Umrah

Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims, that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

In accordance to Sharia law, as 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 Zu 'l-Hulafa, Juhfa, Qarnu 'l-Manāzil, Yalamlam, Zāt-i-'Irq, Ibrahīm Mursīa, or a place in al-Hill. Different conditions exist for air travellers, 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 Ka‘bah. 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 God (Allah).

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