Praying Two Rak`as Before `Umrah

Question and answer details
As-salamu `alaykum. Is it permissible to perform 2 rakahs as sunnah to make intention to perform hajj or `Umrah? I am worried if I make the salah it would be an innovation or is should one only verbalize ones intention? Jazak Allah khairan.
Ahmad Kutty

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

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Dear sister, we really thank you very much for your question and commend your eagerness to perform your `Umrah according the rules of Shari`ah.

Praying two rak`as as a sign of intention before performing Hajj or `Umrah is not prohibited, rather it is a sunnah that was done by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states,

According to the majority of scholars, it is recommended to pray two rak`ahs before assuming ihram for hajj or ‘Umrah. Many of them, however, consider it sufficient to do so after fardh Salah.

Therefore, praying two raka`has-prior to assuming ihram- cannot be deemed as an innovation. How can it be so while the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) assumed ihram after prayer?

It was reported that when the Prophet arrived in Dhul-Hhulayfah, he told his companions, "Last night a messenger from my Lord came to me and told me to pray in this blessed valley and then told me to intend to perform `Umrah with Hajj.” (Al-Bukhari)

So, there is no need to be rigid on this, although it is enough to assume ihram after fardh Salah.

Allah Almighty knows best.