Hajj and Umrah are two fundamental Islamic pilgrimages that every Muslim desires to perform at least once in their lifetime. Both of these pilgrimages carry significant religious, spiritual and historical importance for Muslims across the globe.
However, there is a lot of confusion among the people about the difference between Hajj and Umrah. Both rituals involve visiting the holy city of Makkah, performing Tawaf (circumambulation of the Kaaba), and praying inside the Grand Mosque. But, the main difference between Hajj and Umrah lies in their intention, rituals, and duration.
In this essay, I will compare and contrast Hajj and Umrah by highlighting their key differences.
Hajj, also known as the Greater Pilgrimage, is an annual religious pilgrimage that takes place during the last Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah. It is an obligation for every Muslim who is physically, financially and mentally able to perform this once in their lifetime. The Hajj is a spiritual journey that retraces the steps of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to his son Ismail, who was the first one to build the Kaaba. Millions of Muslims from every corner of the world gather in Makkah for this sacred event, dressed in white Ihram clothing.
Hajj has three types, Tamattu, Ifraad and Qiran. Among these, Tamattu is most commonly perform type of Hajj.
The first ritual of Hajj is to enter the state of Ihram from the appointed Miqat (boundary) which is located outside of Makkah. Ihram refers to purification and sanctification, which involves wearing two plain white sheets for men and modest clothing for women. During Ihram, pilgrims are required to avoid any activities that might violate their sacred state, such as shaving, cutting nails, hunting, using any fragrances or engaging in any sexual activities with their spouses.
2) Arrival in Makkah:
After entering in Ihram, pilgrims arrive in Makkah and perform Tawaaf around the Kaaba seven times, which is known as Tawaful Ifaad. The Tawaf of Hajj is different from the Tawaf of Umrah because it is done more specifically during the Hajj pilgrimage. During the Tawaf, pilgrims recite supplications, glorify Allah and seek His blessings. After completing the Tawaf, the pilgrims perform Sa’i between the two hills, Safa and Marwa, which represents the search of Hajar, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), for water for her son Ismail when they were left in the desert.
3) Standing at Arafah:
The climax of Hajj is when pilgrims gather at the plain of Arafah, which is located around 20 kilometers east of Makkah. This is the holiest day of Hajj known as The Day of Arafah. Here, pilgrims spend the whole day performing supplications, seeking forgiveness, and remembering Allah through various acts of worship such as reciting the Quran, glorifying Allah and sending blessings upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This standing (Wuquf) at Arafah is considered as the most fundamental aspect of the pilgrimage, and it is necessary to stay until sunset.
4) Stoning of the Devil:
After Arafat, pilgrims travel towards Mina, where they spend the night before the Eid al-Adha. During their stay, they perform the ritual of stoning the devil by throwing seven pebbles at each of the three pillars which represent the devil's temptation of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). This stoning of the devil also symbolizes the rejection of all evil deeds and thoughts.
After completing the stoning ritual, pilgrims are required to sacrifice an animal in the name of Allah, as it is a significant part of the Hajj. Pilgrims have the option of giving the meat to the poor.
6) Tawaf and Sa’i:
After the sacrifice, pilgrims perform Tawaf and Sa’i again around the Holy Kaaba which completes the final stages of the Hajj.
Umrah or the Lesser Pilgrimage is a voluntary pilgrimage that can be performed any time of the year, except during the days of Hajj. Umrah is not mandatory like Hajj, but it holds great significance for Muslims who seek spiritual redemption and increased blessings from Allah.
The first and essential ritual of Umrah is to enter the state of Ihram from the appointed Miqat (boundary) for Makkah. Once in a state of Ihram, all the same rules apply as Hajj Ihram.
2) Arrival in Makkah:
After entering into in Ihram, pilgrims travel to Makkah, and they perform Tawaf around the Kaaba seven times, followed by Sa’i between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times.
3) Cutting of Hair:
The final rite of Umrah is cutting the hair or shaving it completely, which ends the state of Ihram.
Key differences between Hajj and Umrah:
There are some key differences between Hajj and Umrah which are as following:
The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage that takes place over five specific days of the Dhul-Hijjah month, while Umrah can be performed any time of the year, except during the days of Hajj.
2) Obligatory vs. Voluntary:
Hajj is mandatory obligation for Muslims to perform once in a lifetime for those who are physically, financially and mentally able, while Umrah is considered as a voluntary act of worship.
Both pilgrimages require pilgrims to perform the Tawaf, but during Hajj, it follows a specific method of performing Tawaf, which is different from the Tawaf done during Umrah.
Hajj takes a more extended period to complete as compared to Umrah, which can typically complete within two to three hours. Hajj can last between five to six days and includes several complex and in-depth rituals.
5) Number of Rites:
Hajj includes several more rites than Umrah, including Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina, to name a few.
In conclusion, Hajj and Umrah are two essential Islamic pilgrimages that hold significant religious and spiritual importance. Despite their similarities, there are some key differences between these two pilgrimages, such as the intention, rituals, duration, number of rites, and their occurrence. Regardless of which pilgrimage is chosen by Muslims, Hajj or Umrah, both are regarded as acts of devotion and faith towards Allah and serve to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and unity among the Muslim faith.