Each year millions of Muslims perform the hajj pilgrimage, convening in the holy city of Makkah, in modern day Saudi Arabia, to enact rites laid down in Islam’s holy book, the Quran.
The first step for any pilgrim wishing to perform hajj is to enter a state of Ihram, believed to be a special state of spiritual purity.
Men must don a distinctive outfit consisting of two pieces of white, unsown, cloth. One of the pieces is wrapped around his midriff to cover his lower body, while the other is draped around his shoulders to cover his upper body.
Women must cover their bodies in a loose fitting outfit and cover their hair. However, they are not permitted to cover their faces.
It is not just about being physically prepared; pilgrims must complete their Ihram by reciting an intention to perform hajj called the Talabiya.
Once the pilgrim has entered the state of Ihram, the following, among other acts, is prohibited:
1- Removing hair or cutting nails. However, if hair falls or is pulled out unintentionally, or if hair or nails are cut due to forgetfulness or ignorance of the prohibition, it is excused.
2- Using perfume or scent on the body or clothing is also not permitted. What remains on the body from before assuming the state of Ihram is excused, but scent in clothing must be washed out.
3- Also not allowed is hunting land animals or cooperating in that by chasing or pointing out game within the boundaries of the Grand Mosque.
4- Cutting or uprooting trees or green plants within the boundaries of the Grand Mosque that were not planted by man is an act that is forbidden.
5- Picking up anything dropped or lost in Makkah by anyone, unless to assist in finding the owner.
6- Engaging in sexual relations with one’s spouse is also forbidden whilst in the state of Ihram.