When I was 11, my parents took me for Umrah (minor pilgrimage). I had been for Umrah before, but this was the first time that I was able to remember and retain the experience in my conscious mind—and what an amazing experience it was. That Umrah, performed as a child, developed a special kind of love and longing in my heart for the Haram1, for the peace found within that hustle and bustle. And as I grew older, it was always my dream to go for Hajj as soon as Allah allowed it. This summer, I was finally blessed with the opportunity to perform Hajj. It was everything I had hoped for and more. And the best part was that it was actually quite doable. You know how people complain about sore feet and swollen ankles? I did not experience any of that. Allah grants ease to who He wills, but I think a huge factor in me being able to enjoy the Hajj experience, despite all the difficulties, was my age. I know all of us think about Hajj. It is somewhere there in the back of our minds—along with all the other goals we have in life, but right now, at this moment, I want you to bring it to the forefront of your thoughts and ask yourself: What is Hajj? We all know about the five pillars that make us Muslims. We believe in the Shahadah, we (hopefully) perform our five daily prayers, we fast during the month of Ramadan, and when we become eligible, we start paying our Zakat annually. But what about Hajj? Hajj is the pillar that seals the deal. It is the pillar that makes Muslims Muslims2. Here are three ways you can hopefully make this blessed journey a reality: Pray for it. Allah does not reject the prayer of the believer. If you make dua and you sincerely want it, you can firmly believe that Allah will allow you to have it. Allah is kinder to us than our mothers, times 70—and you know how quick moms can be to give us what we want (sometimes). Plan for it. As the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Tie your camel and trust in Allah.” We have to put in our bit and then hope that Allah will help us through whatever it is that we need to do. Start saving money with every paycheck or gift that you receive. Decide on the year you will go and make sure you work toward performing Hajj that year by preparing yourself—not just financially, but physically and spiritually. Be patient. Maybe it will not work out. Maybe, despite all your planning and efforts and prayers, things will not go the way you planned them to or they will not happen as fast as you wanted them to. Still, be patient. Remember that Allah is watching you and He will reward you for your efforts. Dear sisters and brothers, make Hajj a priority. We grind through our precious summers and work part-time jobs during the school year to save money and buy a car or move into our own places, and I am not saying those things are wrong, but they will be left behind. Put in the extra time and effort so Hajj can become a reality for you too. Go now—before you go for that dream vacation or that volunteer trip to India or Ecuador. And if it does not seem realistic at this point, then at least—at the very least—make yourself want it. Amongst the seven types of people who will be chosen to be under the shade of Allah’s throne on the Day of Judgement is a young person who grew up in the worship of Allah. [Bukhari & Muslim] What are YOU doing to try to become that person? 1Haram – The Kaaba and surrounding areas, not “Haraam”, as in forbidden. This area is referred to as the Haram because many things are forbidden in this sacred space. 2Hajj is only obligatory if one has the physical ability to perform it and can afford it, along with several other conditions.