What is Umrah?
In Arabic, the word 'Umrah is derived from I'timaar which means a visit. However, 'Umrah in Islamic terminology, means paying a visit to Ka' bah, performing Tawaaf (circumambulation) around it, walking between Safaa and Marwah seven times. A performer of 'Umrah puts off his Ihraam by having his hair shaved or cut. 'Umrah can be performed along with Hajj and in other days as well.
'Umrah can be performed during anytime in the year, there is no fixed time for 'Umrah.
The Pillars of `Umrah are four:
a) Ihraam: which is assumed at the Meeqaat.
b) Tawaaf: around the House.
c) Sa'y: walking between As-Safaa and Al-Marwah, which consists of seven circuits.
d) Tahal-lul: which means coming out of the state of Ihraam; becoming lawful what was previously prohibited during Ihraam.
During 'Umrah, pilgrims do not go to Minaa, 'Arafaat and Muzdalifah or throw pebbles on the Jamrahs (stone pillars representing devils) or offer animal sacrifice. These rites are only performed during Hajj.
How to perform 'Umrah?
1. When the one who wants to perform 'Umrah arrives at the Meeqaat, it is recommended for him (both man and woman) to take a bath if convenient, including menstruating women and those experiencing postnatal bleeding. The man perfumes his head and beard but not his Ihraam garments. There is no harm in what remains of it after Ihraam. There is nothing wrong if it is not possible to take a bath at Meeqaat.
2. Men are to change into their clothing of Ihraam while the women only need to make their intention at that time in the clothing they are already wearing. There is no specific clothing designated for women, except that they are prohibited from wearing the Niqaab (face-veil) and gloves. Instead, they may cover their hands with the lower part of their khimaar (head covering), while using the upper part of their jilbaab (outer garment) or a separate piece of fabric to cover their faces by drawing it down, if there is need to do so.
As for men, they must assume their Ihraam at the Meeqaat by wearing two pieces of fabric called the Izaar and the Ridaa'. The Ridaa' covers the top half of the body, while the Izaar covers the lower half. No other clothing is allowed to be worn in addition to these – no underwear, no pants, no shirt, no turban, no hat, etc. are to be worn.
Then the pilgrim makes the intention at the Meeqaat to begin the rites of 'Umrah by entering the state of Ihraam. The intention must be made in the heart, while the statement made afterwards is: "Labayka 'Umrah" or "Allahumma labbayka 'Umrah". This statement begins the rites of `Umrah. So the first pillar of `Umrah is the Ihraam. The intention is made in the heart, while the tongue recites the opening Talbiyyah. And if you wish, when uttering Talbiyyah, you may state a condition to Allaah fearing that which may prevent you from completion of the ‘Umrah whether illness or fear - saying "in habasanee haabes fa mahillee haithu habastanee" (I come out of the state of Ihraam from the place You prevent me from continuing). So if you do that and are then prevented or become ill - then you may come out of Ihraam. Then repeat the Talbiyyah: "labbayk Allahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk, innal-hamda wan-ni'mata laka wal-mulk, laa shareeka lak" (“In response to your call O Allaah I perform ‘Umrah, here I am O Allaah. In response to Your call. You have no partner. In response to Your call. All Praise and Blessings, and the Ownership of all that You created is Yours (alone). You have no partner”)
Upon arriving at the sacred mosque in Makkah (Al-Masjid Al-Haraam), you should enter with your right foot and say: "Bismillaah, Allaahumma Salli 'Alaa Muhammad, Allaahumma Ighfirli waftahli Abwaaba Rahmatik" (In the name of Allaah! O Allaah! Exalt the mention of your Messenger. O Allaah! Forgive my sins, and open the gates of Your mercy for me). You should enter in a manner expressing humility and gratitude to the blessings He, Almighty, conferred upon you.
3. Upon arriving at the K'abah, stop reciting the Talbiyyah, then approach the Black Stone, touch it with your right hand and kiss it. If this isn't possible, you should face the Black Stone and point to it. Don’t push and shove, causing harm and being harmed by other people. When touching the Stone, the following is said: "Bismil-laah, Allaahu Akbar" (In the name of Allaah, Allaah is the Greatest) or "Allaahu Akbar" (Allaah is the Greatest).
A pilgrim must walk, keeping the Ka'bah on his left. When you reach the Yamaani corner touch it with your right hand, if possible, but do not kiss it, and say: "Bismil-laahi wa Allaahu Akbar". If this is difficult for you, then go on performing tawaaf without touching it, pointing at it or even saying "Allaahu Akbar" because this was not narrated from the Prophet (SAW) on the other hand whenever you reach or are parallel to the black stone, touch it with your right hand, kiss it and say, "Bismillaah Allaahu Akbar", if it is not possible then it is enough to point at it and say, "Bismillaah, Allaahu Akbar".
During this Tawaaf it is preferred for a man to do two things:
a) Al-Idhtibaa' from the beginning of Tawaaf until the end, which is placing the middle of one's Redaa' under the right arm and the ends of it over the left shoulder. When you are finished performing Tawaaf, you may return your Reda' to its original state because the time for Al-Idhtibaa' is only during Tawaaf.
b) Ar-Raml during the first three circuits only. Ar-Raml means speeding up one's pace with small steps.
Make supplication from your heart, for that which will benefit you. Recite whatever you wish, supplicate to Allaah by asking for good, recite the Quran, anything you wish. There are no specific statements or supplications to be recited during the Tawaaf that are authentically established in the Sunnah. However it is recommended to say between the two corners during each circumbulance as it is reported from the Messenger of Allaah (SAW): "...Our Lord, grant us good in this life and good in the hereafter and save us from the punishment of the Hellfire." [Quran; 2:201]
4. When you complete seven circuits of Tawaaf, approach Maqaam Ibraaheem (Ibraaheem’s station) and recite this verse (which means): "And take you (people) the Maqaam (place) of Ibraheem as a place of Prayer... " [Quran; 2:125]
Then pray two short Rak’ahs, as close as conveniently possible, behind Maqaam Ibraheem. If it is not possible then you can pray them anywhere in the sacred mosque. It is preferred to recite during the first Rak'ah the chapter "Al-Kafiroon"  and during the second one the chapter of “Al-lkhlaas” .
Upon completing the two Rak'ahs, return to the Black Stone and touch it, if convenient
5. The next stage is to go to Safaa. Upon approaching the foot of Safaa, the following verse is recited (which means): “Verily, As-Safaa and Al-Marwah are from the symbols of Allaah. So it is not a sin on him who performs Hajj or 'Umrah of the house (ka 'bah) to perform the going (tawaaf) between them. And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allaah is the All-Recognizer, All-Knower.” [Quran; 2:158]
6. Then climb unto mount Safaa until the Ka'bah is visible, if possible. Facing the Ka’bah the following is to be said 3 times, and between each time one is to make ones own supplication:
"Allaahu Akbar, Allaahu Akbar, Allaahu Akbar. Laa ilaaha il-lall-llaahu wadahu la shareeka lahu, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu, wa huwa 'alaa qulli shay'in qadeer. Laa ilaaha il-lall-llaahu wahdahu, anjaza wa'dahu, wa nasara 'abdahu, wa hazamal ahzaaba wahdahu"
(Allaah is the Greatest, Allaah is the Greatest, Allaah is the Greatest. None has the right to be worshipped except Allaah alone, Who has no partner. To Him belongs the dominion, to Him belongs all praise, and He has power over everything. He fulfilled His promise, gave victory to His servant, and defeated the confederates alone.)
7. Then descend and go towards Marwah, running between the fluorescent green lights (for men only), upon reaching Marwah climb upon it if it is possible, and repeat the same procedure as when ascending Safaa except you are not to recite the above-mentioned verse, because it is recited when ascending Safaa for the first time only. This completes one circuit. Then one continues back to Safaa running between the fluorescent green lights (for men only) - thus completing two circuits.
There are no particular supplications to be recited between Safaa and Marwah. Seven circuits are to be completed ending the last one on Marwah.
Then one is to have his hair cut although shaving it is better. Women should shorten their hair by a finger-tips length from the end. The rights of 'Umrah have now been completed.
Important frequently asked questions
What is the ruling regarding wearing perfume, wearing sewed clothes or removing some of the hair forgetfully of due to ignorance while in the state of Ihraam?
There nothing required from the one who performs any of the prohibitions of Ihraam either forgetfully, or due to ignorance. Ibn 'Abbaas may Allaah be pleased with him, said, 'When the verse, which means, "Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error" (al-Baqarah: 286) was revealed, Allaah said, "I did"' (Muslim).
Is it enough to cut only of the hair from the front or the back only after Sa'i?
This is not sufficient, and a man should cut from all around his head, whether he shortens or shaves his head. Allaah says what means, "Having their head hair shaved or cut short" (Al-Fath: 27)
What is the description of funeral prayers (prayer over the dead)?
It is to raise your hands four times while uttering Takbeer (Allaahu Akbar), whilst always standing up; then you conclude the prayer by uttering Salaam on the right side. After the first Takbeer, recite the Faatihah; after the second you say Salaah upon the Prophet (ask Allaah to send salutations upon him and exalt his mention); after the third sincerely supplicate for the dead and ask Allaah to forgive and have mercy on them. Some supplications which the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said after the third takbeer are: “O Allaah! Forgive our deceased and living, the present ones and those who are absent, the young and the old, males and females. O Allaah! Make those amongst us whom You kept alive, live upon Islaam, and make whomsoever You take unto Yourself, let such a death be upon faith. O Allaah! Do not deprive us from his reward (i.e., the deceased) and do not let us stray after his death.” (Abu Dawwood & At-Tirmithi). He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also said: “O Allaah! Forgive him, have mercy upon him, excuse him and pardon him, and make honorable his reception; expand his entry, and cleanse him with water, snow and ice; purify him from his sins as a white garment is purified of filth; exchange his dwelling for a better dwelling, and his family for a better family, and his spouse for a better spouse; admit him into Paradise, protect him from the punishment of the grave and the punishment of Hell Fire (Muslim).” Then after the fourth Takbeer he concludes by uttering Salaam.
Is it prohibited to pass in front of a person while praying in the Haram?
It is not permissible to pass in front of a person who is praying alone or leading the congregational prayer, but one may pass between the rows of people who follow the leader during the congregational prayer. One should pray away from the walkways in the Haram, and place a Sutrah (an object which is around one foot high) in front of him, and should pray close to this Sutrah, or pray behind a pillar, a wall or the Qur’aan shelves, and it would not harm him if people pass beyond that. There is NO difference between the Haram or any other place in this ruling, because the narration that Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prayed in the Haram of Makkah without placing a Sutrah is a weak narration which does not stand as an evidence, as Imaam Ibn Hajar, may Allaah have mercy upon him, mentioned.
What about menstruating women?
A menstruating woman can perform all acts of Hajj and `Umrah except Tawaf, which she has to do after she gains purity from her menstruation. The evidence for this is the hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) when she menstruated: “Do everything the pilgrim does. But do not do Tawaf around the Ka`bah unless you become pure.” However, some scholars advise that a woman traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah or Hajj may take the medicine to prevent the menses cycle temporarily if permitted by the physician. The better way is to pre-plan the journey by keeping track of the next period. When her period stops she can make ghusl, and perform Tawaf. Click here for more on this topic.
BOX 7 Good deeds that carry the Reward of Hajj & Umrah
1 - Performing the obligatory prayers in congregation:
Abu Tharr narrated that a group of the Companions came to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, the wealthy people will have higher grades and will have permanent enjoyment and they pray like us and fast as we do. They have more money, which they give in charity.”The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), , replied:“Has Allaah not rendered for you the‘Ishaa’ prayer in congregation equal to Hajj, and the Fajr prayer in congregation equal to ‘Umrah?” [Muslim]
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), , said: “Whoever walks to [perform] an obligatory prayer in congregation, it is like Hajj [in terms of rewards], and whoever walks to [perform] a voluntary prayer, it is like a voluntary ‘Umrah [in terms of rewards].” [Hasan]
2 - Reciting Dhikr after the five daily prayers:
Abu Hurayrah (Ra) narrated that a group of destitute people came to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, the wealthy people will have higher grades and will have permanent enjoyment in high levels in Paradise. They pray like us and fast as we do, but they have more money by which they perform the Hajj, ‘Umrah, participate in Jihaad and give in charity.” The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), replied: “Shall I not tell you something upon which if you acted you would catch up with those who have surpassed you? Nobody would surpass you and you would be better than the people amongst whom you live except those who would do the same. Say ‘Subhaan Allaah’, ‘Alhamdulillaah’ and ‘Allaahu Akbar’ thirty-three times each after every (compulsory) prayer.’" [Al-Bukhaari]
3 - Praying Fajr with congregation & remaining seated worshipping until after Sunrise:
The Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: 'He who performs Fajr Salat with Jamaat and remains seated in the same place while engaging in Dhikr until after sunrise and thereafter performs 2 Rakaats Nafil Salat, (Ishraaq), he will obtain the Thawaab of one Hajj and one Umrah.' (Tirmidhi).
From `Abdullah bin `Aamir (rA) that Abu Umaamah and `Utbah Bin `Abd (rA) related that Allah’s Messenger, (Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever prays as-S.ubh. (i.e. fajr prayer) in congregation then sits until he prays for Allah the prayer of Dhuha has the reward like that of a haajj (pilgrim performing Hajj) and a mu`tamir (pilgrim peforming `Umrah), complete reward of his Hajj and his `Umrah” (Tabarani).
4 - Observing the 10 days of I'tikaf:
Ali Ibn Hussain (RA) narrates from his father that Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “He who observes the ten days I’tikaf during Ramadhan will obtain the reward of two Hajj & two Umrah.” (Bayhaqi)
5 - Attending the ‘Eed prayers (both ‘Eed Al-Adh-ha and ‘Eed Al-Fitr):
Ibn Rajab (Ra) narrated that the Companion Mikhnaf ibn Sulaym (Ra) said, “The reward for attending ‘Eed Al-Fitr prayer is equal to the reward of performing ‘Umrah and the reward for attending ‘Eed Al-Adh-ha Prayer is equal to that of performing Hajj.”
6 - Smiling at ones parents:
Ibne Abbas Radiallahu anhuma narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alayhi wasallam said: "Allah Ta'ala will record an accepted Hajj in favour of a pious child that casts an affectionate glance upon his parents, for every glance he casts upon them." The companions asked: "Even if he casts a hundred glances every day?" He said: "Yes. Allah is much greater (than you imagine) and pure (Of all defects such as miserliness)." [Muslim]
7 - Performing prayers in Qubaa’ Mosque:
The Prophet, , said: “He who purifies himself at his home and comes to Masijid Qubaa’ and prays therein will have the reward like that of ‘Umrah.” [Ahmad, An-Nasaa’i and Al-Haakim] [Al-Albaani: Saheeh]
And Allah Knows Best
Prohibitions during Ihraam
When a Muslims assumes Ihraam for Hajj or ‘Umrah, the following prohibitions apply until he is finished:
1. Shaving or cutting the hair of the head or the body, or removing it by any other method.
2. Nail clipping.
3. Wearing perfume.
4. Hunting, but this does not include fishing.
5. Wearing trousers, or other sewn men's clothing which reveal the shape of the body. However, if the clothing had been sewn, and does not shape the body, such as a belt or shoes, then it is permissible.
6. Covering the head with something which directly touches it, like a hat or a turban; however, one may go under the shade of an umbrella, inside a tent, or under the roofs of cars; he may also carry his belongings on his head as long as he does not intend to cover his head.
7. Wearing gloves or any facial cover for women which directly touches the face (unless men are present, then she must draw down a veil on her face).
9. Sexual intercourse and related issues (i.e., lustful touching, eye contact, passionate kissing, masturbating), whether it leads to ejaculation or not.
1. Purity is a precondition for the soundness of Tawaaf according to the majority of scholars, so if you nullify your Wudoo’ (ablution) during Tawaaf, you need to leave and perform Wudoo’ and repeat your Tawaaf (from the last round before nullifying it).Ibn 'Abbaas may Allaah be pleased with him, said, 'When Allaah revealed the verse which means, "Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error" Allaah said, "I did"' (Muslim).
2. If the Iqaamah was called whilst in Tawaaf, or a prayer on the dead was called for, you must pray with the congregation and resume from the place you stopped, and do not forget to cover your shoulders during prayer, because this compulsory during prayer.
3. There is no harm (during Tawaaf) to sit and take a rest for a short while, drink water, or, if one desires, to move between floors in the Haram.
4. If you doubt the number of rounds of Tawaaf you have finished, base your judgment on the number you are certain of; if you doubted whether you circumambulated three or four times, make the count three and finish the remaining four, but if you thought and remembered the number for sure, then you may act upon what you are certain of.
5. Some people remain in the state of Idh-dhibaa’ from the time they wear their Ihraam until they finish the entire ‘Umrah, and this is wrong, because one is supposed to do this only during certain types of Tawaaf as mentioned above.
Suggested Article: Is democracy the modern face of idolatry?