Step 5: Assume Ihram
Ihram is a sacred state of purity that all Muslims must assume before performing the rites of Umrah and Hajj and must be maintained for the duration of the rituals. Ihram requires certain physical actions and behavioural changes, but make no mistake: the true state of purity is achieved spiritually by proclaiming the intention to sincerely perform Umrah/Hajj and by reciting the Talbiyah prayer. Therefore, someone who assumes Ihram externally but does not have a sincere belief in his heart, is not truly fulfilling Ihram. Men and women enter Ihram differently; see details below.
Men: shave, comb, trim or shape your facial hair, trim your nails, and remove unwanted body hair. Bathe (or perform wudu, partial ablution) with the intention of Ihram, but do not apply cologne or other scents. Sincerely repent of your sins.
Dress in clean, simple Ihram sheets: wrap one around your waist and wear the other over your upper body. Wear simple sandals or flip-flops that do not cover the top of your foot. Avoid covering your head. These simple garments signify the equality of all before God: the richest king and the humblest beggar wear the same clothes on Hajj.
Women: Just like men, you should shave and groom yourself, bathe, avoid applying perfumes, etc. You should also avoid makeup or other cosmetics. However, apart from the required sandals, women do not have special clothing for Ihram; your normal clothing should be worn, as long as it is clean and modest.
Note that in Islam, covering the head with a veil, scarf, etc. it is a “compulsory” attire for women and must also be performed at the Hajj.
Step 6: Declare your intention and say the Talbiyah
A special boundary called the Miqat surrounds the holy places of the Hajj. Pilgrims cannot cross this boundary without having reached the pure state of Ihram. When a pilgrim in the state of Ihram approaches the Miqat at one of the six historical entry points, he recites the Niyyah, a short recitation of his intention to complete Umrah. Then, on the Miqat, the pilgrim recites the Talbiyah, a prayer that will be repeated often during the pilgrimage. The words of the Talbiyah are:
- Labbayk Allah humma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Innal hamda wan-ni’mata laka wal-mulk, laa shareeka lak.
- “Here I am, O Allah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You do not have a partner, here I am. Verily, all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to You. You do not have a partner.”
- If he or she has not yet entered the state of Ihram, the pilgrim must do so on the Miqat before crossing.
- Note: It is tradition to enter these sacred entrances and most other sacred buildings with the right foot first.
Step 7: Proceed towards the Ka’bah – the most sacred location in Islam.
Do Tawaf. Tawaf is a ritual in which Muslims surround the Ka’bah. To begin with, men must ensure that their Ihram attire is properly arranged; make sure the top sheet goes under the right arm and over the left shoulder, exposing the right shoulder. Next, everyone should face the Ka’bah so that the Black Stone is on their right. Do another Niyyah for Umrah, saying: Allah huma inee ‘ureedul ‘umrata fa yasir haa lee wata qabal haa min nee (O Allah, I perform Tawaaf of Umrah to please you. Make it easy for me and accept it from me).
- Then start moving to the right. Approach the Black Stone (the eastern cornerstone of the Ka’bah) and, if possible, kiss it. If you can’t get close enough to kiss him, you can touch him with your hand. If you cannot get close enough to touch or kiss it, bring your hands to your ears, palms facing the Black Stone, and recite this short prayer: Bismillahi Allahu akbar wa lilah hil-hamd. Don’t push or fight for a chance to touch the Black Stone.
- Begin to circle the Ka’bah. Walk counterclockwise so that the Ka’bah is on your left. Circle the Ka’bah seven times, praying as you go. There are no designated prayers for Tawaf, so you can use the ones from your daily life or just pray from your heart. You can also point to the Black Stone whenever you walk past it.
- When you have completed seven circles, you are done. Men can now cover their right shoulder.
Step8: Perform Sa’ey
Sa’ey means “search” or “ritual walk”. In practical terms, it means walking back and forth seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, which are located to the south and north of the Ka’bah, respectively. Originally, this was done in the open air, but today, the entire path is enclosed in a long gallery.
- When you reach the top of Safa, recite another Niyyah, saying: Allah huma inee ureeduss sa’ ya baynas safaa wal marwata sab ‘ata ashwaatin lilaahi ta’aala fa yasir hoo lee wata qabal hu minee. (O Allah! I intend to perform seven rounds of Sa’ey between Safa and Marwah to please you. Make it easy for me and accept it from me) Then add: Inn-as-Safa wal-Marwa-ta min Sha ‘aa’irillah (Indeed, Safa and Marwah are among the Signs of Allah). Finally, face the Ka’bah and recite “Allahu Akbar” three times. Add any additional prayers you like, then continue to Marwah.
- As you go towards Marwah, recite: Subhan-Allah, wal-hamdu-lillah, wa la ilaha ill-Allah, wallahu Akbar, wa la haula wa la quwwata illa-billa, or, if you cannot remember this, use the form abbreviated, Subhanallah, Alhamdu Lillah, Allahu Akbar. You can add any sentences you want. At the top of Marwah, repeat the glorification of God while looking towards the Ka’bah, then walk down the hill again.
- When you’ve walked back and forth seven times, you’re done.
Step 9: Have your hair shaved or clipper
After completing the Sa’ey, men must completely shave their hair or cut it short; both are allowed, although shaving is preferable. However, a man may not want to shave his head completely during Umrah if he plans to complete the Hajj rites in the coming days, which also include shaving. Women should not shave their heads, but may instead cut off a lock of hair or trim their hair several inches short.
After the ritual haircut, the Umrah is completed and the Ihram restrictions are lifted. You can return to your normal activities, wear your normal clothes, etc. However, if, like many pilgrims, you will be proceeding to complete the Hajj in the next few days, know that you will need to re-enter Ihram to do so.
Continue to Part 3 (Last Part)