HalalBooking’s guide to DIY Umrah
Umrah, recognised as the 'smaller pilgrimage', is a personal precious experience that has the divine ability to transform a Muslim’s relationship with his creator. As a ritual, it can be performed in a matter of hours and leaves a lasting impression for the rest of our lives.
The word Umrah derives from the meanings “to visit a settled place, to thrive and to fill with life”, which explain the limitless possibilities of this spiritual and religious experience. Umrah is not only a personal means to feel the mercy and forgiveness of God, but a means of embodying the unifying aspect of Islam. Muslims from all over the world unite at the axis of Islamic symbolism. The Kaaba, pointing in all directions, emulates the transcendence of God’s vision and knowledge. The colour of the black brocade cloth (Kiswah) symbolises the absorption of all colours, a reflection of the Muslim's magnetic attraction to Mecca. Surrounded by the international Ummah, Muslims traverse space, gathering in the physical and spiritual heart of Islam on earth, while traversing history to connect with the forefathers of Islam: Ibrahim (PBUH), Ismail (PBUH) and Muhammed (PBUH).
This religious pilgrimage can be highly adaptable and is unique to each believer. Performing Umrah is one of the most personal spiritual commitments a Muslim can experience and is a poignant reminder of life’s transitory, fleeting course.
Can I go to Umrah without a package/group?
It is generally a myth that you have to do Umrah through a travel agency or with a pre-booked package. In spite of booking through travel agencies being pricey and restrictive, this transformative spiritual experience has been dominated by travel agencies and package tours in recent years.
As the world of travel changes, travel platforms engines like HalalBooking offer easy options for those who want to save money and travel more.
This guide aims to show you how easy planning a DIY Umrah itinerary can be. Along with this guide, a little research and understanding of the spiritual and travel guidelines, you can independently complete this trip of a lifetime.
Does the Saudi government facilitate DIY umrahs?
The Saudi Arabian government's vision 2030 is a national transformation project that aims to harness Saudi Arabia’s economic and social benefits for a brighter future.
Along with its many programs, the Doyof Al Rahman Program seeks to facilitate the pilgrimage experience for Muslims from all over the world. This is an exciting modernisation aiming at facilitating DIY Umrah and Hajj and eliminating the reliance on packages and tour groups. The program’s research examined the needs, concerns and experiences of thousands of pilgrims. As a result, many stages are planned to create a cohesive improvement in the Umrah and Hajj journey. This has facilitated improvement and awareness of the pilgrimage, and the Saudi Arabian government hopes to help 30 million Muslims by 2030.
What are the pros and cons of a DIY umrah?
Advantages of a DIY Umrah
- It can save you a lot of money, the bigger the group the bigger the savings.
- You are in control and can work around your personal dates and timings.
- You can organise your itineraries and include other places of interest to create a religious Ziyarat.
- By understanding Umrah and its procedures, you will strengthen your bond with Islam and God, and also increase your travel confidence and independence.
Disadvantages of a DIY Umrah
- You will not have a physical tour guide to walk you through every step.
- You will need time to prepare and inform yourself.
What are the essentials of a DIY Umrah?
- A visa
- A valid passport (valid for at least 6 months)
- Return flights (within the validity period of your visa)
- Accommodation in all cities you will visit
- Transportation between cities
- Flexibility (this allows for more savings and more choices)
- A Budget (knowing how much you are willing to spend helps prioritise your needs)
- A mahram if you are a woman under 45
What types of visas are there?
- An Umrah visa
- An Umrah e-visa
You can only visit Jeddah, Mecca and Medina with an Umrah visa.
All Umrah visas are valid for 2 weeks and the return flight must be within two weeks of the entry date. If you are performing Umrah during Ramadan, your return flight must be by the end of Ramadan and you cannot celebrate Eid in Saudi Arabia.
Other valid visas include:
- A tourist visa
- A tourist e-visa
The tourist visa is valid for one year, allowing travellers to enter and travel to Saudi Arabia for up to 90 days each time as well as multiple entries.
You can enter Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Medina and Al Bathaa land port. There is no airport in Makkah to preserve its sacred state.
Under no circumstances should you overstay your visa as this will result in you being blacklisted for future entries.
How can I apply for an Umrah visa? What are the requirements?
It is very easy to apply for visas online, but always check your country’s requirements as rules vary from country to country.
- Passport still valid for at least six months
- Passport size colour photograph
- Return flight tickets
- Original Umrah application
- Meningitis vaccination certificate
- Signed proof that you are Muslim if you have converted to Islam
You can also plan your Umrah via Nusuk, the first ever app dedicated to planning and organising your trip in Makkah and Madinah, every step of the way. The app was developed by the Saudi government.
Who can go to Umrah? Can I go to Umrah on my own (without mahram)?
All Muslims are encouraged to perform Umrah if they are financially and physically able to do so.
Women under the age of 45 cannot travel without a Mahram or with a group of women only.
Single women over the age of 45 can perform Umrah with an organised family group provided they submits a notarized No Objection Certificate from their mahram.
When is the best time to perform Umrah?
The best time to perform Umrah depends on your priorities:
Muslims who perform Umrah in Ramadan receive a reward equal to Hajj performed with the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) - Bukhari.
For the elderly or heat-shy Muslim, the winter months of December and January are the coolest in Saudi Arabia.
Muslims who want to complete Umrah as a family should consider school holidays, but flight prices tend to be higher on those dates.
The cheapest tickets can usually be found in January and February if you plan ahead.
Can I book a hotel for Umrah in Mecca and Medina with HalalBooking?
HalalBooking offers a wide range of properties in all the major cities of Saudi Arabia with prices to suit every budget.
It is important to ensure that your spiritual intentions are supported and facilitated when booking accommodation for your Umrah journey. HalalBooking understands religious requirements and will assist you with various arrangements before and during your stay.
HalalBooking’s unique filters allow all potential pilgrims to make careful choices consistent with the necessities of this journey to the House of God.
‘Price Match’ is an honest promise that HalalBooking will honour that price if you find accommodation for the same nights at a lower price.
HalalBooking also offers ‘free cancellation’ and ‘zero deposit’ options that take into account the unpredictability of last minute changes or predetermined paths that may deviate from planned goals. So you can have peace of mind knowing that HalalBooking always makes your accommodation search easier.
Can I book a transfer to Mecca/Medina with HalalBooking?
All properties available on HalalBooking include information on whether transport transfers are offered. Most hotels offer different types of transport such as private transfers, shuttle services, rental cars at different prices for all budgets and preferences.
What are the Umrah rituals?
Umrah consists of 6 steps:
Ihram is the holistic state of purity that includes mind, heart and body.
Mind and heart: The pilgrim must make Niyyah (a heartfelt intention) in order to perform Umrah.
Body: The pilgrim performs the spiritual ablution (Ghusl) and showers, shaves, cuts nails and trims all hair. He must then wear Ihram clothing and this is recommended after performing one of the daily prayers.
Male Ihram clothing consists of two plain, unsewn pieces of white cloth, face and head must not be covered.
For women, any loose-fitting headscarf (Khimar) and full hijab (hand and face must be shown) is permissible as long as it is free of adornments.
The pilgrim must recite Talbiyah, a dua invoked to submit to the service of God and to humble the ego.
لَبَّيْكَ ٱللَّٰهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ ٱلْحَمْدَ وَٱلنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَٱلْمُلْكَ لَا شَرِيكَ لَكَ
Meaning: “Here I am [at your service] O Allah, here I am. Here I am [at your service]. You have no partners (other gods). To You alone is due all praise and all excellence, and to You is due all sovereignty. There is no partner to You.”
The next step in Umrah is to circulate the Kaaba seven times. Tawaf, meaning to circumambulate the Kaaba, is an act that reflects the small and large movements of life; from the orbit of the sun and moon to the orbit around the nucleus of an atom.
Begin your tawaf at the Black stone (Hajat al-Aswad), which allows you to locate yourself when you have completed a full circle around the axis of Bayt- Allah (house of God).
At the beginning of this compulsory ritual of Umrah, recite the dua of “Bismillah wa-Allahu Akbar''. Recite any duas of your choice during your 7 physical journeys parallel to the creations of God around the Kaaba.
Men should jog slowly for the first three tawafs.
Women should walk normally the whole time.
Spiritual significance of Tawaf
Ibn Kathir, a Muslim theologian famous for his Tafsir (Quranic exegesis) of the Quran, explains the spiritual and cosmological significance of Tawaf. He explains that the Tawaf around the Kaaba is paralleled to the Tawaf angels perform around Al-Bayt Al-Ma’mur, the house of worship of Heaven. Therefore, the act of Tawaf is a spiritual bond that binds worship across the realms of God’s creation.
4. Maqam Ibrahim and Zamzam water
To complete Tawaf, pilgrims must recite the dua from Surah Baqarah, Ayah 125 and pray 2 rakats so that the Maqam Ibrahim is in between the pilgrim and the Kabah.
It is recommended to recite Surah Kafirun in the first Rakat and Surah Ikhlas in the second Rakat as did the Messenger (PBUH).
After completing this prayer, pilgrims are required to drink Zamzam water while standing and reciting the dua below. The pilgrim can also pour water over his head.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمَاً نَافِعَاًً وَرِزْقَاً وَاسِعَاًَ وَشِفَاءً مِنْ كُلِّ دَاءٍ
Meaning: "O Allah! I ask you for beneficial knowledge and plentiful sustenance and cure from every illness."
Pilgrims must now leave the Masjid al-Haram (the area surrounding the Kaaba) and recite the following dua:
بِسمِ الله وَالصّلاةُ وَالسّلامُ عَلى رَسولِ الله، اللّهُـمَّ إِنّـي أَسْأَلُكَ مِـنْ فَضْـلِك، اللّهُـمَّ اعصِمْنـي مِنَ الشَّيْـطانِ الرَّجـيم
Meaning: "In the name of Allah, and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah. O Allah, I ask You for Your favour. O Allah, guard me from the accursed devil."
The next ritual of Umrah, meaning "to walk, to strive ", makes the seven rounds between Safa and Marwah. It is recommended to recite this dua of intention as the Prophet (PBUH) did.
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ الله فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا وَمَنْ تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ الله شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ
Meaning: “Verily! As-Safa and Al-Marwah are of the Symbols of Allah. So it is not a sin for him who performs Hajj or ‘Umrah of the House (the Kaaba at Makkah) to perform the going between them (As-Safa and Al-Marwah). And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allah is All-Recogniser, All-Knower.”
During this part of Umrah, the pilgrim must make seven rounds between the hills of Safa and Marwah to imitate the actions of Hajar when she was looking for food for her son Ismail. A journey from Safa to Marwa counts as one round and from Marwa to Safa counts as the second round.
Men must run part of the way, which is clearly demarcated in green.
Upon reaching the hills, each time the following duas must be recited along with any personal duas.
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللهِ
Meaning: “Indeed Al-Safa and Al-Marwah from the places of worship of Allah…”
أَبْدَأُ بِمَا بَدَأَ اللهُ بِهِ
Meaning: “I begin with what Allah began with.”
اللهُ أَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ أَكْبَرُ ، اللهُ أَكْبَرُ
Meaning: “Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest.”
لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ، لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ ، أَنْجَزَ وَعْدَهُ ، وَنَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ ، وَهَزَمَ الأَحْزَابَ وَحْدَهُ
Meaning: “None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, without a partner. To Him belongs all sovereignty and praise and He is over all things omnipotent. None has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone. He fulfilled His promise, aided His slave and single-handedly defeated the allies.”
6. Ending Ihram
The ending of Ihram is a very simple action that breaks the state of purity.
Men are required to cut or shave their hair and change from Ihram clothing to normal clothing.
Women are required to cut a lock of hair the size of a fingertip.