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Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba in Mecca

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 . 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, but is still highly recommended. 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


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, romanized: ʿUmrat at-tamattuʿ) and is part of a fuller Hajj of enjoyment (Arabic : جَجّ ٱلتَّمَتُّع, romanized: Ḥajj 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, romanized: ʿUmrah 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:

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 allegedly occupied by Arab Pagans who used to worship idols inside Mecca. [4] [5]

The Treaty of Hudaibiya

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 Muslim 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

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

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]

See also

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The miqat is the principal boundary at which Muslim pilgrims intending to perform the Ḥajj or Umrah pilgrimages must be enter the state of iḥrām, a state of consecration in which certain permitted activities are made prohibited.

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Zamzam Well Well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca

The Zamzam Well is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam. According to Islam, it is a miraculously generated source of water from God, which sprang spontaneously thousands of years ago when Ibrahim's (Abraham's) son ʾIsmaʿil (Ishmael) was left with his mother Hajar (Hagar) in the desert, thirsty and crying. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages in order to drink its water.

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The Kaaba, also spelled Ka'bah or Kabah, sometimes referred to as al-Kaʿbah al-Musharrafah, is a building at the center of Islam's most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be the Bayt Allah and is the qibla for Muslims around the world when performing salah.

Hajj Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims. Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.

Masjid al-Haram

Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, is a mosque that surrounds the Kaaba in Mecca, in the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia. It is a site of pilgrimage in the Hajj, which every Muslim must do at least once in their lives if able, and is also the main phase for the ʿUmrah, the lesser pilgrimage that can be undertaken any time of the year. The rites of both pilgrimages include circumambulating the Kaaba within the mosque. The Great Mosque includes other important significant sites, including the Black Stone, the Zamzam Well, Maqam Ibrahim, and the hills of Safa and Marwa.

History of the Hajj aspect of history

Islamic writers claim it started from the time of Abraham through the establishment of the Islamic Hajj by Islamic prophet Muhammad, to the present-day hajj where millions of Muslims perform their pilgrimage annually. In Islamic tradition, pilgrimage was introduced during the time of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Upon God's command, he built Kaaba which became the destination of pilgrimage. For the pagan Arabs in the Pre-Islamic Arabia, Kaaba was still the center of their worshiping. The present pattern of the Islamic Hajj was established by Muhammad, around 632 CE, who made reforms to the pre-Islamic pilgrimage of the pagan Arabs. During the medieval times, pilgrims would gather in chief cities like Basra, Damascus, and Cairo to go to Mecca in groups and caravans comprising tens of thousands of pilgrims.


Manasik is the whole of rites and ceremonies that have to be performed by Islamic pilgrims in and around Mecca. The Qur'an differentiates between two manasiks: The Manasik of Hajj, has to be donein the month Dhu al-Hijjah and The Manasik of ʿUmra, which can be performed any time of the year. The knowledge of manasik is an independent part of Fiqh.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hajj Effect of viral outbreak on Muslim pilgrimage

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the 2020 Hajj (pilgrimage), which is the fifth pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam, where millions of Muslims from around the world visit Mecca and Medina every year during Hajj season for a week. Over 2,400,000 pilgrims attended Hajj in 2019. In March 2020, the minister of Hajj and Umrah encouraged those planning to visit the holy sites of Mecca and Medina later in the year to wait before making any bookings. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 in crowded places, flight restrictions in many countries, and the unavailability of a vaccine against the virus the ministry of Hajj and Umrah took such serious measures. However, in June 2020, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that people from all nationalities who reside in Saudi Arabia are allowed to perform Hajj with a limited number of pilgrims, to ensure the safety and to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.


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