New Muslims Pilgrimage

How to Observe Ihram, the First Rite of Hajj?

By Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan

Definition of Ihram

Ihram (a state of ritual consecration during Hajj or ‘Umrah) is the first of the rites of Hajj, and it means the intention to start the rites. It is called ihram (which is derived from the Arabic word “haram“, i.e. forbidden or prohibited) because a pilgrim by assuming ihram prohibits himself from all the acts that have been permissible before being in this state, such as sexual intercourse, wearing perfume, clipping one’s fingernails, having one’s hair cut, or wearing certain kinds of clothes.

To illustrate, Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

“A man is not considered in a state of ihram once he intends, with his heart, to perform Hajj, for the intention is already in his heart since he has left his hometown (heading for Mecca). So, there must be specific words or deeds through which he becomes in a state of ihram.”[1]

The clothing of ihram reminds one of death, the shroud of dead people, and the Day of Resurrection, and so on.

Recommended deeds to be observed before Ihram:

1. Taking a ritual bath

The Prophet (PBUH) used to do so before assuming ihram[2].

This is also because bathing is a better and more comprehensive way of cleaning and ridding oneself of any undesired smell. Moreover, having a bath upon assuming ihram is also required for a woman in a state of postnatal bleeding or menstruation, for the Prophet (PBUH) commanded Asma Bint ‘Umays, who was in a state of confinement, to take a bath before assuming ihram as related by Imam Muslim[3]. He (PBUH) also commanded ‘A’ishah (his wife) to do the same though she was in her menstrual period[4].

The purpose of this is to clean the body, remove undesired smells and remove the impurity of menstruation or confinement.

2. Cleaning oneself perfectly well

It is desirable to clean oneself perfectly well, removing the hair which is legally enjoined to be removed, such as trimming the moustache, shaving the hair of the armpits, and shaving the pubic hair.

One should do this before assuming ihram because it will not be allowed when being in a state of ihram. Yet, removing such kinds of hair is not one of the prerequisites for ihram. In other words, if one does not need to trim or shave any of them, one is not obliged to do so; it is permissible to do so if needed.

3. Putting on perfume

It is desirable for a pilgrim to perfume oneself using whatever is available, such as musk, incense, rose-water, aloes, or the like, for ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:

“I used to scent Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) whenever he wanted to assume ihram and (also) on finishing ihram before circumambulating the House of Allah (i.e. before tawaf).”[5]

4. Wearing the ihram clothes

It is desirable for male pilgrims before ihram to take off all tailored or sewn clothes and wear something unstitched; the Prophet (PBUH) used to take off his tailored or sewn clothes and wear something unstitched – after taking a bath – to assume ihram[6]. So, a pilgrim should wear a white, clean unstitched loincloth wrapped round the lower part of the body, wrapping another sheet of white, clean, unstitched cloth round the upper part.Yet, it is permissible to replace the white color with any other color provided it is traditionally befitting men.

The wisdom of the ihram clothing

The idea behind this is to withdraw oneself from luxury and to have the feeling of a submissive servant of Allah through wearing such humble clothing.Moreover, such clothing always reminds one of being in a state of ihram, and thus one keeps alert and avoids committing the acts prohibited during ihram. The clothing of ihram reminds one of death, the shroud of dead people, and the Day of Resurrection, and so on and so forth. In addition, taking off sewn clothes before intending to assume ihram is an act of the Sunnah, but it is obligatory after assuming ihram. So, if a pilgrim intends assuming ihram while still wearing his ordinary sewn clothes, his ihram is considered valid, but he is then obliged to take such clothes off and put on the clothes of ihram.

By fulfilling the aforesaid prerequisites, a pilgrim is thus prepared to be in a state of ihram but such acts themselves are not called ihram as many people mistakenly believe; ihram means the intention of starting performing the rites of Hajj or ‘Umrah. Accordingly, a pilgrim is not considered in a state of ihram once he takes off his sewn clothes and wears the aforementioned clothing of ihram without having the intention of starting performing the rites of Rajj or ‘Umrah. This is because the Prophet (PBUH) said:

“Indeed, (the correctness and rewards of) deeds depend upon intentions…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The legal ruling concerning observing prayer before ihram:

As for praying before assuming ihram, the more valid opinion is that there is not a special kind of prayer to be offered before Ihram. However, if the time of ihram coincides with an obligatory prayer, then a pilgrim is to perform the obligatory prayer first then assume ihram. To illustrate, it was narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) assumed ihram immediately following performing (an obligatory) prayer[7]. Moreover, Anas reported that the Prophet (PBUH) performed the Dhuhr (Noon) Prayer then rode his mount beast[8], and when he came to the hill of Al-Bayda’ he raised his voice with talbiyah. The great Muslim scholar Ibnul-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him), said:

“It was never reported that the Prophet (PBUH) specified performing two rak’ahs (units of prayer)for assuming ihram; what was reported is that he performed the obligatory Dhuhr (Noon) Prayer before it.”[9]

A common mistake

It is important here to draw the attention of pilgrims to a very important matter; many pilgrims mistakenly believe that they have to assume ihram from the mosque in the site for ihram for them. As a result, many pilgrims, males and females, hurry to such mosques, overcrowding them, to start assuming ihram from there. They may also change their clothes there and wear the clothing of ihram while in fact all such issues are, by all means, baseless. Rather, Muslims are just required to assume ihram from the proper site for ihram for them, not specifically from the mosques therein.

They can assume ihram anywhere in such sites, and there is no specific place in a certain site from which a pilgrim is obliged to assume ihram. That is to say, pilgrims can assume ihram wherever is appropriate for them in their site for ihram, and this makes it easier for them and their fellows. This also spares pilgrims being exposed before one another or being jammed in certain places.

We would like to point out that those mosques in the sites for ihram were not there during the lifetime of the Prophet (PBUH), and that they were not built for the purpose of assuming ihram. However, they were built for the inhabitants of and around such places to perform prayer therein. This is very important to bear in mind, and may Allah grant us all success.

The three kinds of ihram:

A pilgrim is free to choose either the three kinds of ihram, namely tamattu’, ifrad, and qiran:


It means that a pilgrim assumes ihram for performing ‘Umrah during the months of Hajj, and then, after performing ‘Umrah, a pilgrim assumes ihram for performing Hajj in the same season.


It means that a pilgrim assumes ihram for performing Hajj only, keeping in the state of ihram until he finishes performing the rites of Hajj.


It means that a pilgrim assumes ihram for performing both ‘Umrah and Hajj together, or to assume ihram for ‘Umrah then, before starting the tawaf (circumambulating the Ka’bah) for ‘Umrah, a pilgrim intends performing both ‘Umrah and Hajj either from the miqat or before the tawaf of ‘Umrah. In this case, a pilgrim is to perform both tawaf and sa ‘y (going between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah) for both.

It is important to point out that a pilgrim who intends tamattu’ or qiran is obliged to slaughter a sacrificial animal if he is not a resident of Mecca. We should also know that the best of the aforesaid three ways of ihram is tamattu’ for various legal proofs.

Once a pilgrim assumes ihram in any of the aforesaid three ways, he is to chant talbiyah, saying; “Here I am at Your service, O Allah, here l am at Your service. Here I am at Your service, You have no partner, here I am at Your service. Verily, all praise, blessings, and dominion are Yours, You have no partner”

A pilgrim should raise his voice with talbiyah, saying it repeatedly.

[1] See: Majmu’ul-Fatawa (26/22, 108].

[2] Al-Tirmidhi (830) [3/192]

[3] Muslim (2900) (4/371] and (2941) [4/404].

[4] Muslim {2929) [4/392].

[5] Al-Bukhari (1539) [3/499] and Muslim (2818) [4/337).

[6] Al-Tirmidhi (830) [3/193].

[7] Al-Tirmidhi (819) [3/182) and Al-Nasa’i (2753) [3/176].

[8] Abu Dawud (1774) [2/258] and Al-Nasa’i (2661) [3/136].

[9] See: Zad al-Ma’ad.

The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence” with some modifications.

Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan is a Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence, Member of the Board of Senior Ulema & Member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research.

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New Muslims Pilgrimage

The Prohibited Acts of Ihram for Hajj or Umrah

By Editorial Staff

After setting off to Makkah (Mecca), the pilgrim carries out the first rite of pilgrimage, namely, ihram, which is a state of ritual consecration. There are certain places just outside Makkah called the miqats (entry stations to the Hajj or ‘Umrah), where the pilgrim must not exceed without being in a state of Ihram. You can take a ritual bath there and put on the ihram (the special plain clothing worn by Muslims on pilgrimage). In case it is not easy to do that at the miqat because you are travelling by plane, you can do that at home or before boarding the plane. The next step which must be done at the miqat is to make the intention for Hajj or ‘Umrah and begin reciting the Talbiyah.

Here I am at Your service, O Allah, here I am at your service! Here I am at your service!  You have no partner. Here I am at your service. All praise and blessings belong to you. All dominion is yours and You have no partner.

Once you have done this, you have to observe the regulations of Ihram.

Prohibited acts during ihram:

1. Men may not wear clothes with stitching or anything else made exactly to fit a part of the body

This includes trousers (except in case of necessity), shirts, socks, gloves, etc. The male pilgrims are also prohibited to cover their heads with anything that touches the head such as turbans, hats, caps, etc.

Ibn ‘Umar (RAA) narrated, ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was asked about what the person who is in a state of Ihram (Muhrim) should wear. He answered, “A person in the state of Ihram is not allowed to wear a sewn shirt, a turban, trousers, a hooded cloak, shoes or sewn slippers (Khuff), unless one is unable to find unsewn slippers, then he may wear his Khuff or shoes provided one cuts them below the ankles, and you must not wear clothing that has been dyed with sweet smelling fragrance (such as saffron and wars (a dye plant)).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

In case one forgets to buy the ihram clothing and he is on a plane, he can take off his clothes except for the trousers. He can get one when he arrives at Makkah.

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever cannot get an Izar (the lower garment) can wear trousers, and whoever cannot wear sandals can wear Khuffs (socks made from thick fabric or leather).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

As for women in a state of ihram, they must wear the clothes that covers the body except for the face and hands. Narrated Abdullah ibn ‘Umar:

The Ptophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “A woman in the state of Ihram may not wear a niqab or gloves.” (Al-Bukhari)

However, they are allowed to cover their face especially in presence of men. Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:

Riders would pass us when we accompanied the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) while we were in the sacred state (wearing ihram). When they came by us, one of us would let down her outer garment from her head over her face, and when they had passed on, we would uncover our faces. (Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

Although this chain of narration of this hadith is not authentic, there is another narration related by ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that supports this hadith to become authentic.

2. Putting on perfumes

After taking a bath, the pilgrim is recommended to put on perfume provided that this is done before making the intention or reciting the Talbiyah. Once a person has recited the Talbiyah, they may not put on perfumes any more. Although washing the head or taking a bath is allowed, using scented soap is not. ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:

“I used to scent Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) whenever he wanted to assume ihram and (also) on finishing ihram before circumambulating the House of Allah (i.e. before tawaf).  (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

In another hadith related by Al-Bukhary and Muslim, The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) commanded a man who was scented with perfume while in a state of ihram to wash the perfume off his body thrice. To reconcile these apparently contradictory hadiths, scholars interpret the perfume in the latter hadith to be of certain kinds called saffron and wars (a dye plant)

3. Marriage, proposals and marital relations

A person in a state of ihram is not allowed to marry, propose, have sexual intercourse, touch his or her spouse lustfully or speak about these things. Allah says,

The (time-frame of the) Hajj-Pilgrimage falls within the well-known months (at the end of the lunar year). So whoever determines to undertake the Hajj-Pilgrimage therein, then there shall be no sexual relations (rafath), nor ungodliness, nor disputation, during the Hajj-Pilgrimage. (Quran 2:197)

The word “rafath” here is general enough to include sexual relations and what leads to it such as fondling or kissing.

‘Uthman bin ’Affan (RAA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“A Muhrim (one in the state of Ihram) must neither marry himself, nor arrange the marriage of another one, nor should he make the proposal of marriage. (Muslim)

4. Using swear words and disputations

According to the above mentioned verse of the Quran, the pilgrim should not use swear words, fight or does anything that may be described as ungodly. Moreover, disputation is also not allowed except in cases of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is evil. However, this should also be done gently, wisely and with good admonition. Arguing with others for the sake of teaching them is also encouraged provided that this is done gently.

5. Shaving or cutting one’s nails

The pilgrim may not shave or remove hair from the head or the body without a legal excuse. The same legal ruling applies to cutting one’s fingernails or toenails. Allah says,

Yet you shall not (ritually) shave your heads until the charitable-offering reaches its destination (for sacrifice). As to whoever among you becomes sick, or has an ailment of the head (that requires shaving,) then the due redemption is fasting, or (giving) charity, or a (charitable-offering of) sacrifice. (Quran 2:196)

The following hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) further explains this verse of the Quran. Ka’b b. ‘Ujra (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be, upon him) stood near him and lice were falling from his head. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said:

Do these vermins trouble you? I said: Yes. Thereupon he said: Then shave your head; and it was in connection with me that this verse was revealed:

“As to whoever among you becomes sick, or has an ailment of the head (that requires shaving,) then the due redemption is fasting, or (giving) charity, or a (charitable-offering of) sacrifice.” (Quran 2:196)

He (the Holy Prophet, therefore) said to me: Observe fast for three days or give a quantity of alms enough to feed six needy persons or offer sacrifice (of an animal) that is available. (Muslim)

6. Killing or hunting anything

The person in a state of ihram may not hunt or help anyone who is hunting. Allah says,

O you who believe! Do not kill any game while you are in (the state of) pilgrim sanctity. And whoever among you kills any (game therein) deliberately, then the recompense (for him) shall be the like of what he has killed in (a charitable sacrifice of) cattle as two just men from among you shall so judge. It shall be (treated as) a charitable-offering (of sacrifice to God) brought to the Ka’bah (for the poor). Or, in atonement, (one shall offer its value in) food for the indigent (of the Sacred Precincts); or (one shall) render the equivalent of this (measure) in fasting so that he may taste the grievous consequences of his action. God has pardoned (of this) what has already passed. Yet whoever (willfully) repeats this (violation), then God will take vengeance on him. And God is overpowering, all-avenging (of evildoing). (Quran 5:95)

This state of Ihram continues till the pilgrim who performs hajj tamattu’ (performs the ‘Umrah separately before the Hajj) finishes the rites of the ‘Umrah. On the other hand, the person who is performing only the Hajj (ifrad) or combining the Hajj with the ‘Umrah (qiran) remains in the state of ihram till the 10th day of Dhul-hijjah.


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