Umrah: What is it? The explanation of the Islamic pilgrimage

Due to coronavirus fears, Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned its citizens and residents from making the Umrah pilgrimage to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. Middle East Eye explains the purpose of this lesser-known journey.

Read More: Umra Organisation

What does Umrah mean?

The term “Umrah” refers to a modified form of the yearly Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. In Arabic, “Umrah” implies “visiting a populated place.”

Muslims have the chance to renew their faith, ask for forgiveness, and provide needs-based prayers during Umrah. It is stated that the person who does it gets absolved of their sins.

What are the primary distinctions between the Hajj and Umrah?

While Hajj is required for those who can afford it and are in good physical health, Umrah is optional.

One of the five pillars of Islam is the Hajj, which Muslims who are able to do so must carry out at least once in their lives.

While Umrah may be done all year round, Hajj can only be done within a certain window of time, from the eighth to the thirteenth of Dhul Hijah, the final month in the Islamic lunar calendar.

Depending on its level of traffic, Umrah can be finished in less than two hours, making it akin to a spiritual “quick-fix.” The Hajj is a multi-day, more intensive experience.

With about two million pilgrims from over 188 nations participating in the Hajj each year, it is one of the biggest yearly gatherings of people in the world. The Umrah, sometimes referred to as the “smaller” pilgrimage, is likely undertaken by several million pilgrims annually since it is less expensive and takes less time to complete.

The Kaaba, a black-boxed edifice housed in the expansive Masjid al-Haraam mosque complex in Mecca, serves as the focal focus of both pilgrimages. Regardless matter where they are in the globe, Muslims face the Kaaba when they conduct their five daily prayers.

Although there is a more detailed set of rites anticipated during Hajj, both Umrah and Hajj share the same fundamental set of devotional deeds.

What is the pilgrim’s route to Umrah?

Usually arriving by plane, worshippers from outside Saudi Arabia must apply for a unique Umrah visa, which has a one-month validity. In addition, they need to have the appropriate documentation attesting to their meningitis vaccine.

Automobile travelers from nearby nations are permitted to traverse borders, but they will also require a visa.

No particular documentation is required for Saudi nationals or those who are currently residing and employed in the nation.

Muslims of all ages are eligible to undertake the Hajj and Umrah, and there are no limits on the number of times a person may do so in their lifetime.

However, ladies under 45 need to be accompanied by a male relative or family member (mahram) who is at least 17 years old. Without a mahram, women over 45 are allowed to travel in tour groups.

There are several hotels in the area surrounding the Masjid al-Haraam complex, ranging in price from inexpensive to luxurious.

Anticipating pilgrims’ arrival, most hotels provide a complimentary shuttle bus service to the holy site for those staying further away.

When is the pilgrimage period for Umrah?

With the exception of the five days when Hajj occurs, it can be done at any time of the year.

The majority of pilgrims go either during the holy month of Ramadan or the two holy Islamic lunar months that precede it, Rajab and Sha’ban.

Muslims think that during these holy months, when there is also a bigger reward for acts of worship, there is more mercy and acceptance of petitions.

Does Umrah follow any rules?

A pilgrim must be in a condition of Ihraam, which is Arabic meaning “forbidden” and comes from the term harama.

The name reflects the idea that travelers must achieve a spiritual condition of nearly human perfection during the Umrah (and Hajj). There cannot be argumentation, swearing, or foul language. No animal can suffer damage; in fact, killing an insect breaks the condition of Ihraam and renders Umrah invalid.

Pilgrims are not allowed to apply makeup or perfume, trim their nails, shave, pluck, or cut any hair, or use any other items. Islamic law states that doing any of these would render Ihraam void.

The next stage is for them to publicly declare their desire to perform Umrah. This is often carried out upon arriving at the Meeqat, which is the point of entrance into Mecca where the Ihraam is observed. Following a prayer, the pilgrims are obliged to abide by the aforementioned guidelines till the end of their journey.