The fifth pillar of Islam for a Muslim is the opportunity to travel to Makkah and perform Hajj. Not all Muslims may necessary be able to perform this ritual either due to expenses, quotas (only certain percentages of Muslims are allowed each year from each country to perform hajj to maintain security and crowd control), illness or other factors. Hajj takes place each year from the 7th to 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.
For those who are unable to perform Hajj and/or wish to make further pilgrimages to Makkah, one can perform umrah. Umrah has been referred to as a “mini-pilgrimage” and can be performed at any time of the year.
The pilgrim (mu’tamir), sometimes referred to as a ‘Haji’, performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) and his wife Hagar (Hajarah), and of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. These acts of faith are:
- Perform a tawaf, which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times in a counter-clockwise direction. Men are encouraged to do this three times at a hurried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace.
- Perform a sa’i, which means rapidly walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment of Hagar’s frantic search for water, before the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by Allah.
- Perform a halq or taqsir, meaning a cutting of the hair. A taqsir is a partial shortening of the hair, whereas a halq is a complete shave of the head, except for women, as they cut a little amount of hair instead.
These rituals complete the Umrah, and the pilgrim can choose to go out of ihram. Although not a part of the ritual, most pilgrims drink water from the Well of Zamzam. Various sects of Islam fiqah perform these rituals with slightly different methods.
The Umrah can be completed in one hour during the off-peak pilgrimage season. The peak times of pilgrimage are the days before, during and after the Hajj and during the last ten days of Ramadan.
Now Saudi Airlines naturally has special flights during Hajj which are referred to as “Hajj flights.” These flights normally originate in other countries and go as direct as possible to Jeddah, the nearest international airport to Makkah with a Hajj terminal. But what about Umrah? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were special flights known to cater for pilgrims who were going to perform umrah? One would not have to worry about whether the food being served was halal or not. One would likely not have to watch or be distracted by some of the unusual actions of passengers flying in and out of Saudi Airlines on regular flights. Videos and documentaries about performing umrah could be shown as the in-flight entertainment. In addition to the monthly magazine all airlines publish, Qurans could be provided to passengers too. I’m sure that in addition to umrah pilgrims other Muslims would probably welcome such flights into Jeddah.
And of course, such a new airlines would have to be called Pilgrim Airways.
Filed under: culture, islam, religion, Saudi Arabia, Saudi culture, Saudi customs, Saudi Living, travel Tagged: | culture, customs, islam, KSA, Mecca, Ramadan, religion, Riyadh, Saudi, Saudi culture, Saudi customs, travel, Umra