While the Hajj is compulsory in Islam, Umrah -- often referred to as the "little pilgrimage" -- is not.
However, the Umrah is recommended by the Holy Qur'an, and is a highly regarded practice in Islam.
(Truly, Safa and Marwa are among the landmarks of God, therefore anyone who performs the hajj or the umra he does no harm if he circumambulates them both) The Holy Qur'an, chapter 2, 153.
There is a close connection between the rituals of the Umrah and the Hajj, to the extent they are often mingled together. There are only minor differences between the first part of the Hajj and the entire Umrah, and according to some views a Hajj automatically includes the Umrah. However, some scholars say that the Umrah is only performed when it is as an independent ritual.
The Umrah, a strong symbol of Muslim piety, is a highly individual ritual, as there is practically nothing of its acts that require the presence of other people.
The only part which cannot be done all alone, is the shaving after all the other acts. But that is also not really a part of the Umrah — it only serves as a symbol of leaving the ritual of the Umrah.
The Umrah can be performed anytime throughout the year, with the exception of the days of the Hajj.
1- The pilgrim assumes ritual purity, called ihram, in a place which can be inside Makkah if he/she intends to perform both Umrah and Hajj at the same time, of outside Makkah if only the Umrah is to be performed.
2- Uttering of the "niya", which is the statement where the pilgrim tells what he/she is about to do. For the Umrah there are two possible "niyas", either he/she could be doing only the Umrah, or he/she could be doing both the Hajj and the Umrah.
3- Uttering of "labbaika", which is an Arabic term and normally translated with "at your service". The "labbaika" is followed by numerous sentences, all dealing with Allah or/and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
1- The pilgrim enters the main mosque in Makkah, through its northern door.
2- The pilgrim passes through the port of Banu Shaiba.
3- The pilgrim comes up to the Black Stone in the Ka'ba.
4- The pilgrim starts to circumambulate the Ka'ba seven times, walking against the clock. While doing this, prayers are said. The 3 first circumabulations are done at a speed of nearly running, while the last 4 are done at a normal walking speed.
5- The pilgrim presses his chest against the Ka'ba at a point midway between the Black Stone, and the door of the Ka'ba.
6- A short prayer, salat, is performed, consisting of 2 rak'as.
7- Water is drunk from the well of Zamzam.
1- The pilgrim leaves the mosque courtyard of the Ka'ba, and enters the lane that runs between two points right outside, called 'as-Safa and Marwa. The starting point is from 'as-Safa.
2- The pilgrim walks back and forth between these two points seven times. At each point he/she stops for a moment, in order to say a few prayers, and then continues. This ritual ends at Marwa.
1- The pilgrim leaves Marwa.
2- He/she will have his/her hair cut by a local barber, in order to mark the end of the Umrah