The first group of Tajik Muslims is expected to fly to Mecca for ‘minor’ pilgrimage, Umrah, in late January next year.

Representative of Rasoul Company, which is engaged in sending local Muslims to ‘minor pilgrimage’, says the Saudi authorities had earlier noted that they are ready to accept Umrah pilgrims from abroad beginning on November 1.  “However, we have not yet got the letter of consent from Saudi authorities on performing Umrah,” he said.  

“This year we have not received many applications from citizens for Umrah pilgrimage,” said Rasoul Company representative.  “This is probably due to the pandemic and the restrictions that the authorities of Saudi Arabia have introduced.” 

According to data from the Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA) under the Government of Tajikistan, 3,273 Tajik Muslims performed Umrah last year.   

Recall, Saudi Arabia allowed international pilgrims to perform Umrah on November 1 after a seven-month hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak.  The move was part of gradual Saudi measures to ease restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the virus in the kingdom.

Under the new measure, 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshipers per day are reportedly allowed to perform the ritual at the Grand Mosque, where the Kaaba is located.  

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hajj pilgrimage last year was limited to those living in Saudi Arabia, and pilgrims from abroad were not accepted. 

The ʿUmrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

In Arabic, ‘Umrah means “to visit a populated place.”  In the Sharia, Umrah means to perform Tawaf round the Ka‘bah and Sa'i between Safa and Marwah, both after assuming Ihram (a sacred state).  Ihram must be observed once traveling by land and passing a Miqat like Zu 'l-Hulafa, Juhfa, Qarnu 'l-Manāzil, Yalamlam, Zāt-i-'Irq, Ibrahīm Mursīa, or a place in al-Hill.  Different conditions exist for air travelers, who must observe Ihram once entering a specific perimeter about the city of Mecca.  It is sometimes called the 'minor pilgrimage' or 'lesser pilgrimage', the Hajj being the 'major' pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it.  The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

A certain type of the Umrah exists depending on whether or not the pilgrim wishes to perform Umrah in the Hajj period, thus combining their merit.

When performed alongside the Hajj, Umrah is deemed one of “enjoyment” (Umrat al-tamattu) and is part of a fuller Hajj of enjoyment (Hajjul tamattu).  More precisely, the rituals of the Umrah are performed first, and then the Hajj rituals are performed.

Otherwise, when performed without continuing to perform Hajj, the Umrah is considered a “single” Umrah (Umrah Mufradah).