The Umrah or (Arabic: عمرة) is a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year. In Arabic Umrah means “to visit a populated place”. As a technical term used in the Shariah, Umrah means to perform Tawaf of Kaabah and Sa’i between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, after assuming Ihram, either from a Miqat or a place in Hill. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage and which is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.
I recently went to Umrah with my family. As it was my first Umrah, I was bit nervous of the proceedings and did some research (offline and online) before going on the pilgrimage. Alhamdulillah, all went well and I ended up with burning desire to return once more to the Holy Land.
Following are few tips on how to get the most out of your Umrah. We can try our best and leave the results to Allah (swt) as verily, He is the ever-knowing.
- Start preparing for Umrah at least 2 months before hand. Go through the procedure, learn by heart some duas and azkaar.
- It is important to arrange the trip through a reliable and trustworthy travel agent. I have opted for Travel Mate (Clifton Center , Karachi) and Alhamdulilah they delivered what they have committed.
- While in Makkah and Medina you have to walk a lot (Hotel to Haram and back, Tawaf, Sai etc). It is recommended to practice walking at least 30 minutes a day, the brisker the better.
- Learn funeral prayers (Salah Al Janaza) as there will be funeral prayers after almost every fard Salah (especially in Masjid al-Haram).
- Do not take lots of clothes with you as you have to move around (Jeddah – Makkah – Medina – Jeddah) so its really a hassle loading and unloading the suitcases (if you travel by the bus). Keep things at minimum, you can always buy from Saudi, if required.
- Carry a cloth/nylon bag for your footwear so that you can conveniently carry your slippers/flip flops around without worrying about them getting misplaced.
- Take medicines, lots of them. As there are so many people there, coming from various parts of the world and bringing local viruses with them, its better to be prepared especially if you are traveling with kids. We took flu, fever, digestive, anti-allergy and general painkiller medicines with us.
- Learning basic Arabic conversation will make your daily life easier and most Arabs prefer to communicate in Arabic. Check these online resources(1, 2, 3)
Umrah Manasik (Procedure):
Anas bin Maalik (RA) said, “The pilgrims and those who perform Umrah are the delegation of Allah. He will give them whatever they ask for, answer their supplications and He will give them better than what they spend. Every Dirham will be multiplied by a thousand.” (Baihaqi)
Note: This may vary slightly depending on your school of thought. Read this as general guideline and for details consult your local Imam, some scholar or buy a good book. I bought Hajj Aur Umrah Kaisay Karain by Maulana Mufti Muneer Ahmed Akhun. The book has explained manasik of Umrah in detail, along with duas and some FAQs.
- Umrah starts with being in Ihram and having made Niyyat for Umrah when crossing the prescribed Miqat.
- Ihram for men is simple two piece un-stitched garment. One can change it many times but has to remain in it until Umrah is complete.
- Ihram for women is their full dress that they wear daily. That dress must be separated and classed as her Ihram.
- Arriving from Pakistan your Miqat point is well before your flight touches down in Jeddah. Usually airlines (PIA, Saudi, Emirates) announce Miqat Point well before the plane crosses it, so that you can wear Ihram and do the Niyyat. Perform 2 Rakaats Nafl Salah. After performing Salah, make intention for Umrah. You can also wear Ihram and perform Salah before boarding the plane and make Niyyat before reaching Miqat.
- Start reciting Talbiyah. Recite Talbiyah as much as possible. لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ
- On reaching Makkah, perform Wuhdu/Ghusl.
- Women are to keep their face un-covered.
- As you enter the Masjid and spotting the Kaaba stand aside facing the Kaaba and make all the Duas that you ever wanted to make including that for those who had requested you for doing so and for the deceased and for the General Ummah.
- Before starting the Tawaaf, stand before the Kaaba away from the crowd and make Niyyat for the Tawaaf for Umrah.
- Men must adopt Iztiba when they are about to step into the Masjid al-Haram. Iztiba is to keep the right shoulder bare. However, the shoulder must be covered during Salah.
- Start from where you can see or know the location of Hajr Aswad (Black Stone). Simply raise your hands up to shoulder level, read “Bismillah e Allaho Akbar” and perform Istilaam, either by kissing or by directing palms on Hajar Aswad.
- Turn to your right and start your Tawaaf in an anti-clockwise direction. Kaaba must always be on your left. While performing Tawaaf, do not stop, do not push others and do not face the Kaaba until you are performing Istilaam.
- Men do the first three rounds at a pace but without running. This is called Ramal. Every time you pass by Rukn Yamani corner you should reach out and touch the corner without stopping. However, this is impossible as there is a crowd and people tend to remain stuck to that corner. In which case keep walking without raising your hand at this corner. Many people raise their hands but there is no need for it. Seven rounds of Kaaba in that way and the Tawaaf is over.
- If there is not a big crowd, locate a suitable place behind the Maqam-e-Ibrahim and offer the two Nifil Salah for Tawaaf. If there is a crowd then move well away from that spot but remain in that location and offer the Salah. If there is still a big crowd than offer this Salah anywhere in the Masjid.
- Drink a good quantity of ZamZam water. Make Niyyat before this drink reciting the Dua that the water is the source to quenching the thirst that will occur on the Day of Judgement, be the cure for all bodily ailments and a source to overcoming your hunger. After drinking Zamzam you can reciteاللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمَاً نَافِعَاًً وَرِزْقَاً وَاسِعَاًَ وَشِفَاءً مِنْ كُلِّ دَاءٍ
- Move to Safa Hill. Face the Kaaba and make Niyyat for the Sai of seven trips between the Safa and Marwa Hills. Make other Duas that you may have.
- Start the walk and, as you pass the green lights women keep their normal pace while men increase their pace without actually sprinting or running.
- At Marwa hill you can step aside and make Duaa facing towards Kaba or keep on with your Sai. From Safa to Marwa hill is one trip and from Marwa to Safa hill is the second. Your seven trips will end at Marwa Hill. At that point you should step away from the crowd and make Dua. This completes your Umrah and that is what you had come to Makkah, all the way from your home for. So make the most of it and make Dua Dua and Dua.
- Men go to barbers to have their hair cut or shaven (Taqseer or Halaq). It is recommended to have Halaq than Taqseer. Women cut a wrapping of strand of hair around two fingers. By no means should you cut your hair at Marwa hill although you will see many people doing that. Remember this Masjid is called MASJID AL HARAM. It is haram to cut your hair inside whilst you are in Ihram still even if someone else snips off for you.
- Your Umrah is over.
During the Umrah/Stay in Makkah and Medinah:
- While in Masjid, do not jump over people.
- Crossing in front of people performing Salah is an excuse (in the Haram only), do not make it a routine.
- Try not to mingle with ladies, do not stare at them.
- Do not start a Tawaf if the fard Salah is due soon.
- Do not zikr/pray loudly, disturbing others.
- Keep a photocopy of your passport and a card of the hotel you stay at in case stopped by police.
- Get a good understanding of your location of the hotel in respect of the Haram.
- If you are traveling with children, have them wear ID Cards with your Hotel’s address and contact information.
- In order to maintain a communication link, buy local mobile SIMs. I bought Mobily’s connection for SR 75 which had balance of SR 75 plus more than 100 free minutes.
When to visit Masjid al-Haram?
While in Makkah, most of the activities are concentrated on Masjid al-Haram and the Kaaba. Doing Tawaf, Sai (during Umrah), Salah, reciting Quran or just sitting and watching the Kaaba, are all spiritually enriching activities. However, as there are thousands of people at any given time inside the Haram, all with similar intentions, one has to prepare and follow a time table to get the most out of the stay in Makkah.
While the schedule may slightly alter depending on the time of year you are visiting (as the gap between Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers reduces in winters), generally speaking 3-4 hours of sleep in a day should be enough for you and rest of the time can be divided between the Haram and outside world (food, shower, some sightseeing etc).
- Sleep after Isha and get up for Tahajjud (usually an hour before Fajr), spend the time from Tahajud till Ishraq (usually an hour after Fajr).
- You can either sleep during Ishraq till Zhur or do Ziyarah or shopping.
- Pray Zhur and then have food and take some rest because it will be too hot to walk around. Alternatively you can stay till Asr in Haram and have food afterward as there is 3-4 hour gap between Asr and Maghrib.
- Stay from Maghrib till Isha in Haram.
One can adjust the schedule as per one’s endurance. The emphasis should be on to stay as much as in the Haram, pray and repent, Insha’Allah. We are going there for Allah (swt) so our time should be dedicated for Him and not for worldly activities which can indulge in on our return.
During my stay, I tried to find a place near the Kaaba, either on the ground level or at first floor. Standing at top level, hearing the Azaan and looking at people doing Tawaf is breathtaking Subhan’Allah.
If you have found these tips useful, please remember me and my family in your prayers. Jazak’Allah.
Sources: These tips are largely derieved from following sources.