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Aspects Of The Islamic Faith 122: The Status Of The Umrah And The Pilgrimage

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

People often ask about the two rituals that are offered in the Haram area in Makkah and its surroundings, namely, the Haj or pilgrimage and the Umrah or mini-pilgrimage. There is no doubt that both are great acts of Islamic worship. Indeed, the pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Makkah has not ceased ever since the Kaaba was built by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail (peace be upon them). It is likely that this will be the case for the rest of time.

Islam encourages people to offer the Umrah and the pilgrimage often. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: "When a person performs the Umrah twice, they wipe out whatever sins committed in between them. A well performed pilgrimage can have no reward other than admission to heaven." (Related by Al-Bukhari)

The reward mentioned by the Prophet for both acts of worship should encourage everyone to perform these duties. He speaks of a pilgrimage that is well performed. What he means is that the pilgrimage should be undertaken for no purpose other than to please God. As an act of worship, the pilgrimage is a symbol of devotion. Everything it involves stresses the concept of submitting oneself to God, accepting whatever He may give us and thanking Him for all that we got. From start to finish, the pilgrim is repeating time and again his dedication to God's message and readiness to fulfill his duties. Therefore, the reward God grants for it is admission to heaven. In other instances, the Prophet tells us that performing the pilgrimage ensures forgiveness of all past sins. When one follows that with steering away from sin in one's future days, he meets God on the Day of Judgment with a good record of very few sins. This ensures God's forgiveness and his admission to heaven.

The Umrah is a much simpler duty and can be offered at any time during the year. Hence, undertaking it is an easier task. Therefore, people are encouraged to do it frequently. It is the surest way to erase our sins and give us a clean slate. When a person offers the Umrah for the first time, his past sins are all forgiven. When he offers it again, any sins he might have committed since his first Umrah are forgiven. The same applies to every following Umrah. So, according to this Hadith, every Umrah ensures the forgiveness of sins that one might have incurred since his previous Umrah.

It is unanimously agreed by all scholars that the pilgrimage is obligatory for every Muslim adult who is able to undertake it. The obligation is once during one's lifetime. If one offers it again, it is a sunnah. As for the Umrah, scholars differ as to its being a duty or a sunnah, i.e. a recommended act of worship. The disagreement is very detailed, with strong arguments advanced by both sets of scholars. When we look at both arguments, we see a very interesting scholarly debate. However, we feel that the stronger view is that the Umrah is also obligatory, once in a lifetime. This is based on the Qur'anic verse that says: "Complete the pilgrimage and the Umrah for God's sake". (2: 196) Scholars interpret this order differently. Those who say that the Umrah is sunnah understand this order as requiring a person to complete the rituals of the Umrah once he or she has started it. This is definitely a requirement. When we begin, we must complete. But the more likely meaning is to initiate and fulfill these two great acts of worship. This makes both types required obligations.



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