Umrah refers to a kind of pilgrimage done by Muslims. It is Arabic word and it involves a process of pilgrimage which is done in Mecca located in Saudi Arabia in any time of year. Umrah involves a set of rituals. These rituals are performed in the memory of noble acts of Abraham and Hajara, the wife of Abraham. Through these rituals Muslims show their solidarity with Abraham and Hajara.
The Umrah is an optional prayer and it is not an obligation like Hajj in Islam. There are two kinds of umrah, Umrat al Tammatu and Umrat al Mufradah. Both involve the same rituals but Umrat al tammatu can be performed any time of the year independently but Umrat al Mufradah can only be performed with Hajj.
Before entering into Mecca for the performance of Umrah, Pilgrims are required to clean themselves. Then males are required to put on particular dress called Ahraam but women can wear any dress but their bodies should be fully covered except face and hands. Ahraam is an unstitched dress consisting on two pieces of cloth. One piece of cloth is tied below the waist to cover lover lower part of the body and 2nd is used to cover upper part of the body. After wearing Ahraam, pilgrims enter into Mecca and start reciting Talbiyah which is a verse in Arabic.
There are many rituals through which a pilgrim seeks a mercy of Allah and forgiveness of his sin. One of the rituals performed by Muslims during the Umrah is the Tawaf. In tawaf, a pilgrim with many other pilgrims moves around the Kaaba seven times and pray to Allah for the salvation and mercy. Kaaba is considered a symbolic House of Allah which was built by Abraham on the direction of Allah. It is considered the most sacred place for Muslims. Walking around Kaaba with praying and recitation of Talbihya is regarded the one of the most sacred act.
The 2nd important ritual is called Sai which is again an Arabic word which means struggle. This ritual is performed in the memory of Hajara who walked between two mountains called Safa and Marva in search of water for her new born baby Ishamel. It is believed that new born baby Ishamel struck his feet to ground and water came out of that place. It was miracle of God and now at the same place there is well of water and the water of that well is called Zamzam. Now the pilgrims walk between these two mountains Safa and Marwa to commemorate and honor the struggle of Hajara for the search of water of her new born baby. The water of this well is regarded holy and from the well; pilgrims get the water of Zamzam to drink and to take with them for the friends and family. This ritual is called a Sai.
The third ritual is called Halq or Taqsir. In this ritual, pilgrims shave or cut short their hair after the completion of Umrah. Women also cut some part of their hair but they are not allowed to shave their heads like men.
Umrah is regarded one of supreme prayers in Islam and millions of Muslims fly to Mecca from all over the world for the performance of Umrah. Below are some video guides on Umrah in many languages for guidance of our brothers and sisters. Jazak Allah Khair!