Pilgrimage in Islam going to Mecca, second to the main pilgrimage hajj. Umra is often referred to as the “little pilgrimage”, and while the hajj is compulsory to a Muslim, the umra is not. However, the umra it is recommended by the Koran and is a highly regarded practice in Islam.
Koran sura 2: The Cow
153Truly, Safa and Marwa are among the landmarks of God, therefore anyone who performs the hajj or the umra he does no harm if he circumambulates them both.
There is a close connection between the rituals of the Umra and the hajj, to the extent, they are often mingled together. There are only minor differences between the first part of the hajj and the entire Umra, and according to some views, a hajj automatically includes the Umra, while according to other views, the umra is only performed when it is as an independent ritual.
The umra which is a strong symbol of Muslim piety, is a highly individual ritual, as there is practically nothing of its acts that requires the presence of other people. The only part which cannot be done all alone is the shaving after all the other acts. But that is also not really a part of the umra — it only serves as a symbol of leaving the ritual of the Umra.
The umra can be performed all through the year, with the exception of the days of the hajj.
There were rituals that more or less resembled the umra that were performed in Mecca in the era before Islam became the religion of the city.
From early Islamic sources, we learn that the first part, the tawaf, was most certainly performed even if we do not know if there were 7 circumambulations or not. As for the other parts of umra, like the sa¢y, the accounts are looser, but we know that the hilltops of Safa and Marwa were considered sacred. Early Muslim scholars were divided on the importance and necessity of the Umra, but it became well established as a ritual with an importance similar to what it has today early in the history of Islam.
- The pilgrim assumes ritual purity, called ihram, in a place which can be inside Mecca if he/she intends to perform both Umra and hajj in one go, or outside Mecca if only the Umra is to be performed.
- Uttering of the niya, which is the statement where the pilgrim tells what he/she is about to do. For the umra there are two possible niyas, either he/she could be doing only the umra, or he/she could be doing both the hajj and the umra.
- Uttering of labbaika, which is Arabic and normally translated with “at your service”. The labbaika is followed by numerous sentences, all dealing with God or/and the prophet, Muhammad.
Part 1. Tawaf
- The pilgrim enters the main mosque in Mecca, through its northern door.
- The pilgrim passes through the port of Banu Shaiba.
- The pilgrim comes up to the Black Stone in the Ka’ba.
- The pilgrim starts to circumambulate the Ka’ba seven times, walking against the clock. While doing this, prayers are said. The 3 first circumambulations are done at a speed of nearly running, while the last 4 are done at a normal walking speed.
- The pilgrim presses his chest against the Ka’ba at a point midway between the Black Stone, and the door of the Ka’ba.
- A short prayer, salat, is performed, consisting of 2 rak¢as.
- Water is drunk from the well of Zamzam.
Part 2. Sa’y
- The pilgrim leaves the mosque courtyard of the Ka’ba, and enters the lane that runs between two points right outside, called ‘as-Safa and Marwa. The starting point is from ‘as-Safa.
- The pilgrim walks back and forth between these two points seven times. At each point he/she stops for a moment, in order to say a few prayers, and then continues. This ritual ends at Marwa.
- The pilgrim leaves Marwa.
- He/she will have his/her hair cut by a local barber, in order to mark the end of the umra.