The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no true god except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing Prayer, paying the zakah, making the pilgrimage to the Sacred House (Hajj), and fasting the month of Ramadan” (Al-Bukhari).

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada , states the following:

In order for Hajj to be valid or proper, the following pillars as well as essentials must be fulfilled:
First let me list the pillars (arkan; singular rukn) without which one misses the Hajj altogether; then we will list the essentials.
The pillars of Hajj are intention and ihram, standing in the plains of Arafat, performing Tawaf Al-Ifadah and the ritual of Sa`i (running) between the hills of Safa and Marwah, and, finally, shaving or trimming the hair.
Although no one doubts the importance of any of the above, the above list is according to the Shafi`i School; the Hanafis, however, do not consider ihram as a pillar (rukn) but as a condition for the validity of Hajj, which is the same thing. Hanafis consider shaving or trimming hair not as a pillar but as an essential.
The essentials (wajibat) are the following:

1. Ihram at the prescribed station (miqat) or prior to reaching there. It must be done during the months of Hajj.

2. Pelting the stone pillars.

3. Sacrifice for those who perform tamattu` or qiran forms of Hajj. If they cannot afford it, they can expiate through fasting.

4. Shunning all the sinful activities and all actions and behavior that may invalidate the Hajj.

5. Tawaf of arrival is essential according to Malikis, although no one denies its importance.

6. Salah of Tawaf is essential according to Hanafis, but others consider it a Sunnah.

7. Sa`i between the two hills is an essential according to Hanafis, which can be compensated for by sacrifice if a person misses it; but others consider it as rukn.

8. Shaving or trimming of hair is wajib according to three schools; it is rukn according to Shafi`i.

9. Farewell Tawaf is essential (wajib)according to imams Abu Hanifah, Shafi`i, and Ahmad; but it is sunnah according to Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with them all).

10. Spending at least some time during the night in Muzdalifah while returning from Arafat before proceeding to Mina.

It should be made clear that none of the above mentioned imams consider any of the above as less important; they are only differing about the precise technicality of describing each of the above mentioned rites.

Finally, while the form of Hajj is important, the spirit and soul of Hajj are also important. They are related to focusing on the inner aspects of Hajj. At the heart of Hajj is remembrance of Allah and readiness to respond to His call, and fulfilling it with a spirit of utter love and devotion. For this I recommend that one read the Four Pillars of Islam by Mawlana Sayyid Abu Hasan `Ali Nadvi. May Allah make your Hajj a Hajj mabrur (virtuous and accepted Hajj). Ameen.

As regards `Umrah, the following is its description:

`Umrah is composed of four things, namely: ihram, circumambulation of the Sacred House (tawaf), sa’i between al-Safa and al-Marwah, and shaving the head or cutting the hair.

1 – Ihram.

When the pilgrim wants to enter ihram, he should change his clothes and do ghusl like the ghusl done to cleanse oneself of janabah (impurity following sexual activity). Then he should apply whatever perfume is available, musk or whatever, to his head and beard. It does not matter if traces of that perfume remain after he enters ihram

Then after doing ghusl and putting on perfume, the pilgrim should put on the ihram garments and – apart from women who are bleeding following childbirth or menstruating – pray the obligatory prayer if that is at the time of an obligatory prayer, otherwise they should  pray two rak’ahs with the intention of the Sunnah prayer of wudu’. When the pilgrim has finished praying he should face the Qiblah and enter ihram.

Then he should say, Labbayk Allahumma bi ‘Umrah (Here I am, O Allah, for ‘Umrah).

A woman should recite in such a manner that those who are beside her can hear it, unless there is a man beside her who is not one of her Mahrams, in which case she should recite it silently.

The Muhrim (person who has entered ihram) should recite the Talbiyah a great deal, especially when circumstances and times change, such as when going up to a high place or going down to a low place, or when night or day begin. After that he should ask Allah for His good pleasure and for Paradise, and seek refuge in His Mercy from the Fire.

The Talbiyah is prescribed in ‘Umrah from the moment one enters ihram until one starts Tawaf. When he starts Tawaf he should stop reciting the Talbiyah.

When the pilgrim approaches Makkah, he should do ghusl before entering, if possible, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did ghusl when he entered Makkah. Narrated by Muslim, 1259.

2 – Tawaf

Then when he enters al-Masjid al-Haram he should go to the Black Stone in order to start tawaf. He should touch the Stone with his right hand and kiss it; if he cannot kiss it then he should touch it with his hand and kiss his hand. If he cannot touch it with his hand then he should face the Stone and point to it with his hand and say “Allahu akbar”, but he should not kiss his hand.

In Tawaf men should do two things:

1 – Uncovering the right shoulder (idtiba’) from the beginning of tawaf until the end. This is done by placing the middle of the rida’ (upper garment) beneath the right armpit and the ends of the rida’ over the left shoulder. When the pilgrim finishes tawaf, he should put his rida’ back as it was before tawaf, because the time for wearing it with one shoulder uncovered is only in tawaf.

2 – Raml in the first three circuits only. Raml means walking quickly with short steps. In the last four circuits there is no raml, rather the pilgrim should walk normally.

When the pilgrim has completed seven circuits of tawaf, he should cover his right shoulder and then go to the Station of Ibraheem (Maqam Ibraheem) and recite the words:

“And take you (people) the Maqam (place) of Ibraheem (Abraham) [or the stone on which Ibraheem (Abraham) stood while he was building the Ka‘bah] as a place of prayer (for some of your prayers, e.g. two Rak‘at after the Tawaf of the Ka‘bah at Makkah),” [al-Baqarah 2:125]

Then he should pray two rak’ahs behind the Station; in the first rak’ah after reciting al-Fatihah he should recite Ya ayyaha’l-kafiroon ( Surat al-Kafirun 109) and in the second Qul Huwa Allahu ahad (Soorat al-Ikhlas 112). Then when he has finished this prayer he should go to the Black Stone and touch it if he can. It is prescribed at this point to touch it only; if he cannot do that then he should go away and not point to it.

3 – Sa’i

Then he should go out to the Mas’a (place for sa’i) and when he comes near to al-Safa’ he should recite (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily, As-Safa and Al-Marwah (two mountains in Makkah) are of the Symbols of Allah” [al-Baqarah 2:158]

And he should say: “Nabda’u bima bada’a Allah bihi (We start with that with which Allah started).”

Then he should climb al-Safa until he can see the Ka’bah, then he should face it and raise his hands and praise Allah, and make du’a’ as he wishes. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to say: “La ilaha ill-Allah wahdahu la shareeka lah, lahu’l-mulk, wa lahu’l-hamd, wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadeer. La ilaha ill-Allah wahdah, anjaza wa’dah, wa nasara ‘abdah, wa hazama al-ahzaba wahdah (There is no god but Allah alone, with no partner or associate; His is the Dominion, all praise is due to Him, and He is able to do all things. There is no god but Allah alone; he fulfilled His promise, granted victory to His slave, and defeated the confederates alone).” Narrated by Muslim, 1218.

He should repeat that three times, and make du’a’ in between. He should recite this dhikr then make du’a’, then recite it again and make du’a’, and recite it a third time, then come down to al-Marwah, and not make du’a’ after the third time.

When he reaches the green marker he should run as quickly as he can without disturbing anyone, because it was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did sa’i between al-Safa and al-Marwah, and he said, “The river bed is not crossed except with vigour.” Narrated by Ibn Majah and classed as saheeh by al-Albani in Saheeh Ibn Majah, 2419.  The river bed [it was a dried river bed in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] is the area between the two green markers that stand there now.

When he reaches the second green marker, he should walk normally until he reaches al-Marwah. He should climb up it and turn to face the qiblah, and raise his hands and say what he said at al-Safa. Then he should come down from al-Marwah and head for al-Safa, walking in the place of walking and running in the place of running. When he reaches al-Safa he should do what he did the first time, and the same when he goes back to al-Marwah, until he has completed seven circuits; going from al-Safa’ to al-Marwah is one circuit, and coming back from al-Marwah to al-Safa is another circuit. During his sa’i he can say whatever he likes or dhikr and du’a’, and recite Qur’an.

4 – Shaving the head or cutting the hair

When he has completed seven circuits (of sa’i) he should shave his head if he is a man, or cut some of his hair. If he shaves his head he must shave his entire head, and if he cuts his hair he must cut from all over his head. Shaving is better than cutting because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) made du’a’ three times for those who shaved their heads and once for those who cut their hair. Narrated by Muslim

Women should cut the length of a fingertip from their hair.

With these actions, ‘Umrah is complete. So ‘Umrah consists of ihram, tawaf, sa’i and shaving the head or cutting the hair.