Hajj & Umrah Explained

Difference between Hajj and Umrah

Hajj and Umrah both are pilgrimages of Islam undertaken by Muslims all around the world, as a token of their faith. A person who has not performed any of them usually fails to comprehend the difference between Hajj and Umrah. Although many of the rituals and practices of Hajj and Umrah are similar, yet there are many differences between the two

Significance:

Although both umrah and hajj are pilgrimages, there are many differences between the two. For instance, an umrah is considered as a small or minor pilgrimage while a hajj is a major pilgrimage among Muslims.

The natures of both pilgrimages are also different. An umrah is a recommended and non-compulsory pilgrimage, but a hajj is an obligatory one. There are also more requirements and qualifications for a pilgrim in conducting a hajj.

The weight or importance between the two pilgrimages is also distinct. The hajj carries more weight and importance in comparison to an umrah.

Time:

The Umrah is a pilgrimage that can be done any time of the year or in combination with a hajj. As a pilgrimage, it has two types: al-Umrat al mutradah (umrah without hajj) and Umrat-al tammatu (umrah with hajj). The first type can be performed by the individual while the second type can be performed collectively with the other pilgrims for the hajj.

The first type of umrah is performed anytime with the exclusion of the hajj months while the latter kind can be performed within the hajj months.

On the other hand, a hajj can be done at a specific time of the year. There are designated months for the hajj, namely: Shawwal, Dhul-Hijjah, and Dhul-Qadah.

Rituals:

The rituals for Umrah involve the ihram (ritual of purification), circling the holy Kabah, Sae (the walk) between Safa and Marwah, drinking Zamzam water, and shaving or cutting the hair. However, In addition to all the rituals practiced in Umrah, Hajj includes additional rituals, such as, spending days and nights in areas neighboring the city of Makkah (Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah), stoning the devil, and slaughtering the animal in the name of Allah.

Also, hajj is included in the five pillars of Islam, meaning it is considered as a religious duty by all the religion's followers. The performance of hajj is very important. Muslim tradition requires that a Muslim at least do the hajj once in a lifetime. The hajj has three forms. The first form is the ifrad or the hajj itself. The second form is the tamattu or the complete but separate undertaking of both an umrah and a hajj. Lastly, the third form is qiran or the combination and alternate performance of an umrah and a hajj.

Despite their differences, both umrah and hajj have similarities. Both pilgrimages are marks of strong Muslim faith, fidelity, and piety. The two also promote a unified and one Muslim community in retelling and retracing the steps of the Muslim faith.

Another distinction is the length and the steps of the rituals. Both the umrah and the hajj require the ritual of purification known as ihram. After the ihram, a tawaf is performed. The tawaf involves circling the Ka'aba along with prayers. The tawaf ends with th drinking of water from the well of Zamzam. After this step, there are more steps in the hajj that include going to Mt. Arafat and Muzdalifah, performing the stoning of the devil and animal sacrifice. Another Tawaf, called Tawaf Az-Ziyara and Tawaf al-Wida are performed. The last tawaf is considered the final and closing ritual of the hajj. Meanwhile, the tawaf in umrah is succeeded by a Sacii and ends with the cutting of the pilgrim's hair.

The Rulings for Hajj and Umrah:

The major point of dissimilarity between the two is the fact that Hajj is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Allah has made it obligatory for all the Muslims to perform Hajj at-least once in their lifetime. As mentioned by Allah in the holy Quran "And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither" (Aal Imran 3:97).

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said (as informed by Hazrat Umar (R.A): "Islam has been built on five [pillars]: Testifying that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Performing the prayers, Paying the Zakah, Making the pilgrimage to the House, and fasting in Ramadan."

In case of Umrah, scholars share varied beliefs. Some consider it obligatory while others are of the opinion that it is merely a Sunnah. To be on the safer side, one can perform both. It is recommended to perform 'Umrah al Tamatu' (Umrah with Hajj) as it involves performing both, Umrah and Hajj.

Types of Hajj and Umrah:

Another point of difference between Hajj and Umrah is that Hajj is of 3 types and Umrah is of 2 types. The types of Hajj are Ifrad, Tammatu, Qiran. Ifrad is referred to the Hajj itself, Tammatu is the kind of Hajj where Umrah and Hajj are separately undertaken during Hajj months, and Qiran is the combination or alternative performance of Umrah and Hajj. On the other hand, the two types of Umrah are: Al Umrat al Mutradah (Umrah without Hajj) and Umrat al Tammatu (Umrah with Hajj). The first kind can be performed by an individual, while the latter can be performed collectively with the other pilgrims present to perform Hajj (should be performed in Hajj month only).

Summary / Crux of the differences between Hajj and Umrah:

1. Hajj and Umrah are both Islamic pilgrimages. The core areas of differentiation between the two are based on the level of importance, method of observance, and the method of practice.

2. Hajj is the major pilgrimage, having more religious significance as compared to Umrah.

3. Hajj is obligatory to perform at-least once in a lifetime, on the contrary, the Ulema debate if Umrah is compulsory or a Sunnah.

3. Hajj has to be performed in the designated Islamic months, whereas Umrah can be performed at anytime of the year.

4. Hajj is one of the 5 core pillars of Islam but Umrah is not.

5. Hajj can be performed with fellow pilgrims, while Umrah can turn out to be a highly individualized ritual.

6. Hajj and Umrah seem similar in the beginning. Hajj is more detailed any involves more rituals and is of longer duration while Umrah can be performed in less than a few hours.

Despite all the above mentioned differences between Hajj and Umrah, there are a lot of similarities between the two. Both of them symbolize the love of devotees towards Allah, strengthen up the level of faith, unite Muslims from all around the world, and purify the mind and soul.