After you have made the necessary
preparations - paid your debts, repented, absolved yourself of any
wrongdoing toward others, etc. - you are ready to take the first
step in the blessed journey: ihram.
What is ihram?
The word ihram is used for three meanings:
1. The two pieces of cloth worn by male
2. The very act of starting Hajj or `Umrah
by making the intention that one is now starting Hajj or `Umrah and
saying the Talbiyah.
3. The state of consecration in which the
pilgrims are during Hajj or `Umrah. After putting on ihram (first
meaning) and making the intention of ihram (second meaning), the
pilgrims enter automatically the state of ihram, which requires them
to avoid certain things. Below are more details on ihram in its
How do I put on ihram?
Cleanliness is recommended before putting
on the clothing of ihram. It is recommended that you clip finger and
toe nails, shave off armpit and pubic hair, comb the hair and beard,
trim the moustache, bathe (perform ghusl) or at least make wudu'.
Men, but not women, are also recommended to put on perfume.
For men, the clothing of ihram comprises
two sheets of cloth. One is wrapped round the upper part of the body
except the head. It is normally draped over both shoulders but in
certain times it is to be draped over one shoulder. This will be
discussed later. The other is wrapped round the lower part of the
body. You can fix this piece by a belt, a money belt, or a pin.
For women, the ihram is ordinary
loose-fitting clothes that cover all of the body except the face and
hands. In some countries it is a tradition for women to wear special
clothes, such as white dresses or black cloaks, for ihram, but this is
There are no restrictions as for women's
footwear. But for men, footwear should not cover the toes and ankles.
Socks and shoes, therefore, should not be used by men.
Putting on ihram is the first step in Hajj
and `Umrah. As mentioned above, you first put on ihram and then make
the intention of starting Hajj or `Umrah (the second meaning of
ihram). You can put on ihram in your home or wherever you want,
provided that when you intend to start Hajj or `Umrah, you are dressed
in the clothing of ihram.
As you will see later in this article,
there are prescribed places that you should not pass before putting on
ihram and making the intention of starting Hajj or `Umrah.
How, where, and when do I start
Now after putting on the clothing of ihram,
you are ready to start your pilgrimage by making the intention of
starting Hajj or `Umrah. It is recommended to make the intention after
performing one of the obligatory prayers or after praying two rak`ahs.
You express this intention by saying, in the case of `Umrah, "Labbayka,
Allahuma, `Umrah" (O Allah, I answer Your call by
performing `Umrah). As for Hajj, the intention varies according to the
mode of Hajj you choose:
1. In ifrad Hajj, you are
going to perform only Hajj and therefore you make the intention of
Hajj saying "Labbayka, Allahuma, Hajjan" (O Allah,
I answer Your call by performing Hajj).
2. In tamatu` Hajj, you are
going to perform a full `Umrah followed by a break and then a full
Hajj. Therefore, you make the intention of `Umrah saying "Labbayk,
Allahuma, `Umrah" (O Allah, I answer Your call by
performing `Umrah). On Dhul-Hijjah 8, you start Hajj so you make
then the intention of Hajj saying "Labbayk, Allahuma, Hajjan"
(O Allah, I answer Your call by performing Hajj).
3. In qiran Hajj, you are
going to combine `Umrah with Hajj, so you make the intention of both
`Umrah and Hajj saying "Labbayk, Allahuma, `Umratan wa
Hajjan" (O Allah, I answer Your call by performing `Umrah
There are certain places at which you
should make your intention. These places are called mawaqit (plural of
miqat). You should not pass your fixed miqat without putting on the
cloth of ihram and making the intention of ihram. These are five
1. Dhul-Hulaifah, a place
southwest of Madinah and 18 km from its mosque. It is the miqat for
the people coming from Madinah and beyond.
2. Dhat-`Iraq, a place 94 km to
the northeast of Makkah. It is the miqat for the people coming from
Iraq and beyond.
3. Al-Juhfah, a place 187 km to
the northwest of Makkah. This was the miqat for the people coming
from or passing through Syria and Egypt. It was on the eastern coast
of the Red Sea, but it has completely disappeared and Rabigh (to the
north of Al-Juhfah) is used as this miqat now.
4. Qarn Al-Manazil, 94 km to the
east of Makkah. It is the miqat for the people of Najd and the
pilgrims who pass by it.
5. Yalamlam, 54 km to the south of
Makkah. It is the miqat for those coming from Yemen and the pilgrims
who pass by it.
If you are traveling by land, it is easy to
stop at the miqat and make the intention. People traveling by air are
usually notified when reaching the miqat or a short time before so
that they can make the intention. In such a case you are supposed to
be ready, having put on your ihram clothing in advance.
As mentioned in the article "About
Hajj and `Umrah", there is a prescribed time for Hajj: the months
of Shawwal, Dhul-Qi`dah and Dhul-Hijjah. So making the intention of
Hajj should take place in the period from Shawwal 1 to
Dhul-Hijjah 9. It is not possible to start Hajj on Dhul-Hijjah 10 or
afterwards because this means missing the ritual of staying in `Arafah
on the day or night of Dhul-Hijjah 9, which is one of the pillars of
What are the prohibitions while in the
state of ihram?
Having started Hajj or `Umrah, you are now
in the state of ihram. From now until you finish the `Umrah or until
you are done with the major tasks of Hajj, you are supposed to abandon
certain things (called mahzurat al-ihram) or the don'ts of the state
of ihram. They are the following:
1. Clipping nails and shaving hair from
any part of the body.
2. Using perfume in any way.
3. Making foreplay, speaking lustful
words, touching your spouse with desire, and having sexual
4. Contracting marriage.
5. Hunting or eating from game meat.
Pilgrims are forbidden to hunt, help in hunting, or eat of any land
game prepared for their sake, at their suggestion, or with their
6. For men, covering the head or wearing
clothes sewn to fit the body's limbs. So wearing shirts, robes,
trousers, turbans, hats, gloves, socks, etc. is prohibited.
7. For women, wearing Niqab or gloves.