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The ʿUmrah or (Arabic: عمرة) is a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year. In Arabic Umrah means “to visit a populated place”. As a technical term used in the Shari’ah, Umrah means to perform Tawaf of Kaabah and Sa'i between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, after assuming Ihram, either from a Miqat or a place in Hill. It is sometimes called the 'minor pilgrimage' or 'lesser pilgrimage', the Hajj being the 'major' pilgrimage and which is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.
The pilgrim (mu'tamir), sometimes referred to as a 'Haji', performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) and his wife Hagar (Hajar), and of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. These acts of faith are:
- Perform a tawaf, which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times in a counter-clockwise direction. Men are encouraged to do this three times at a hurried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace.
- Perform a sa'i, which means rapidly walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment of Hagar's frantic search for water, before the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by Allah.
- Perform a halq or taqsir, meaning a cutting of the hair. A taqsir is a partial shortening of the hair, whereas a halq is a complete shave of the head, except for women, as they cut a little amount of hair instead.
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 fiqah perform these rituals with slightly different methods.
The Umrah can be completed in one hour during the off-peak pilgrimage season. The peak times of pilgrimage are the days before, during and after the Hajj and during the last ten days of Ramadan.
Types of Umrah
There are two types of Umrah, depending on whether one wishes to combine the Umrah with Hajj: al-Umrat al-mufradah al-mustaqillah 'an al-Hajj (al-Umrat al mufradah) and al-Umrat al-mundammah ila al-Hajj (Umrat al-tammatu).
al-Umrat al mufradah refers to Umrah that is performed independently of Hajj.
Umrat al-tammatu refers to Umrah that is performed in conjunction with Hajj. More precisely, the rituals of the Umrah are performed first and then the Hajj rituals are performed.
- The Hajj According to the Five Schools of Islamic Fiqh (Part 1), by 'Allamah Muhammad Jawad Mughniyyah (translated from Arabic by Ali Quri Qara'i), al-Tawhid, Vol. II, No.4,