The Difference Between Umrah and Hajj
By Charity RightJun 24, 2022
Hajj and Umrah – they’re both pilgrimages, right? Are they just different words for the same thing?
No, not quite. Put simply, Umrah is a short pilgrimage you can do at any time, whereas Hajj takes longer, involves more rituals, and can only be performed at a specific time during the year.
They may both be important, spiritual journeys that bring you closer to Allah SWT, but they’re not the same. So exactly what is the difference between Umrah and Hajj?
Umrah is a simpler version of a pilgrimage to Makkah, and is sometimes known as the ‘minor pilgrimage.’ Umrah can be performed at any time of the year and only take a few hours to complete.
Although it’s recommended, it is not a compulsory pilgrimage or one of the five Pillars of Islam. It’s still an incredibly sacred journey that millions make annually to come closer to Allah SWT.
Once you have donned your ihram, the key rituals to perform Umrah are Tawaf and Sa’i.
Tawaf takes place in Masjid al-Haram, the Great Mosque of Makkah, where you’ll find the Ka’aba, the black building in the centre. Here, Muslims journey around the Ka’aba seven times in an anticlockwise direction.
After Tawaf comes Sa’i, where you walk and run between the two hills of Safa and Marwa. This is done as a tribute to Hajar AS, the Prophet Ibrahim’s wife, as she desperately sought water for herself and her infant son, Ismail. We follow in her footsteps to symbolize the struggles in our lives and how Allah guides and helps us despite the seeminlgy impossible.
To perform Sa’i, you start at Safa and make your way towards Marwa until you see a green marker, at which point you run to the next green marker. From there, you make your way to Marwa to complete your first lap.
When you have completed your first lap to Marwa, you do the same in reverse. Sa’i requires seven laps in total. After this, men shave their hair, while women cut a short amount off.
Perhaps the most key difference between Hajj and Umrah is that Hajj is the fifth and final Pillar of Islam, but by no means the least important. In fact, this obligatory pilgrimage is something that all Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lifetime if they’re able to do so.
Although Umrah can be completed in just a day, Hajj takes between five to six days, meaning it’s much more or a time commitment. Whereas Umrah can be performed at any time throughout the year, Hajj is only done on specific days during the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah.
Hajj begins much like Umrah, by heading to the Ka’aba for Tawaf and then going back and forth between Safa and Marwa for Sa’i. However, there are key differences and additional rituals that come after these.
After Sa’i, Muslims journey to Mina to stay the night before heading to Mount Arafat on the Day of Arafah, the second day of Hajj. The Day of Arafah is the holiest day of the year on which pilgrims go to Jabal al-Rahmah, the location where Muhammad is said to have delivered his final sermon, where Muslims perform Wuquf – an act of standing before Allah until sunset.
After their time at Mount Arafat, pilgrims stop by Muzdalifah to pray and spend the night before heading back to Mina on the third day for the Rami al-Jamarat. This is also known as Stoning the Devil, where Muslims throw stones at the largest of three pillars representing the devil.
The third day of Hajj also starts the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, during which animals are sacrificed as a tribute to the Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah. Food from sacrificed animals is donated to the needy, known as Qurbani or Udhiya.
While Umrah and Hajj are both spiritual pilgrimages to Makkah with similar rituals, there are key differences. Umrah is a quick, non-compulsory pilgrimage to receive blessings at any time of the year. Hajj is an obligatory, extended pilgrimage with more rituals that all Muslims are expected to undertake at least once.