Pilgrims to Makkah have begun filling the sky with talbiyah (declaration of answering the call to Haj) and takbeer (declaring Allah’s greatness). They come from all corners of the earth, east and west, to fulfil this awesome obligation. 
Allah the Most High says: 
And Haj to the House (Al-Ka’aba) is a duty mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses and whoever disbelieves, then Allah is not in need of any of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn, and all that exists). [Ale-Imraan 97] 
Also His statement: And perform properly the Haj and the ‘Umrah for Allah. [Al-Baqarah 196] And finally: And proclaim to mankind the Haj. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway. [Al-Haj 27]. 
Dear Muslims, Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: Islam is founded upon five pillars: The declaration that there is no true deity worthy of worship besides Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, the performance of prayer (salaah), giving zakaat (due alms), fasting in the month of Ramadan, and pilgrimage (Haj) to the inviolable House of Allah for whoever has the means. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] 
Is a duty for every Muslim who is able to hurry to the fulfil the Haj before falling into sin. The Messenger of Allah stated: Hasten to the Haj because none of you knows what will happen to him. [Ahmed]. 
It is narrated from Abdur-Rahman Ibn Saabit: Whoever dies without having performed the Haj and there was no debilitating illness as an obstacle nor unjust ruler or some overwhelming necessity preventing him, would die in the state of either a Jew or a Christian. [This statement is considered a da’eef (weak) hadith but it is supported by a similar statement by ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab and therefore known to have a sound origin according to Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in Talkhees Al-Kabeer] 
It is narrated by Sa’eed ibn Mansour that Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab (radiallahu ‘anhu) said: I have considered sending a man to the various cities to see whoever has the means but has not made the Haj to then impose the jizyah (a tax imposed upon non-Muslim subjects in an Islamic state). They are not Muslims. They are not Muslims. 
It is therefore a duty for you my brother or sister Muslim to fulfil this great obligation when it is easy at this time for you to do so, and all praise is due to Allah. Don’t let the Shaitaan cause you to sit and be overtaken by procrastination and be distracted by some desire. Ask yourself...How long will you delay it? Till next year? Who knows what condition you will be in next year? Think of the generations and how they used to trek to the Haj for months to reach the Ancient House! 
The benefits of Haj are tremendous and its reward is glorious. It combines both physical and material forms of worship. The former due to the undergoing any hardship, exertion, fatigue, strain, harsh conditions and travel. The latter is due to the expenditure the pilgrim makes for and during the Haj. 
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: From ‘Umrah to ‘Umrah is an expiation for what occurs between the two (i.e. sins), and there is no reward for the accepted Haj other than Al-Jannah. Also he (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) stated: Whoever makes Haj and neither quarrels or commits indecency will return home like the day his mother gave birth to him. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] 
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) strongly urged increasing one’s obedience and adherence between the Haj and the ‘Umrah for he said: Make the Haj and the ‘Umrah follow each other closely, for they remove poverty and sins as a blacksmith’s bellows remove impurities from iron, gold and silver; and Haj which is accepted gets no less a reward than Paradise. [Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2524 Narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud ; Umar ibn al-Khattaab. Tirmidhi and Nasa’i transmitted it, and Ahmad and Ibn Maajah transmitted it from Umar up to “from iron.”] 
He (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) also said in a hadith that enlivens the feelings and hurries you on: From ‘Umrah to ‘Umrah is expiation for all that occurs between them (of sins) and the accepted Haj has no reward other than Al-Jannah. [Muslim] 
Along with this great reward is the fact that the days of Haj are few. So don’t hesitate and undervalue this chance while the means to travel are much easier compared to past days and you live a life of relative plenty. Favours call for gratitude and life is for the purpose of worshipping Allah. Don’t delay further or procrastinate and receive the good tidings as one of the delegations of Ar-Rahmaan (the Most Merciful), Allah, who has called them and they have answered Him and He has given to them. 
Receive the glad tidings of a great day in which there will be many false steps and slips of the tongue forgiven for the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: There is not a day when more slaves are freed from the Hellfire than on the Day of Arafah. [Muslim] 
Be happy and find comfort and prepare for the meeting with Allah the Glorified and Majestic, and benefit from your time by doing that which will benefit you in the next life and it will then be cause for joy at the time when no amount of wealth nor progeny will avail you. The Day when the records will be made to fly and hearts will be trembling and transformed and you will see people as though they are drunken however they will not be ... rather it will be the intense punishment from Allah. 
Dear brothers and sisters, work for this world to the extent needed to live in it, but work also for the Hereafter in order to live in it. Don’t put things off when death is indeed before you and sickness stops you or you become engulfed in work. Instead, escape from all that and seek Allah’s aid and depend upon Him and be among those who are answering the call to Haj and remembering Allah’s greatness this year. 
My brother or sister Muslim: If Allah has already opened your breast and you have decided to perform the Haj for His sake and the reward of the Hereafter, I remind you of the following matters: 
1. Ask Allah For Guidance And Advice (Al-Istikhaarah and Al-Istishaara) : The one who seeks guidance will not fail, nor will the one who seeks advice regret it. Seek the guidance of Allah regarding the appropriate time, transportation and companions for your journey. The Istikhaarah prayer is to perform two units (rak’atain) of prayer and afterwards supplicate to Allah saying the supplication of Al-Istikhaarah which is as follows: O Allah, I consult You as You are All-Knowing and I appeal to You to give me power as You are Omnipotent, I ask You for Your great favour, for You have power and I do not, and You know all of the hidden matters . O Allah ! If you know that this matter (then he should mention it) is good for me in my religion, my livelihood, and for my life in the Hereafter, (or he said: ‘for my present and future life,’) then make it (easy) for me. And if you know that this matter is not good for me in my religion, my livelihood and my life in the Hereafter, (or he said: ‘for my present and future life,’) then keep it away from me and take me away from it and choose what is good for me wherever it is and please me with it.” [Al-Bukhari]
2. Purify Your Intention To Perform The Haj For Allah Alone: It is incumbent upon the person undertaking the Haj to intend their Haj and ‘Umrah for the sake of pleasing Allah alone and attaining the reward of the Hereafter. This, so that all one’s actions and speech and expenditure is a means to get closer to Allah. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: Verily deeds are judged and motivated by intention and verily every person shall get what they intended. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
3. Learn The Rites of Haj And ‘Umrah And Related Issues: Learn the conditions of Haj and its obligations, its pillars and sunnah or supererogatory aspects to the point that you can worship Allah with insight clarity and knowledge and you will also avoid errors which may spoil your Haj. Books on Haj are plentiful and easy to obtain. Your local mosque may have preparatory classes as well.
4. Leave Plenty Of Provisions For Your Family And Advise Them To Have Fear Of Allah (Taqwaa): It is obligatory for whoever intends to make Haj that they leave adequate provisions for those whose maintenance they are responsible for of money, food, and drink. One should be confident that their family is safe and sound and not left in a situation of trial or danger. It is highly recommended (and many scholars say obligatory) to have one’s will prepared before travelling.
5. Sincere Repentance To Allah For All Sins And Disobedience: Allah, Who is free of all imperfections, states: And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful. [An-Noor 31] True repentance (At-Taubah) is when one renounces all his or her sins and disobedience to Allah and His Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and discontinues doing them and feel truly remorseful for those past ill deeds and is determined not to return to them. If someone else’s rights have been violated they must be given back their rightful possessions or made amends with no matter what the violation may have been.
6. Use Only Lawful (halaal) Funds: Funds that were lawfully earned so that nothing sinful may touch your Haj. It may be that you Haj is accepted but tainted with some sin from some other way. It is stated in a hadith of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) where he said: As soon as a pilgrim sets out for Haj with a provision which is lawful, and puts his foot in the stirrup (rides his mount) and calls out: ‘O, Allah! Here I am in response to Your call,’ an announcer answers him from the heavens above, saying: ‘Your call has been heard; you are a happy one; your provisions are lawful, your mount is lawful and your pilgrimage is free of sin and acceptable.’ But, if his provisions are unlawfully gained, and he puts his foot in the stirrup and calls out: ‘O Allah! Here I am in response to Your call,’ an announcer from the heavens above answers him back, saying: ‘Your call is not accepted; nor are you welcome; your food is unlawful; your provisions are unlawful; and your pilgrimage is not free of sin and is unacceptable.”’ Al-Mundhri says: “This is reported by At-Tabarani in Al-Awsat, and also by Al-Asbahani in a mursal hadith from Aslam, the freed slave of ‘Umar bin al-Khattaab.” 
It is said in a poem: 
When you make Haj with wealth whose origin is unlawful 
You have not made a Haj but a Haj of no consequence 
Allah accepts not except all that is virtuous. Not all who make the Haj to the House of Allah are successful 
7. Choose Righteous Companions: They will be good for you during travel for they will remind you of what you may have forgotten and inform you of what you may not know and look out for you and show you brotherly love. They will consider all of that as an act of worship gaining them nearness to Allah the Mighty and Majestic.
8. Adhere To The Etiquette Of Travel: Make those supplications that are well known, such as the supplication of travel and the takbeer when ascending to a high point and the tasbeeh (Subhaanallah – glorification of Allah as free of all perfection) when descending in a valley, along with supplications when stopping at places along the road etc.
9. Mentally Prepare For The Haj: Just as important as preparing physically you should prepare to make psychological adjustments to deal with the hardships, toils and inconvenience of travelling and Haj and consider all of it as good to be added to your scale of deeds. There are those who just complain and mumble about the heat, the food, the long trip... Haj is not a vacation or recreational activity! Know that the highest type of patience, and the type that is most greatly rewarded, is patience in the obedience of Allah. Even with all the transportation and road facilities, some hardship and toil will remain. Don’t nullify your deeds dear pilgrim by mentioning all you have done or irritations and petty annoyances and driving away other Muslims by your hand or your tongue. You must apply kindness and compassion. 
10. Lower The Gaze From What Allah Has Made Haraam To Look At: Be conscious and fear Allah regarding those things which are unlawful. You will be in holy places of tremendous religious significance, so hold your tongue and control your limbs so that your Haj is not a sinful or false one that will be a burden upon your back on the Day of Resurrection. 
May Allah accept our obedience and adherence and excuse us of our shortcomings and make for us and our Muslim parents those through whom forgiveness is granted from among the pilgrims answering the call this year and in the years to come. (Article by Mohamed al-Qaasim)

Haj contemplations
1. This is a journey that was taken by Prophets and Messengers before you. Those who take the path of the Prophets magnify the tawheed of Allah and His House. There are those, however, who come to perform Haj and their hearts are attached to other than Allah. They invoke the dead and the righteous, whether present or absent. This is the opposite of tawheed, it is shirk no matter what they call it because it is setting up rivals besides Allah. So, free your intention from any kind of devotion to other than Allah. Repent and come with a sincere heart submitting to Allah remembering what Ibraaheem and his son Ismaa’eel said when they were raising the foundations of Allah’s House, the Ka’aba.
“O our Rabb! Accept from us and make us submit to You in Islam and show us our manaasik (all the rite of Haj) and accept our repentance.” – Qur’an 2:128
2. You are set to depart and you may or may not return to your home. Make this journey to Allah’s House as Allah wants it. Think of the next journey that is surely coming, the one that leads to the meeting of Allah, Most High. This raises questions like: What did I prepare for that Day? Am I following Allah’s Commands? Am I a follower of the Sunnah of Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)? Do I really know of Allah? Am I a believer that Allah is above the seven heavens over His ‘arsh as He has stated in His Book and as His Messengers have asserted? Am I a believer that believes Allah has a true Face that suits His Majesty as He has affirmed in the Qur’an and as has been affirmed by His Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)? Am I believer in all of Allah’s Names, Attributes and Actions which He has affirmed in His Book and by His Messengers? Or do I just take and accept by my doubt, rejecting, or distorting (through what is called figurative interpretation of His Attributes) the meanings of Allah’s Attributes and Actions?
And invoke not any other ilaah (god) along with Allah, la ilaaha ilaa huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), Everything will perish save His Face, His is the Decision, and to Him (all) shall be returned. – Qur’an 28:88
3. Know, may Allah’s Mercy upon you, that when you reach the meeqaat there is another meeqaat that is still to come. It is the meeqaat (appointed meeting) on the Day of Resurrection:
Say (O Muhammad): (Yes) verily, those of old, and those of later times. All will surely be gathered together for an appointed Meeting of a known Day. – Qur’an 56:49-50
4. When you start saying the talbiyah remember the Command of Allah to Prophet Ibraaheem:
And proclaim to mankind the Haj. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from deep and distant (wide) mountain highways (to perform Haj). – Qur’an 22:27
The talbiyah you make is in response to Prophet Ibraaheem’s proclamation to visit Allah’s house of worship. Allah is Most Great.
5. Upon entering Makkah remember that you are in the Secure Sanctuary:
Have We not established for them a secure sanctuary (Makkah), to which are brought fruits of all kinds, a provision from Ourselves, but most of them know not. – Qur’an 28:57
Let one commit himself to repentance, having a good opinion of Allah, hoping that Allah will grant him security from His Punishment.
6. You will enter one of the gates of Al-Masjid Al-Haraam. Then there you are before the magnificent House of Allah, Most High, the Ka’aba. Now you see what you hoped to see for a long time. Thank Allah for making this possible and hope that He will grant you the greatest reward of seeing His Majestic Face on the Day of Resurrection. This thankfulness is not just in saying “alhamdu-lillaah,” but also by obeying Allah while on Haj and for the rest of your life.
7. You start your tawaaf knowing that it is a great time for magnifying Allah the Exalted. Remember Him by His Names, Attributes and Actions. Also while in tawaaf try to reflect upon the time when Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was prevented from doing the same thing you are doing today. Then think about what he did in clearing out the site from the symbols signifying worship to other than Allah! All idols were demolished. Busy yourself with du’aa. Ask Allah, the Most Great to make you hold to the correct belief and Path of the salaf and make you die on it. Ask Allah to save you from all forms of shirk and bid’ah.
8. While in sa’yi, contemplate on Haajar, the mother of Ismaa’eel, when she asked her husband Ibraaheem: “Did Allah order you to do this (leaving her and her baby Ismaa’eel in Makkah)? He said: “Yes.” Her great response was: “Then He (Allah) will not neglect us!” Think about this great dependence upon Allah when you are in the sa’yi walking the same path which Haajar took in search for water and for the means of life around the mounts of Safa and Marwah. Think about her endurance, perseverance and truth in Allah. The sa’yi exemplifies the strong belief that we are in need for the One Who Sustains and Provides – Allah, the Exalted.
Think about Ibraaheem’s invocation on his way homeward to Palestine:
O our Rabb! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House (the Ka’aba at Makkah); in order, O our Rabb, that they may offer prayers perfectly, so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. – Qur’an 14:37
Men and fruits came to Makkah from many places. Ibraaheem returned to visit and later to share with his son Ismaa’eel the noble task of raising the foundations of the Ka’aba.
9. The standing on ‘Arafaat is the Haj. The crowds should remind you of the Day of Resurrection. Humble yourself to Allah, manifest your ‘uboodiyyah to Him Alone through du’aa, sincere intention and strong determination to free yourself from the sins of the past and to build up a commitment to rush for doing what is good. Think of becoming a better person when you return. Rid yourself of false pride and showing off because it may ruin what you may gain on this day.
10. You gathered the pebbles and you are about to embark on stoning the jamaraat. This is an act of obedience and remembrance of Allah, Most Magnificent. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “When you cast the small pebbles (ie at the jamaraat), it will be a light for you on the Day of Resurrection.”
11. When performing the sacrifice remember that saying of Allah, the Most High:
It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is your devotion that reaches him. – Qur’an 22:37
12. When you have completed your Haj, do not think that the remembrance of Allah has ended. Listen to what Allah says:
So when you have accomplished your manaasik (ie the rites of Haj) remember Allah as you remember your forefathers or with a far more remembrance. – Qur’an 2:200
Special note: If you go to Madinah then the objective of your visit should be according to the Sunnah and not bid’ah. Your intention is to set on a journey to visit the Prophet’s mosque and not his grave. When you reach the mosque and you pray upon entering then you may go to the grave and say, “As-salaama ‘alayka ayyuhan-nabiyy.” The same salaam is also mentioned when you pass by Abu Bakr and ‘Umar without innovations like:
a. Visiting the grave of the Prophet before praying in the mosque.
b. Making du’aa facing the grave.
c. Seeking nearness to Allah by means of the Prophet. This is a prohibited form of tawassul.
d. Seeking intercession from the Prophet.
e. Placing the hands upon the grills around the room containing the Prophet’s grave to seek blessings, etc.
Remember the Prophet’s sayings: “Do not make my grave an ‘eed (place of celebration)...
“May Allah’s curse be on the Jews and Christians for taking the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.”
“Those before you took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship. Do not take graves as places of worship for verily I forbid you to do so.”
13. The Haj journey is not meant to gain any material reward. It is a selfless sacrifice solely for Allah, Most Majestic. It demands true love and fear of Him. It should be performed with full consciousness of one’s heart, with full humility and submission to Allah. It should not be thought of as a tourist-type excursion or be performed as mere physical rites. It develops sincerity, piety, humility, self-control, sacrifice, and true knowledge of the meaning of submission and obedience to Allah, Most High. It helps the pilgrim to be a better person who is devoted to Allah in every aspect of life.
1. Purify his creed (‘aqeedah) from any aspects of shirk, greater or lesser, as shirk destroys one’s deeds.
2. Devote his Haj purely and sincerely for Allah.
3. Sincerely repent for all of his sins.
4. Acquire knowledge about Haj and its rites.
5. Use halaal (lawful) means to support this great journey, taking what he will require (ie not begging while on Haj to meet his needs).
6. Record all of his debts and include them in his Islamic Will.
7. Relieve himself from any kind of injustice which he may have inflicted upon others.
8. Secure the needs of his family members whom he leaves home.
9. Accompany the knowledgeable and righteous Muslims and stay away from the mubtadi’ah (innovators in deen).
10. Perform salaat on time and as prescribed during the journey and in the Haj period.
11. Safeguard his tongue from backbiting, arguing, complaining, etc.
12. Keep his beard and not shave it for Haj or for any other reason, as this is prohibited.
13. Remember that it is unlawful for men to wear gold (rings included).
Note: The position of the scholars regarding visiting the grave sites by women can be summarised as follows:
a. Disliked but not unlawful
b. Allowable, if done infrequently. If a woman is known as being unable to behave herself within the limits of Shariah at a grave site, then she shold be prevented from visiting the graves.
c. Forbidden, and
d. A grave sin
Many scholars state that women visiting the Prophet’s Mosque may pronounce their salaam upon the Prophet away from the grave site since it is confirmed by many ahadith that the salaam is related to the Prophet wherever the person may be. The Prophet is in a state of barzakh ( a state of existence that begins with death and lasts until the Day of Resurrection) the nature of which is only known to Allah. (Article by Abu Muhammad Abdur-Rauf Shakir)