To Umrah or not to Umrah

It’s that moment when you realize another special time of year has passed by again: Hajj.

Taking place during the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, the window of opportunity often escapes us without much warning. News outlets capture highlights from the extensive pilgrimage made by Muslims traveling to modern-day Saudi Arabia from across the globe.

You may have been preoccupied with other important tasks, such as family and household matters, a demanding day-job, or perhaps a crucial school term. Worldly responsibilities almost seem to prioritize themselves, and understandably, you’re just trying to balance it all at the end of the day.

Interestingly, we are reminded that unlike its adjacent four pillars, Hajj comes with a thoughtful disclaimer. Muslims of physical and financial ability are encouraged to make the spiritual journey at least once in a lifetime. Year after year, going to Hajj makes our to-do list of goals and resolutions. But in reality, our worldly lives can exempt us from being a ready candidate for Hajj.

Fortunately, that Hajj disclaimer also includes the understated alternative of Umrah.

Umrah, or the “lesser pilgrimage”, provides an option to perform many of the same rituals at any time of the year (while also collecting immense spiritual rewards along the way). Opting for Umrah may seem ideal to those of us still hoping to pursue Hajj one day.

The Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi salaam) once narrated that performing Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan is equal to Hajj (in rewards). With lots of incentive and motivation for Umrah out there, it’s also worth understanding the differences and similarities between the two.

Hajj and Umrah differ in significance, observance and practice. Hajj constitutes an obligatory pillar of faith, while Umrah is regarded as Sunnah. One can perform Umrah individually; Hajj can be performed with fellow pilgrims. Hajj is associated with several ritualistic practices, lasting longer in duration, whereas Umrah can be completed within just a few hours.

Delving further into specifics can shed light on interesting facts and tidbits about Hajj vs. Umrah. However, it’s impossible not to highlight the life-changing takeaways from entering the valley of Mecca or exploring the radiance of Madīnah. Muslims experience intense love and closeness to their Creator as they follow Abrahamic tradition, witness sacred grounds and move closer towards the “Blessed House” or Ka’aba.

The world’s every race and nationality seem reflected in the millions of visitors desiring to have their supplications heard by the Al-Mighty. Despite the crowd’s multicultural flair, all Umrah-goers react similarly when hearing the call to prayer that echoes through the sanctuaries and spiritual haven of Mecca and Madīnah. Everyday struggles and personal trials dissipate as Muslims unite in devotion, strengthened faith and purified hearts.

Have you been thinking about fitting an Umrah trip in your schedule? Do you prefer to ensure you’re covered in terms of the “ins and outs” of all-things Umrah related? Make sure to check-out Al-Maghrib’s upcoming “Blessed Voyage Umrah journey.

Travelers are accompanied by spiritual leaders during a four-day guided 2016 Umrah package trip. Join scholars like Waleed Basyouni, Omar Suleiman, Abu Eesa Niamatullah, Yahya Ibrahim, Kamal El Mekki and Hasib Noor starting December 2016. For more information, visit the link for an exclusive video trailer of what to expect.

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