Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
Considering that Hajj and ‘Umrah are both obligatory in our madhab, if one has the choice of performing one of them, which should take priority? This leads to another question, Hajj is a pillar of Islaam, because ‘Umrah is also obligatory, does that mean in the Shafi’i madhab, Hajj and ‘Umrah together are considered the Fifth Pillar?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
It is true that both Hajj and `Umra are obligatory in the Shafi`i school. This was the position of Imam Bukhari (Allah have mercy on him), who has a chapter in his Sahih called, “The Chapter of the Obligation and Merit of `Umra.” Within the chapter heading, Imam Bukhari (Allah have mercy on him) ascribes this position to the prophetic companion, our master Ibn `Umar (Allah be pleased with him). He also mentions that the companion, our master Ibn `Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) deduced this ruling from the verse of the Quran, “Complete Hajj and `Umra for Allah.” (2:196)
The dichotomy that you mention in your question rarely arises. Pilgrims generally make a single trip to Mecca for Hajj and perform `Umra during that same trip. This is done by followers of all schools of law, even those who don’t hold `Umra to be obligatory. Manuals of sacred law discuss this when they talk about the various ways of doing Hajj and `Umra in the same trip (in Arabic, these methods are called ifrad, tamattu`, and qiran). So although other schools differ with us at the theoretical level of whether or not `Umra is actually obligatory, they agree with us at the practical level of actually performing both Hajj and `Umra at the same time.
Scholars explain that the obligations of Islam are not restricted to the five pillars. Just because something isn’t a pillar of Islam doesn’t mean that it’s not obligatory, and just because something is obligatory doesn’t mean that it is a pillar of Islam. `Umra is one of the many obligations in our religion outside the five pillars mentioned in the famous hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
And Allah knows best.