“Indeed, as-safa and al-Marwah are among the symbols of Allah. So whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs ‘umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and Knowing” – (Q2:196)
Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah that can be performed at any time of the year, unlike hajj that can only be performed during the hajj season (particularly the last Islamic month, Dhul hijjah). It is recommended at least once in a lifetime but can be performed multiple times. Although it can be performed at any time, Mahmoud Murah says in “The Book of Hajj and Umrah” that the best time to perform Umrah is during hajj, even though performing it during the month of Ramadan makes it equal to performing hajj itself (hadith is found in Sahih Muslim).
The two major actions performed during umrah are tawaf around the ka’abah and sa’y between Safa and Marwah. The essential and obligatory acts of Umrah are:
- Sa’y between Safah and Marwah
- Halaq (Shaving the head) or Qasr (Trimming the hair)
Benefits of Performing Umrah
The following are the benefits of performing umrah as given by Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dorat in “How to Perform Umrah”:
- One Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and another Umrah (hadith in Bukhari and Muslim)
- Performing Umrah in Ramadan is equivalent to Hajj (Muslim)
- The performers of umrah are deputations of Allah if they call Him, he answers them and if they seek for His forgiveness, He forgives them (Ibn Majah)
How Umrah is Performed
A Muslim must enter into the state of ihram at the miqat (ihram stations for hajj and umrah) if he passes through it. The Mu’tamir (person performing umrah) then enters Makkah, proceeds to the ka’abah and begins tawaf, starting off from the black stone, keeping the ka’abah on the left side. As usual, the circumambulation is done seven times. After concluding the tawaf, the mu’tamir prays two raka’ats behind the Maqaam Ibrahim, it is recommended to recite surahs Kafirun and Ikhlas in the first and second raka’as respectively.
The mu’tamir then proceeds to the hills of Mount Safah and Marwah. The mu’tamir climbs the hill of Safah and walks down and moves to Marwah and climbs it and then back. The mu’tamir paces between Safah and Marwah seven times. After that, the mu’tamir then performs either halaq or qasr ( ie either shave off the hair in the head completely or trim the hair in the head). It should be noted that a woman is only expected to clip a tiny part of her hair. This final act (shaving or trimming the hair for men, or clipping part of hair for women) terminates the state of ihram and symbolizes the end of the act of umrah. A person can then resume his normal life.
It is important to note that this is just an overview of the umrah as a whole and is by no means meant to be an exhaustive treatment of this important ibadah. There is still a need to consult the scholars on certain aspects. For instance, at specific moments and acts during umrah, some du’as are recommended and these can be learned from scholars or memorized in books of du’as like ‘Hisnul Muslim’. In addition, there are certain recommended acts in umrah that were not mentioned in this article.
In conclusion, umrah is an important ibadah performed by Muslims and is recommended for Muslims to perform at least once. It is similar to hajj in that the acts performed in umrah are also performed in hajj, but is different as hajj is obligatory on the person with the means whereas umrah is only strongly recommended. In addition, umrah doesn’t have a special time like the hajj. I pray that the Almighty Allah blesses us with the means to perform Hajj and Umrah multiple times in our lifetime.
Our present sad reality is that umrah has been suspended for almost four months as at the time of writing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and even the hajj this year is highly restricted. I pray that the Almighty Allah brings an end to this pandemic, heals all those suffering from the dreaded disease, and returns us to the safety and security we felt prior to the pandemic so that we can continue our acts of worship. Ameen.