Umrah is the pilgrimage that Muslims can undertake anytime of the year. Also known as the “minor pilgrimage” , it can be done as a part of “Hajj”, the once in a lifetime obligatory pilgrimage as per the Holy Quran or it can be done independently.
Be properly informed of all the rules of Umrah. Choose to carry only the basic and the most necessary items for the journey. Do not forget to carry some warm clothing like shawls, jackets or cardigans as it can quite cold at night. Remember to be well hydrated and drink sufficient quantity of water. Also eat light and easily digestible food so as to get the required energy.
The Saudi Arabian government is quite strict and all the required formalities should be completed before going for Umrah. It is necessary to have a vaccination of Meningococcal Meningitis and attach the certificate along with the completed Umrah visa form. An important point that must be kept in mind that if the Umrah visa is during the holy month of Ramadaan, the date of exit must be before the last day as Eid-ul-Fitr can not celebrated in Saudi Arabia.
Only approved travel agents can be approached to apply for the necessary visa. It will be valid for 2 weeks only and a confirmed and non-refundable ticket of departure is also needed. All women and children should be accompanied by their father, husband or any other male relative who can be considered “Mahram”. But a women older than 45 years of age can travel without a Mahram if she is in an organized group or with other family members.
It is supposed to mirror how Ibrahim and his second wife, Hajar. All men should wear Ihraam at the Meeqat. Here they wear 2 pieces of fabric, the top half covered with the Ridda while the lower half with the Izaar. NOTHING ELSE should be worn. There is no dress code for women except that they should dress modestly and just forbidden from wearing the niqab and gloves.
Wudu or the ritualistic cleaning of the hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head, and feet is quite important. It is to be done before any important religious activity including preparing to perform prayers or any ritual of Hajj or Umrah and before touching the holy Quran. It should not be done hurriedly and must be done properly so that it counts.
The Umrah consists of 3 rituals, each of which needs to be completed properly with full devotion. Here is a brief summary about them.
Tawaf is the act of circumambulating the Kaaba 7 times in anti-clockwise direction. Men should do the first 4 times quickly and the rest of 3 times a little slowly at a relaxed pace.
Sa’i means quickly walking 7 times between the hills of Safa and Marwah. It is said that Hajar was distraught and desperately searching for water. It is believed that the baby, Ishmael , has cried and with his foot had struck the ground. That spot is now the well of Zamzam.
Halq or taqsir refers to the ritualistic cutting of hair. For those men who cut off all the hair from their head, it is called the halq. For the rest and the women, it is called taqsir, where only some hair is cut which is normally one inch or more. This is usually done at the end of umrah and means that the person has bowed himself or herself before Allah. This is done to make true believers understand that they should not give physical appearances more importance.
Umrah is a short pilgrimage that can be completed within a few hours and can be done at any time. What is important is the feeling of devotion and following the rituals while keeping Allah in mind.