In Arabic the word ‘Umrah is derived from al-i’timar which means a visit. Here it means paying a visit to Ka’bah, performing lawaf around it, walking between Safa and Marwah seven times, and then shaving one’s head or cutting one’s hair short.
There is consensus among scholars that it is a prescribed worship. Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “An ‘Umrah in the month of Ramadan is equal (in reward) to performing a Hajj.’’ (This does not, however, remove from one the obligation of performing the obligatory Hajj) This was reported by Ahmad and Ibn Majah. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “From one ‘Umrah to the next is an atonement for any sins committed in between, and the reward for an accepted Hajj is nothing but Paradise.” This was reported by Ahmad, Bukhari and Muslim.
Repeated Performance of ‘Umrah
Nafi’ said, “During the rein of Ibn Az-Zubair, Abdullah bin ‘Umar performed an ‘Umrah twice a year.” AlQasim said, “Aishah performed three ‘Umrahs in one year.” Some people asked if any of the scholars criticised her for this. He replied, “May Allah be blessed! (Criticise) the Mother of Believers?!!” The majority of scholars supports this view. Malik, however, holds that the repetition of ‘Umrah more than once a year is disliked.
Umrah Before and During the Months of Hajj
A person may perform ‘Umrah during the months of Hajj, without performing Hajj. ‘Umar performed ‘Umrah during the month of Shawwal and returned to Madinah without performing Hajj. One may, like ‘Umar, perform ‘Umrah even before Hajj. Taw’us said, “In the Days of Ignorance the Arabs considered performing an ‘Umrah during the months of Hajj as one of the major sins. And they used to say, “When (the month of) Safar ends, and the camels are back, and wounds in their legs are healed, and when traces of footprints (of pilgrims) are effaced, then one wishing to perform ‘Umrah may do so.” After the advent of Islam, the people were commanded to perform ‘Umrah even during the months of Hajj. Thus, the ‘Umrah was permitted during the months of Hajj till the Day of Judgement.
Umrahs Performed By the Prophet
Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed four ‘Umrahs in his lifetime: ‘Umrah of Hudaibiyah, one that he performed to make up for another missed ‘Umrah, a third that he performed going forth from Al-Ji’rannah, and the fourth he combined with his Hajj. This was reported by Ahmad, Abu Daw’ud and Ibn Majah, with a sound chain of authorities.
Its Legal Status According to the Hanafi school and Malik
‘Umrah is a Sunnah, as described in this hadith reported from Jabir who said, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) was once asked about ‘Umrah, and whether it was obligatory (wajib), to which he replied, ‘No, it is not, but it is better if you perform it.”’ This was reported by Ahmad and Tirmizhi who consider this a sound hadith. The Shafi’i school and Ahmad hold it to be obligatory (fard) in the light of the words of Allah (Qur’an 2.196) “And complete the Hajj and ‘Umrah in the service of Allah.” In the above verse ‘Umrah is mentioned along with Hajj, which is obligatory, which means ‘Umrah must likewise be obligatory, even though the former is preferable. The author of Fath ul ‘Alam says, “On this subject no decision can be made on the basis of a hadith.” Tirmizhi has reported that Ash-Shafi’i said, “There is no evidence concerning ‘Umrah; it is only a supererogatory act of worship.”
Time for ‘Umrah
The majority of scholars is of the opinion that ‘Umrah may be performed any time during the year. Abu Hanifah, however, is of the opinion that it is disliked to perform ‘Umrah on five days: the Day of ‘Arafah, the Day of Nahr (the 10th of Zhul-Hijjah), and the three days of Tashriq (11th, 12th, and 13th of Zhul-Hijjah). Abu Yusuf considers it disliked on the Day of ‘Arafah, and during the three following days. All of them, however, agree on the permissibility of performing ‘Umrah during the months of Hajj. Bukhari has reported from ‘Ikrimah bin Khalid that he said, “I asked Abdullah bin ‘Umar about performing ‘Umrah before Hajj, whereupon he said, ‘There is no harm in doing so, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself performed ‘Umrah before the Hajj.”’ Jabir reported that ‘Aishah’s menstruation started while she was performing Hajj, but she performed all the rites of Hajj except tawaf around Ka’bah. When her period ended and she was clean, she performed the tawaf, and said, “O Prophet of Allah! Everyone has performed Hajj and ‘Umrah together, but I have performed Hajj only.” Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded her brother Abdur Rahman to accompany her to Tan’im (in order to perform ‘Umrah). So she performed ‘Umrah right after Hajj in the month of Zhul-Hijjah. The best time to perform ‘Umrah is during the month of Ramadan.
Miqat for ‘Umrah
In case a person intending to perform ‘Umrah is outside the miqat fixed for Hajj, it is not permitted for him to cross these miqats (places fixed for ihram) without declaring ihram. Bukhari has reported that Zaid bin Jubair came to Ibn ‘Umar and asked him, “Wherefrom should I declare my intention to perform ‘Umrah?” He replied, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) has set Qarna as the miqat for the people of Najd (from where they must declare their ihram), and similarly for the people of Madinah he set Zhul Hulaifah, and for the people of Syria Al-Johfah as their miqats.” One who is already well within the confines of the miqat area--even if one is within the Sacred Precincts of Haram itself--must go out to the miqat and declare ihram from there, as is obvious from the above hadith of Bukhari which says that ‘Aishah was commanded by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to go to Tan’im (the miqat) and put on her ihram for ‘Umrah from there.
To be continued