Every year, millions of pilgrims from around the world travel to Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia to perform religious worship.
This sacred Islamic ritual is called Umrah.
In Arabic, Umrah means ‘visiting a populated place’. In Islamic jargon, Umrah means to perform Tawaf and Sa’i while in the sacred state of Irham.
Here are your questions about Umrah, answered.
What is the purpose of Umrah?
A Muslim can perform Umrah more than once in a lifetime. Its purpose is to seek forgiveness for past sins and eliminate one’s poverty, as a pilgrim should spend their wealth in the way of Allah.
Performing Umrah also strengthens the faith of the pilgrim in Allah, and is considered the equivalent to performing Jihad.
What is the difference between Umrah and Hajj?
Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars and is a compulsory act of worship that must be performed by Muslims at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able. On the other hand, Umrah is not compulsory but strongly encouraged. It’s often referred to as ‘the minor pilgrimage’.
Hajj is performed during the first ten days of the Islamic month of Dhul al-Hijjah, while Umrah can be performed at any time throughout the year.
The religious rituals of Hajj take five to six days to complete, while Umrah rituals can be completed within a few hours.
Where do you perform Umrah?
Umrah is performed at Al Masjid Al Haram (Holy Mosque), which is located in Mecca, the holiest Muslim city. It’s where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was born. It is towards Mecca that Muslims turn to pray, five times a day.
Entering the state of Ihram
To perform Umrah, a pilgrim must be in a state of Ihram, which is a sacred state of mind and body.
In this state, pilgrims must not quarrel, curse, or harm any living thing, including insects. Going against these rules will break Ihram and nullify Umrah.
To enter a state of Ihram, pilgrims must make sure to clean their bodies beforehand, including clipping nails, trimming facial hair, and taking a shower. Pilgrims also cannot wear make-up, nail polish, or perfume.
As international travel restrictions around the world gradually lift, Saudi Arabia has reopened Umrah visa applications from July 2022 onwards.
That means devout Muslims from around the world can finally travel to Mecca to perform this beautiful religious passage, subject to the entry requirements of Saudi Arabia. Read more about it here.
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