 2020 as a Democrat. He said the likelihood of that happening will dwindle if Trump resigns or decides not to run for re-election.