Millions of pilgrims travel to Makkah in order to carry out Umrah every year. The journey is important to restore faith and ask forgiveness from Allah for the sins committed in the past. Umrah has four major steps – Ihram, Tawaf, Saee, and Halq. Upon reaching Miqat, pilgrims have to acquire the state of Ihram. Ihram for women during Umrah differs from men. However, the intention of clothing remains the same: to avoid unwanted gaze and present themselves as equal to others in front of the almighty Allah.
Ihram is a sacred state that every pilgrim must acquire before entering Miqat (Umrah and Hajj boundaries) by changing into unstitched clothes for Umrah. The word also refers to the state a Muslim must be in before performing daily salat. Ihram symbolizes the will to relinquish material possessions for unison with Allah. It includes the purification and cleansing of spirit and body. After a pilgrim has entered the state, they are forbidden to:
- Shave or cut their hair intentionally
- Use a scent or scented products
- Cut down or uproot trees
- Commit sins intentionally
As every individual is equal in the eyes of the almighty Allah, Ihram focuses on similar values. There are some rules on the type of clothing men and women must wear before performing Umrah. Every man is supposed to wear two unstitched white clothes draped around their body. Whereas Ihram for women during Umrah does not oblige them to wear a particular clothing. The only Umrah Ihram rule for women is that they should wear opaque and loose-fitting clothes. They can wear light colors, plain and thick clothes that are clean and comfortable. The clothes should adequately hide all the body parts while offering prayer. White color is most preferable due to the hot weather in Makkah. If a woman is wearing white, she must ensure to wear white underclothing as other colors may shine underneath. They are advised to wear a large Hijab. It will assist in covering the whole body and protecting them from lustful evil eyes. It also acts as a symbol of respect they have in the world of men
- Women should not wear gloves and face veils as it will restrict them from receiving blessings of Allah the almighty.
- They are not allowed to clip or comb their hair after entering the state of Ihram.
- They should not wear glittery clothes, any jewelry, cosmetics and makeups, perfumes, and scented oils. The restriction assists in avoiding unwanted gaze and interruptions caused due to such products and materials. They are also prohibited from loudly chanting the Talbiyah. So they should recite Talbiyah very softly so that no other person (except the mahram or her family member) near her can hear her voice.
- They are forbidden from travelling for Umrah while in the middle of the menstrual cycle and plan accordingly. However, if the cycle starts after reaching Makkah, they can only perform Umrah once the cycle is over. Women bleeding after childbirth are also not allowed to perform Umrah.
- While attaining Ihram, ladies should remain at a safe distance from strangers and other men. They should stick to their mahram or the group. To accomplish this and avoid interactions with other men, the women are given separate space to perform Umrah rituals.
One of the utmost important factors while issuing visas to women for Umrah is the presence of Mahram or a male guardian. No visa is issued for Umrah to the ladies who are traveling alone. Women below 45 years of age are not allowed to travel without Mahram, while women above 45 years of age can perform Umrah without a mahram but in a group and not alone.
As mentioned, women are required to follow some basic rules and regulations in order to perform Umrah. Apart from the restrictions mentioned above, women should also understand and follow some prohibitions before performing Umrah. Ladies should strictly refrain from applying henna before or during Umrah. If it is necessary, then only women can apply unscented lotions and creams during the pilgrimage.
They should trim their hair and clip their nails before attaining Ihram. The women are advised to dress while respecting the cultural and religious sensibilities of the people of Saudi Arabia while attaining. They should strictly adhere to the guidelines while entering the holy city of Makkah. The most favored dress that women wear in Makkah is Salwar Kameez. Shiny and bright-colored underclothing is highly discouraged while wearing an abaya. Hence, most women choose to wear white underclothes inside. They are allowed to wear closed footwear, unlike men during Umrah. Fighting, speaking loudly, or abusing are considered wrong while performing Umrah.
The rules and regulations of Ihram for women during Umrah present above are taken partly from the religious guidance of Islamic scholars. Some of them are based upon the common practices and norms followed by worldwide women coming for Umrah. The intention of the rules is that the women perform Umrah without losing touch with Allah and remain safe during the complete pilgrimage.
If performed correctly, Umrah or the minor pilgrimage is highly rewarding as it expiates sins. People from around the world with cultural contrasts travel to Makkah to perform Umrah. Therefore, it becomes of utmost significance that they maintain and understand the sentiments of Saudi Arabia and its people. Not just women but men are also suggested to read the rules and regulations for Ihram and other rituals performed in Umrah. Also, one must remain vigilant for the travel and visa regulations after the COVID-19 pandemic. Umrah and Hajj authorities keep updating their guidelines due to the pandemic for ensuring safe travel for everyone. People can visit the government website for Hajj and Umrah travels to know more about these guidelines. Further, more than the guidelines, the intention matters the most; hence, one must highly focus on performing Umrah correctly.