4 powerful productivity lessons from the haj

4 powerful productivity lessons from the haj

4 powerful productivity lessons from the haj
Pilgrims gather to perform haj. Image: Shutterstock


As millions of Muslims from around the world descend upon the city of Makkah for the annual haj, I cannot stop thinking about the lessons and meanings of some of the rituals and symbols that could help us lead a more holistic, productive lifestyle. Below are four powerful productivity lessons from the haj:


Linguistically, the Arabic word “haj” means “a journey with a purpose”. Over time, this word has become associated with the specific journey of the Islamic ritual. Understanding this meaning opens a window to a new level of understanding about our lives. If we believe that life is a journey and we are but travelers in this world, then this journey must be with a purpose.

Defining, reflecting upon and regularly revisiting our purpose in life is a powerful source of energy and direction. It helps us lead more productive lives at work, with our families and with our community. Moreover, this sense of purpose becomes more powerful if it's shared among a community. This is exactly what happens in haj; millions of people with a shared sense of purpose gather, with each individual fully vested in fulfilling that purpose.


If you’ve been on haj or seen it on TV, you will have noticed that it's a very action-based ritual. Haj is not about sitting in a corner and praying (though there is some of that); for most of the time, from the moment they arrive in Makkah to when they leave, the pilgrims are on the move.

This constant movement reminds us that if we want anything in life, we need to act instead of sitting and hoping that things improve by themselves. The haj teaches us in a very practical way to always be inclined towards action, to move, to get things done, but with a purpose.

Saudi Arabia Mecca Masjid al Haram haj 2014

 REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed



During the haj, an exemplary “we” culture emerges that completely transforms all those who take part in it. Between two and three million people gather in a tight space to complete a set of rituals in a set number of days. They all wear the same clothes, so you can’t tell the difference between a CEO and a beggar. Moreover, every person who makes the journey knows that they need to avoid arguments, confrontation and lewd or foul behavior for their pilgrimage to be accepted by God.

Just think about it: millions of people practicing self-restraint and tolerance in a very practical way. This is impossible to achieve in any large gathering of this magnitude, but it works during the haj.

This total immersion in the sea of humanity puts you face-to-face with the entire world—literally! You learn to deal with people and their misadventures, strange customs and varying hygiene levels, and to dissolve your “me, myself and I” ideas along with all selfish desires into a true “we” culture. You placed in harmony not only with yourself but with the flood of humanity around you.


The haj connects you with the past and makes you relive some of the stories of haj, which are full of meaning and symbolism. It also makes you live the reality of the world in the present. You may have been shielded in your neighborhood from the poverty, destitution, and desperation that other parts of the world are facing. During haj, you cannot escape these realities; you witness what the majority of people face every day.

Finally, the haj is glimpse of the future. Not the near future, but the ultimate future, when we all die and are resurrected as human beings on the Day of Judgement. It makes you remember your mortality and reminds you that your life should be geared positively, towards beneficial and productive pursuits.

Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs rebalance their lives spiritually, physically and socially to achieve peak performance and live meaningful lives. He’s the founder of and author of The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.