Umrah is the journey to Islam’s holiest city, Mecca. It’s where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born.
As one of the five pillars of Islam, all financially and able-bodied Muslims should attempt Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Umrah, while not compulsory, is strongly encouraged.
It’s performed at Al Masjid Al Haram, one of the oldest mosques in the world where millions of pilgrims gather each year.
Muslims believe that performing Umrah connects them with Allah, and cleanses their souls from their past sins.
Read on to learn more about the Umrah rituals, and its significance.
Before pilgrims enter Al Majid Al Haram to perform Umrah, they must enter a state of Ihram, a sacred state of mind and body.
To enter Ihram, pilgrims must make sure to cleanse their body beforehand, including clipping nails, trimming facial hair, and taking a shower (Ghusl).
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.
Ihram also refers to the ceremonial attire that pilgrims must wear to perform Umrah or Hajj. For men, this consists of two seamless sheets (Rida and Izar), and regular Islamic clothing for women. Both men and women should wear sandals that expose the midfoot.
Miqaat is the boundary where pilgrims stop over to assume the state of Ihram.
There are five areas of Miqat, for pilgrims travelling from different regions:
Al-Juhfah: For pilgrims coming from Sudan, Morocco, Egypt, and Syria.
Dhu’l-Hulayfah: For pilgrims who reside in Madinah and reach Makkah from the Madinah direction.
Qarnul-Manazil: For pilgrims coming from or through Najd or Taif, like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
Yalamlam: For worshippers coming from or through India, Pakistan, or Yemen.
Dhat-i ‘Iraq: For pilgrims approaching from or through Iraq.
At this juncture, pilgrims must state their intention to perform Umrah and recite Talbiyah before entering Mecca.
Pilgrims then enter the holy Al Masjid Al Haram where the Black Stone of Kaaba is located.
Tawaf is performed, where pilgrims circle the Kaaba seven times, anti-clockwise in deep prayer, while touching and/or kissing it. If it’s not possible to do so, pilgrims may point at it from afar.
Following this, pilgrims must then pray two Rakats at Maqam Ibrahim, the stone on which Prophet Ibrahim stood on while building Kaaba.
After completing prayers, pilgrims must drink the Zamzam water from any of the points, then begin Sa’i.
Sa’i begins at Safa and ends at Marwah. Pilgrims must walk between each of these two points seven times while reciting ‘Subhan Allah’.
The act of Sa’i represents the actions of Hajra, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim, when she wandered tirelessly seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwah in a barren desert to find water for her infant child, Ismail.
As she ran between these mountains, Muslims believe that the Angel Gabriel struck the ground and holy water came gushing out, saving the baby’s life.
Following the completion of Sa’i and the final prayer, pilgrims can undergo Taqsir, which is the shortening of hair at one of the many barber shops surrounding Al Masjid Al Haram.
Men should shorten or shave their head, while women should cut an inch of their hair.
This symbolises rebirth and the completion of their pilgrimage, and marks the end of Umrah and the state of Ihram.
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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