Umrah is one of the Holy pilgrimages performed by the Muslims. While Hajj is compulsory, Umrah is a shorter version of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. It can be performed during any time of the year leaving the few days of Hajj.
Thousands of Muslims perform the Hajj every year during Ramadan. Many Muslims who cannot perform the Hajj due to some reasons, can decide to perform Umrah. To understand the importance of Umrah in Islam, here’s what you need to about its history.
History of Umrah
Before we understand the importance of Umrah, here’s a history of this ritual and why it is performed by Muslims. Tension rose between the Muslims and the Kuffar (Pagans) in Makkah, during the early days of Islam. Kuffars restricted Muslims from performing Hajj in the city. Later in 628 AD, the Prophet (PBUH) had a vision of Muslims performing the Umrah rituals and so they travelled from Madinah to Makkah. Entry was refused by the Quraysh and the Prophet (PBUH) did not want to forcefully enter the Holy city.
After diplomatic negotiation, The Hudaybiyyah Treaty was formed. It allowed Muslims to have access to Kaaba for three days a year, for the next 10 years. In the subsequent year, Prophet (PBUH) and two thousand Muslims made their way to Kaaba and performed the first Umrah in Islam.
Importance of Umrah in Islam
It is believed that Umrah is a pilgrimage that offers spiritual purity to any Muslim. It is Sunnat-e-muwaqada (meaning non mandatory) for them to perform Umrah once in a lifetime. Umrah is similar to Hajj in many ways because someone who intends to perform Hajj has to first perform the Umrah rituals.
As per the Islamic traditions, one receives many rewards for completing the Umrah. It is believed that Umrah takes away your sins. These rewards are mentioned not just in the Quran but also in the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) has explained why Umrah is a form of apology for every sin you’ve committed. “Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and the next, and hajj, which is accepted, will receive no other reward than Paradise.”
Umrah is performed by Muslims to feel closest to Allah and receive the highest blessings. In today’s modern world, it is considered to be a form of Jihad, especially for women, children, the weak, and the elderly.
But, remember that the rewards are for those who perform the Umrah correctly. The Umrah trip helps to purify the soul and the spirit of every Muslim. It is the power and proof of rewards that make Muslims from around the world visit the Holy Kaaba situated in Makkah.
The Umrah Rituals
The Umrah rituals include performing the Tawaf and Sa’i along with reciting prayers and your intentions to perform Umrah. Here’s a step-by-step guide for performing the Umrah rituals.
- Recite Your Intentions: As you walk towards the Kaaba, recite the Talbiya to announce your arrival. Next, make sure you enter the Masjid-Al-Haram with your right foot, asking God for forgiveness and mercy.
- Perform Tawaf: You must circle the Kaaba anticlockwise seven times in deep prayer. Start this ritual from Kaaba’s eastern point where the Black stone is located. This act is a way of showing devotion to God and it represents the unity of all pilgrims.
- Pray: Next, you may pray and recite verses from the Quran at the Maqam Ibrahim, which is a few metres away from Kaaba. Then go to drink the Holy water, zamzam.
- Perform Sa’i: You have to perform Sa’i by walking back and forth seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa. Recite prayers while walking. This Umrah ritual honours the Quranic story of Haajar, wife of Prophet Ibrahim. She is said to have wandered tirelessly between the two mountains in search of water for her infant son. It is believed that Angel Gabriel struck the ground and holy water came gushing out that saved the baby’s life. After completing Sa’i, offer a final prayer.
- Taqsir: This ritual includes men shaving their heads or at least shortening their hair. Women are supposed to cut off one strand of their hair. Shaving the head symbolises the completion of the pilgrimage.
After the completion of the above-mentioned rituals, you are not required to stay in the state of Ihram.
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