Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage and is, in short, an act of worship of Allah (SWT). It is based on the teachings of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) and his Sunnah. The pilgrimage is a visit to the House of Allah (SWT).
Umrah is also known as a minor Hajj because it’s not obligatory, can be performed at any time of the year. Nevertheless, Umrah is considered commendable because it holds great value and virtue in the eyes of Allah (SWT). it is similar to Hajj, but Umrah rituals are shorter and simpler.
The Umrah comprises of:
1. Ihrām الإحرام
The word Ihram is derived from the Arabic verb harama, which means “to be forbidden”. It refers to a state of purity the pilgrim is required to be in to perform Hajj, Umrah or both before entering the perimeter of Makkah. After having made the intention for Ihram, the pilgrim must abide by its prohibitions. An individual in the state of Ihram is known as a Muhrim, literally meaning “one who has made things forbidden upon himself.” The two-piece garment garment worn by men is also referred to as the Ihram.
Personal hygiene is important and must be taken care of, before getting into changed into the Ihram garments. Hygiene such as clipping your nails and removing the hair under your armpits and beneath the navel. You should perform Ghusl, a highly emphasised Sunnah for those intending to enter into a state of Ihram. If you are unable to perform Ghusl, doing Wudhu will suffice. Women who are menstruating or experiencing postnatal bleeding are also advised to perform ghusl.
Men change into the two fabrics, Rida and Izar, whereas women can wear any form of clothing which covers the body and head. The sheet which wraps around the waist covering the lower body is known as the Izar and the sheet that is draped over the upper body like a shawl is known as the Rida. Men may apply Attar / perfume to their heads / beards, ensuring not to get any on the Ihram garments.
Upon the cleansing, the individual should perform the obligatory prayers or offer two rakaat of Sunnah prayer. Once that is done, the individual should face the direction of the Qibla and officially enter Ihram – the individual must enter Ihram before he/she leaves for the Meeqat in Makkah. Perfume or fragrance products are strictly prohibited while a person is in his/her Ihram.
At the Meeqat, the pilgrim must make the intention and recite the words:
“Labbayk Allaahumma bi ‘Umrah”
(Here I am, O Allah, for ‘Umrah)
After this, he/she should recite the Talbiyah, in line with the Sunnah:
“Labbayka Allaahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Inna al-hamd wa’l-ni’mata laka wa’l-mulk, laa shareeka lak”
(Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and All sovereignty, You have no partner).”
It is advised that the individual keep reciting the Talbiyah from the moment he/she enters Ihram until he/she gets to the performance of the Tawaaf.
After intention and Talbiyah, you are in the status of Ihram and from this time on you should not do acts that are forbidden in Ihram. Here are some of the things a muhrim must not do:
- Cover head (men), cover face (women)
- Cover the middle bone of the upper part of the feet (Both men and women))
- Shave / cut hair
- Cut nails
- Wear perfume
- Wear stitched clothing (men) / (Women can wear their ordinary clothes)
- Hunting / killing
2. Tawāf الطواف
The second of the four spiritual Pillars of Pilgrimage is Tawāf. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to go around the Ka‘ba (the most sacred site in Islam) seven times, in a counter-clockwise direction; starting from the eastern corner in which the Black Stone is embedded. This tradition goes back to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma‘il (Ishmael), who walked around the Ka‘ba seven times after they had rebuilt the structure. Pilgrims undertaking Tawāf, are following in the footsteps of the Prophet Ibrahim, Ismail and Muhammad.
The first three circuits at a hurried pace on the outer part of the crowd, followed by four times closer to the Ka’ba at a leisurely pace. The circling is believed to demonstrate the unity of the believers in the worship of the One God, as they move in harmony together around the Kaaba, while supplicating to God.
For women, if they are having their menstruation, they cannot perform the Tawāf. They should try their best to extend their stay and perform tawāf al-ziyārah in a state of purity. They may also take pills that suppress the period after consulting with an experienced Muslim doctor.
If they decide to perform tawāf al-ziyārah in the state of menstruation, their tawāf will be valid, but they have to sacrifice a camel as a penalty, in additional to asking Allāh Ta’āla for forgiveness. However, if their period ends before leaving, it will be compulsory for them to redo the tawāf al-ziyārah, after which their penalty will forfeit.
(وحيضها لا يمنع) نسكا (إلا الطواف) ولا شيء عليها بتأخيره إذا لم تطهر إلا بعد أيام النحر
(al-Durr al-Mukhtār 2/528; Fikr)
Tawāf Al-Wada is the Farewell Tawāf performed by pilgrims at the end of Hajj. The Hajj is bid farewell to the House of Allah SWT before leaving Makkah city. It is the last and an important rite of Hajj that is executed by the non-residents of Makkah before leaving for their home. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH stated about Tawaf e Wida in following words.
“The people were ordered to circumambulate the Kaaba as the last thing they should do in Makkah, but an exception is for menstruating women.”
–Bukhari: 1755, Muslim: 1328
This significance of Tawāf Al-Wada is evident from the above saying of the Last Messenger of Allah.
3. Sa’ee السعي
One of the obligatory ritual for Umrah and Hajj. It is actually hurrying between two hills which are Safa’ and Marwa’. The ritual was comfortable enough and the surrounding was cool. There are Zam Zam water provided for pilgrims who feels thirsty and want to take a break. The floor is beautiful marble. The signs, such as where to hurry, and where to have small run were clear and helpful.
Performing the Sa’ee (ritual walking) serves to commemorate Hagar’s search for water for her son and Allah’s mercy in answering prayers. The walkway is entirely covered by a gallery and is divided into four one-way lanes, of which the inner two are reserved for the elderly and disabled. There was also wheelchair service for disadvantaged people.
4. Shaving or shortening the hair الحلق
It is necessary (wajib) to shave or trim at least one quarter of the hair on your head after performing the rites of a pilgrimage (hajj/‘umra). The sunnah is to shave or trim the entire head, and it is disliked to do less than this.
Generally, it is superior to shave, given that it was emphatically encouraged by the our Prophet Muhamaad, (Allah bless him and give him peace), but trimming your hair is also acceptable on condition that the hair is shortened by roughly the extent of a finger-joint, namely, two centimetres.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “‘O Allah, forgive those who shave their heads.’They said, ‘And those who cut their hair short!’ He said, ‘O Allah, forgive those who shave their heads.’ They said, ‘And those who cut their hair short!’ He said it a third time and said, ‘and those who cut the hair short.” [Bukhari]
This applies to the time when the Prophet (peace be upon him) did his Umrah with a very large number of his companions. Some of them shaved their heads while others cut short a small portion of their hair. The Prophet prayed for both, but he first prayed three times for those who shaved.
He only included the others in the fourth time. This means that it is much better and more preferable to shave one’s head. However, if one only cuts a small portion of his hair short, this is sufficient. Of course the choice applies only for men. Women cut only a small portion of their hair by an inch, or even shorter.
Things to take note of before/while performing Umrah
Before leaving for Umrah, there are certain things you need to take note of:
1. Carry a bottle of water
This is the most obvious option and a no-brainer, but it is worth mentioning as not everyone is in the habit of carrying a bottle of water around. Even in your regular daily life, it is useful to carry your own water bottle to ensure you drink more during the day. Throw in intense heat and crazy crowds and you have got an emergency level situation.
Since the rituals of Hajj require pilgrims to move around from one place to another, it is always better to carry your own water bottle. Do not depend on the resources that might be available around you as things change around every year and you do not want to be caught in a desperate situation.
2. Wear sunblock
If you are not a regular sunblock or sunscreen user, still, it is always a good idea to protect yourself in every way possible, especially since you are so far from home. With all the emphasis on worshipping and perform Hajj perfectly, it is even more important to take care of yourself so that you are able to do that.
Sunburn is a great source of discomfort and can throw off your mood and performance for days. Better safe than sorry!
3. Make use of the Zamzam water available
If you have your own bottle, do fill it with Zamzam water whenever you can. When you are at the masjid or anywhere else where Zamzam is available, make it a point to benefit from it. It is the only place and time that you have such free access to it, and Zamzam provides energy that normal water doesn’t. Hence, it is truly replenishes and the hardworking pilgrims are well-deserving of it!
4. Let the crowd carry you
The crowds can seem overwhelming but they are helpful in one way. As long as you do not let panic get the better of you; that is one of the most dangerous things that can happen as it is what leads to stampedes – you can let them ‘carry’ you.
Everyone is mostly moving in the same direction and there are times, like at tawaf, when it is so packed that your feet barely touch the floor. This is not an exaggeration. Remember, do not panic. Know when you need to exit so that you can start making your way towards it well beforehand. The crowds do not allow you to make sudden sharp movements in another direction – it is what causes a lot of confusion and disruption.