A holy journey to a sacred place for religious reasons is known as a pilgrimage. It is a basic aspect of the human experience. Like there are many rituals involved in any religious act, similarly, there are many distinctive rituals involved in the Islamic pilgrimages. The most commonly identified pilgrimage in Islam is Hajj. It is the great pilgrimage to Mecca and its surrounding sites. A similar form of pilgrimage is Umrah which is often referred to as the lesser form of Hajj.

The Hajj Pilgrimage

Each Muslim at least once in his/her lifetime is required to undertake the holy pilgrimage to Mecca which is known as Hajj. It is like traveling to the House of Allah, the holy Kaaba. It is situated in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Hajj pilgrimage attracts Muslims in large numbers from across the world. Every year about 1.5 to 2 million pilgrims perform Hajj. They gather in huge numbers in Mecca to seek forgiveness from the almighty by performing dua in praise of Allah, the Almighty. The pilgrims travel for Hajj in the last month of the Islamic calendar i.e Dhu-a-Hijjah. They perform rituals for a period of 5 to 6 days. On the completion of the Hajj rituals, the pilgrims are referred to as Hajji or al-Hajj.

Significance of Hajj

The five fundamental pillars of Islam are Shahada (Faith), Salah (Prayer), Zakat (Almsgiving), Sawm (Fasting), and Hajj (Pilgrimage). Hence, Hajj is amongst these essential Islamic pillars. The pilgrimage is important as it gives Muslims across the world an opportunity to make amends and get rid of their past sins and mistakes. Seek forgiveness from Allah, the almighty, and make a new start. Hajj provides its pilgrims a time to think about the actual purpose of their birth.

Hajj is a significant pilgrimage as it brings together Muslims of all races for one of life’s most important spiritual events. The true underlying nature of Hajj is to bring together people from different parts of the world by uniting them in the holy city of Mecca.   Over the centuries millions of Muslims have undertaken Hajj travel. With the main purpose of cleansing one’s soul and starting fresh. Pilgrims experience a positive transformation in their lives, after completing the holy journey of Hajj.

During Hajj pilgrim, Muslims follow the path established by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and prophets Ibrahim (AS). Running on the path to and fro as done by the wife of Ibrahim (AS), who ran seven times between two hills to seek water for her dying son is still followed by the Muslims. Drinking the holy water of the spring created by Allah which continues to run to this very day. The holy journey of Hajj is also a way for Muslims to deepen their devotion to Allah (SWT).

The Umrah Pilgrimage

The term Umrah is derived from the Arabic word ‘I’timar’ which in English means ‘vising a populated place’. Often referred to as a minor form of pilgrimage, Umrah can be undertaken and performed by Muslims at any time of the year except on the days of the Hajj. The important point of difference between Umrah and Hajj is that Umrah is not obligatory to perform as in the case of Hajj. The religious acts which are performed by the pilgrims during the holy journey are known as Umrah rituals. 

Significance of Umrah

  • Guest to Allah: Every Muslim foresees to meet Allah and be the guest of his home
  • Form of Celebration: Umrah is a form of celebration, and joy, of visiting the house of God 
  • Forgiveness to Sins: The main objective to perform Umrah is to seek mercy from Allah and ask for his forgiveness.  Umrah is an opportunity to repent for past sins.
  • Rewards equal to Jihad: Umrah rewards are said to be equivalent to the reward equal to Jihad meaning struggle or effort. Umrah is indeed Its one’s effort to live out the Islamic faith

Both Umrah and Hajj are considered to be acts of spiritual cleansing and are truly rewarding acts. They deepen the pilgrims’ faith in religion, strengthen their connection with Allah, and person’s understanding of the hardships of Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hajar, and Prophet Muhammad. 
Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj is obligatory to be performed once in a lifetime at a specified time of the year. However, Umrah can be performed more than once at any time of the year. Both forms of pilgrimages begin with similar rituals however Hajj being the major form of pilgrimage involves more rituals than the latter. Umrah being a low-scale pilgrimage does not have extremely strict rituals. On completion of either of the Muslim pilgrimage of that Umrah or Hajj. The pilgrim must be thankful to Allah for giving them the opportunity to perform the holy journey, connect spiritually, and repent for past sins.