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The ʿUmrah (Arabic: عُمْرَة, lit.'to visit a populated place') is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (the holiest city for Muslims, located in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia) that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj (/hæ/;[1] "pilgrimage"), which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

In accordance to the Shariah (Law of Islam), for both pilgrimages, a Muslim must first assume Ihram, a state of purification achieved by completing cleansing rituals, wearing the prescribed attire, and abstaining from certain actions. This must be attained when reaching a Miqat, a principal boundary point in Mecca, like Dhu 'l-Hulaifah, Juhfah, Qarnu 'l-Manāzil, Yalamlam, Zāt-i-'Irq, Ibrahīm Mursīyah, or a place in Al-Hill. Different conditions exist for air travelers, who must observe Ihram once entering a specific perimeter in the city.

Umrah requires Muslims to perform two key rituals, Tawaf and Sa'i. Tawaf is a circling round the Kaaba seven times. For men, it is recommended to do the first three circuits in a hurried pace, followed by four rounds of a more leisurely pace. This is followed by Sa'i between Safa and Marwah in the Great Mosque of Mecca, a walk to commemorate Hagar's search for water for her son and God's mercy in answering prayers. Pilgrims conclude the pilgrimage with Halq, a partial or complete shortening of the hair.

Umrah is sometimes considered the "lesser pilgrimage", in that it is not compulsory in all Islam schools of thought, but is still highly recommended. It is mandatory according to the Hanbalis. It is generally able to be completed in a few hours, in comparison to Ḥajj, which may take a few days. It is also not meant to be interpreted as a substitute for Hajj. However, both are demonstrations of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to Allah (God).

Differences between the Hajj and Umrah[edit]

Both Hajj and Umrah are Islamic pilgrimages, but they differ in terms of their significance and the manner in which they are practiced.[2] Hajj is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam, making it mandatory for every Muslim to undertake it at least once in their lifetime, as long as they possess the physical ability and financial means to do so. Although both Hajj and Umrah involve shared rituals, Umrah can be completed in just a few hours, whereas Hajj is a more time-consuming journey that encompasses a greater number of rituals. Additionally, the pilgrimage of Hajj takes place during specific days within a designated Islamic month while Umrah can be performed at any time throughout the year.


A certain type of the Umrah exists depending on whether or not the pilgrim wishes to perform Umrah in the Hajj period, thus combining their merit.[citation needed] When performed alongside the Hajj, Umrah is deemed one of "enjoyment" (Arabic: عُمْرَة ٱلتَّمَتُّع, romanizedʿUmrat at-tamattuʿ) and is part of a fuller Hajj of enjoyment (Arabic: حَجّ ٱلتَّمَتُّع, romanizedḤajj at-tamattuʿ).[citation needed] More precisely, the rituals of the Umrah are performed first, and then the Hajj rituals are performed. Otherwise, when performed without continuing to perform Hajj, the Umrah is considered a "single" Umrah (Arabic: عُمْرَة مُفْرَدَة, romanizedʿUmrah Mufradah).[citation needed]


The pilgrim performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his second wife Hajar, and of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. Pilgrims enter the perimeter of Mecca in a state of Ihram and perform:

  • Tawaf: Circumambulation of the Kaaba The first ritual of Umrah is Tawaf, which involves circling the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction. The Kaaba, the House of Allah, stands as a symbol of unity for Muslims around the world. As you join the stream of pilgrims, you become part of a majestic ritual that transcends time and connects generations of believers.[3] With each circumambulation, you express your love, devotion, and submission to the Almighty.
  • Sa'i: Walking between Safa and Marwa. Following Tawaf, pilgrims proceed to perform Sa'i, which entails walking between the hills of Safa and Marwa. This ritual commemorates the desperate search for water by Hajar, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim, in the barren desert. As you walk in her footsteps, you reflect upon her unwavering trust in Allah's mercy and His miraculous provision of Zamzam water. Sa'i is a reminder of perseverance, patience, and the eternal blessings of reliance on Allah.
  • Halq or Taqsir: Shaving or trimming the hair Upon completing Sa'i, men have the option to perform Halq (complete shaving of the head) or Taqsir (trimming a small portion of hair). This act symbolizes the humility and renewal of one's inner self. As the clippers or scissors touch your hair, you shed not just physical locks but also worldly attachments, emerging spiritually refreshed and ready to embark on a new chapter of your life.
  • Ziyarat: Visiting historical and sacred sites. While in Makkah, take the opportunity to visit the historical and sacred sites associated with Islamic history. One such site is the Cave of Hira, where the first revelation of the Quran descended upon the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). By entering this cave, you immerse yourself in the deep spiritual significance of the revelation and reflect upon the profound impact it has had on humanity.

These rituals complete the Umrah, and the pilgrim can choose to go out of ihram. Although not a part of the ritual, most pilgrims drink water from the Well of Zamzam. Various sects of Islam perform these rituals with slightly different methods. The peak times of pilgrimage are the days before, during and after the Hajj and during the last ten days of Ramadan.[citation needed]


According to the Muslim traditional accounts, access to the Holy Site (and thus the right to practice the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages) have not always been granted to Muslims. It is reported in the Muslim traditional accounts that throughout Muhammad's era, the Muslims wanted to establish the right to perform Umrah and Hajj to Mecca since the latter had been prescribed by the Quran. During that time, Mecca was occupied by Arab Pagans who used to worship idols inside Mecca.[4][5]

The Treaty of Hudaibiya[edit]

In the early years of the Islamic Ummah, it is claimed that tensions arose in Mecca between its pagan inhabitants and the Muslims who wished to perform pilgrimages within. According to the traditional Muslim stories, in 628 CE (6 AH), inspired by a dream that Muhammad had while in Madinah, in which he was performing the ceremonies of Umrah, he and his followers approached Mecca from Medina. They were stopped at Hudaibiya, Quraysh (a local tribe to which Muhammad belonged) refused entry to the Muslims who wished to perform the pilgrimage. Muhammad is said to have explained that they only wished to perform a pilgrimage, and subsequently leave the city, however the Qurayshites disagreed.[6][7][8]

Diplomatic negotiations were pursued once the Islamic prophet Muhammad refused to use force to enter Mecca, out of respect to the Holy Ka'aba.[9] In March, 628 CE (Dhu'l-Qi'dah, 6 AH), the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was drawn up and signed, with terms stipulating a ten-year period free of hostilities, during which the Muslims would be allowed a three-day-long access per year to the holy site of the Ka'aba starting the following year. On the year it was signed, the followers of Mohammed were forced to return home without having performed Umrah.[10][11]

The First Umrah[edit]

The next year (629 CE, or 7 AH), the Muslim tradition claims that Muhammad ordered and took part in the Conquest of Mecca in December 629.[12][13] Following the agreed-upon terms of the Hudaibiya Treaty, Muhammad and some 2000 followers (men, women and children) proceeded to perform what became the first Umrah, which lasted three days. After the transfer of power, the people of Mecca who (according to the Muslim traditional narrative) had persecuted and driven away the early Muslims, and had fought against the Muslims due to their beliefs, were afraid of retribution. However, Muhammad forgave all of his former enemies.

Ten people were forgiven, and not to be killed after the capture of Mecca:[14] Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl, Abdullah ibn Saad ibn Abi Sarh, Habbar bin Aswad, Miqyas Subabah Laythi, Huwairath bin Nuqayd, Abdullah Hilal and four women who had been guilty of murder or other offences or had sparked off the war and disrupted the peace.[14]

Coronavirus closings[edit]

On 26 February 2020, Saudi Arabia suspended travel to the country for reasons related to the Umrah, due to concerns over the rapid spread of coronavirus.[15] After the reporting of the first case of coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, on 4 March 2020, the Riyadh government banned Umrah pilgrimage to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca for Saudi citizens and residents living in the kingdom.[16] On 10 August 2021, Umrah for pilgrims coming from around the world was resumed.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hajj, Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
  2. ^ Gannon, Martin Joseph; Baxter, Ian W. F.; Collinson, Elaine; Curran, Ross; Farrington, Thomas; Glasgow, Steven; Godsman, Elliot M.; Gori, Keith; Jack, Gordon R. A.; Lochrie, Sean; Maxwell-Stuart, Rebecca; MacLaren, Andrew Craig; MacIntosh, Robert; O’Gorman, Kevin; Ottaway, Luke; Perez-Vega, Rodrigo; Taheri, Babak; Thompson, Jamie; Yalinay, Ozge (31 May 2017). "Travelling for Umrah: destination attributes, destination image, and post-travel intentions" (PDF). The Service Industries Journal. 37 (7–8): 448–465. doi:10.1080/02642069.2017.1333601. S2CID 54745153.
  3. ^ Abdul, Qadir (2023). Umrah Rules: Everything You Need to Know Before Start on Your Spiritual Journey. Abdul Publications.
  4. ^ Hawting, G. E. (24 December 2009). "The Disappearance and Rediscovery of Zamzam and the 'Well of the Ka'ba'". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 43 (1): 44–54. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00110523. JSTOR 616125. S2CID 162654756.
  5. ^ Islamic World, p. 20
  6. ^ Sa'd, Ibn (1967). Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir,By Ibn Sa'd,Volume 2. Pakistan Historical Society. p. 164. ASIN B0007JAWMK. THE SARIYYAH OF ABO QATADAH IBN RIB'I AL- ANSARl TOWORDS BATN IDAM.
  7. ^ Sahih Muslim, 43:7176
  8. ^ Ibn Kathir, Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman (translator) (November 2009). Tafsir Ibn Kathir Juz' 5 (Part 5): An-Nisaa 24 to An-Nisaa 147 2nd Edition. p. 94. ISBN 9781861796851.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ "The Event Of Hudaybiyyah". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  10. ^ Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar, pp. 214–215.
  11. ^ Emory C. Bogle (1998), Islam: origin and belief, University of Texas Press, p. 19.
  12. ^ Abu Khalil, Shawqi (1 March 2004). Atlas of the Prophet's biography: places, nations, landmarks. Dar-us-Salam. p. 218. ISBN 978-9960897714. Note: 6th Month, 8AH = September 629
  13. ^ Sa'd, Ibn (1967). Kitab al-tabaqat al-kabir,By Ibn Sa'd,Volume 2. Pakistan Historical Society. pp. 165–174. ASIN B0007JAWMK.
  14. ^ a b The Message by Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani, chapter 48 referencing Sirah by Ibn Hisham, vol. II, page 409.
  15. ^ Davidson, Helen; Rawlinson, Kevin; Weaver, Matthew; Gayle, Damien (26 February 2020). "Trump puts Pence in charge of US virus response – as it happened". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Ebrahim, Shahul H; Memish, Ziad A (April 2020). "Saudi Arabia's drastic measures to curb the COVID-19 outbreak: temporary suspension of the Umrah pilgrimage". Journal of Travel Medicine. 27 (3). doi:10.1093/jtm/taaa029. PMC 7107544. PMID 32109274.
  17. ^ Fatima, Sakina (25 July 2021). "Saudi Arabia: International Umrah to resume from August 10". The Siasat Daily. Retrieved 9 August 2022.