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The Difference Between Umrah and Hajj

Mar 20, 2024

The Islamic faith holds five notable pillars that are fundamental to the practice of the religion. Among these pillars are the pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah, two significant acts of worship that hold immense spiritual value for Muslims everywhere. While both involve pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, they differ in various aspects, such as their importance, obligations, timing, duration, and the specific rituals involved.

The ensuing points explore and elaborate on the differences between Hajj and Umrah, shedding light on their significance and the ways they are performed. It can help you plan your journey of faith to the holy city likewise.

Difference Between Hajj And Umrah: Timing, Duration, Rituals

What is Hajj?

Hajj is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam and is considered one of the most important acts of worship for devout Muslims. It is a sacred religious pilgrimage that every able-bodied and financially capable Muslim is obliged to undertake at least once in their lifetime. Hajj takes place during a specific time of the year, in the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah, and is a journey to the holy city of Mecca (or Makkah), where the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, is located.

How is Hajj performed?

The blessed Hajj pilgrimage is a meticulously structured series of rituals that must be carefully followed by pilgrims in a specific order. It typically takes place over a span of five to six days and includes the following key rituals:

  • Ihram: Before embarking on the sacred journey, pilgrims enter a state of consecration called "Ihram." This involves wearing special white clothing and adhering to a set of rules, such as refraining from cutting one's hair or nails, and avoiding certain types of behaviours.
  • Tawaf al-Qudum: Upon reaching the holy Mecca, pilgrims perform the Tawaf al-Qudum, which involves circumambulating the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction.
  • Wuquf at Arafat: The most crucial aspect of Hajj is the standing at Arafat, where pilgrims pray and seek forgiveness for their sins. This is considered the very essence of Hajj, and if a pilgrim misses this ritual, their pilgrimage is deemed incomplete.
  • Muzdalifah and Mina: After Arafat, pilgrims spend the night at Muzdalifah and then proceed to Mina. Here, they participate in the symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles at three pillars.
  • Sacrifice and Haircut: Pilgrims perform the ritual sacrifice of an animal, symbolising the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. After this, they can cut their hair and remove the Ihram clothing.
  • Tawaf al-Ifadah: Pilgrims return to the holy Mecca city to perform the Tawaf al-Ifadah, which is circumambulating the Kaaba once again.
  • Tawaf al-Wida: Before leaving the holy city of Mecca, pilgrims perform a farewell Tawaf al-Wida as a sign of gratitude and completion of their Hajj.

What is Umrah?

Umrah is also known as the lesser pilgrimage or minor pilgrimage, and is another important act of worship in Islam. But unlike Hajj, Umrah is not obligatory. However, it is highly recommended and holds great spiritual significance for Muslims worldwide. Umrah can be performed at any time of the year and multiple times in the same year, and is not bound by specific months.

How is Umrah performed?

Umrah involves a set of rituals that are less extensive than Hajj but are still deeply spiritual. The main steps of performing the blessed Umrah pilgrimage are as follows:

  • Ihram: Similar to Hajj, pilgrims performing Umrah enter the state of Ihram by wearing special clothing and adhering to certain rules, such as avoiding certain behaviours and refraining from cutting hair or nails.
  • Tawaf: Pilgrims perform the Tawaf, which consists of circumambulating the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction.
  • Sa'i: After the Tawaf, pilgrims perform Sa'i, which involves walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, a commemoration of the actions of the wife of Prophet Ibrahim searching for water.
  • Tahallul: Once they complete the Tawaf and Sa'i, pilgrims can remove the Ihram clothing and cut their hair, symbolising purification.

What is the main difference between Hajj and Umrah?

  • Importance: Hajj is one of the five indelible pillars of Islam and is considered one of the most significant acts of worship for Muslims. It is obligatory for every Muslim who meets specific criteria, including physical and financial capability, to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Meanwhile, although highly recommended and spiritually rewarding, Umrah is not obligatory and is considered a Sunnah - a practice of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Muslims can choose to perform the Umrah at their convenience.
  • Timing: Hajj is performed during a specific timeframe, in the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah, and includes specific rituals that must be performed on particular days. It is a stringent law that cannot be changed. Umrah can be performed at any time of the year, and there are no specific days or months associated with it. Also, Muslims can perform it multiple times a year if they wish to.
  • Duration: Hajj typically takes around five to six days to complete, with a specific set of rituals and activities to be performed each day. In contrast, Umrah is much shorter in duration and can be completed in a matter of 4 to 6 hours, depending on the individual's pace.
  • Pillars of Hajj and Umrah: Hajj has specific pillars or essential rituals, including the standing at Arafat, Tawaf al-Qudum, the symbolic stoning of the devil, and the sacrifice of an animal. Umrah has fewer pillars compared to Hajj, with the main ones being the Tawaf, Sa'i, and Tahallul.

Summary

As you can see, both the sacred pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah are significant acts of worship in Islam that involve a journey of faith to the holy city of Mecca. Hajj can only be performed during the month of Dhul-Hijjah, which Muslims must do once in their life. Unlike Umrah, it can be performed at any time of the year. The differences between these two significant acts of worship extend to their importance, obligations, and the other aspects listed above.

Therefore, regardless of these differences, both Hajj and Umrah hold immense spiritual value for Muslims, providing opportunities for spiritual growth, purification, and connection to their faith.

Read Also: Pillars of Hajj and Umrah

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