The Clear Quran

Why the White Garment? The Deep Significance of Ihram During Hajj


Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, is one of the five pillars of Islam and a journey of profound spiritual significance. During the sacred practices that are performed during Hajj, we  notice that there is a special emphasis on the requirement that pilgrims must wear the white Ihram during their pilgrimage. One must ask themselves, what is it about a white garment that is wrapped in a certain way, that is so special to Allah (SWT) that millions of people wear it as they worship Him? For starters, these garments symbolize purity, unity, and equality before Allah (SWT). In this article, we will explore the history and significance of Hajj garments, providing a deeper understanding of their importance in the pilgrimage, and to make your Hajj experience all the more empowering and impactful. 

The Origin and Historical Context of Ihram

While we know that the Ihram pilgrims wear is the color white because it represents purity and modesty, we must also ask where did the adorning of the Ihram come from? What does it mean? Why is it wrapped in a certain way around our bodies? Is there a significance to the way that it is worn? Why does the Ihram of women look different than the Ihram of men? 

According to an article from The Pilgrim, not only is the Ihram something you wear, but it is also a state of mind that a pilgrim must be in at all times during Hajj, and Umrah. The article also points out that “the term is also often used to refer to the state of a [worshiper] must be in to perform salat five times a day.” In the state of Ihram, there are many things a pilgrim must do that promotes purity and cleanliness. A pilgrim must cut their nails down to a certain length. There should be no engaging in sexual activities. The use of fragrances or scents of any kind must be avoided. Animals should be treated with respect, and that prohibits chasing animals, hunting them, or killing. Trees in the area inside the Grand Mosque must be left alone and should not be cut down as they were not planted by man. Theft is prohibited, as well as any and all sins. 

Ihram for men contains two white pieces of garments, and for women, they are to wear a full-length gown that does not stick to their forms. Before wearing the Ihram, the pilgrim must make the intention for either Hajj or Umrah. Once the intention has been made, the Ihram has been worn, and other steps are completed for cleanliness, they must then pass through Miqat. No pilgrims can cross beyond the point of Miqat unless they are in a full state of Ihram. 

In a hadith from Sahih Bukhari, Abdullah ibn Umar narrates that when a man stood up and asked the Prophet (SAW) what needs to be worn for Hajj, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) replied, “Do not wear a shirt, or pants, or turban, or a hooded cloak. If someone has no shoes, he may wear leather socks if they are cut lower than his ankles. Do not wear any perfume or fragrance. The woman prepared for pilgrimage should not cover her face or wear gloves.” 

Historical Roots:

The tradition of wearing Ihram dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim (as) and his son Ismail (as), who built the Kaaba in Makkah. According to Islamic tradition, the practice of Hajj, including the wearing of Ihram, was restored and standardized by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The Prophet’s farewell pilgrimage, known as Hajj al-Wada, serves as a key reference for the rites of Hajj, including the attire worn by pilgrims.

Quranic and Hadith References:

The significance of Ihram is highlighted in various Quranic verses and Hadith. In Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 197, Allah (SWT) says, “˹Commitment to˺ pilgrimage is made in appointed months. Whoever commits to ˹performing˺ pilgrimage, let them stay away from intimate relations, foul language, and arguments during pilgrimage. Whatever good you do, Allah ˹fully˺ knows of it. Take ˹necessary˺ provisions ˹for the journey˺—surely the best provision is righteousness. And be mindful of Me, O  people of reason (The Clear Quran®, 2:197).” 

In Surah Al-Ma’idah, Allah (SWT) then instructs on what is prohibited in the state of Ihram in verse 95, “O  believers! Do not kill game while on pilgrimage. Whoever kills game intentionally must compensate by offering its equivalence—as judged by two just men among you—to be offered at the Sacred House, or by feeding the needy, or by fasting so that they may taste the consequences of their violations. Allah has forgiven what has been done. But those who persist will be punished by Allah. And Allah is Almighty, capable of punishment (The Clear Quran®, 5:95).” 

There are also many hadith from the Prophet (SAW) on Ihram. In a hadith he says, “[…] do not wear anything perfumed with Wars or saffron, and the Muhrima (a woman in the state of Ihram) should not cover her face, or wear gloves.”

The Components of Ihram

For Men:

Men’s Ihram consists of two white, unstitched sheets of cloth. One piece is wrapped around the waist, covering the lower body, while the other is draped over the shoulders, covering the upper body. The simplicity and uniformity of the garments signify equality and humility before Allah (SWT). 

For Women:

Women’s Ihram is less prescriptive in terms of specific garments. Women generally wear modest, plain clothing that covers the entire body, leaving only the face and hands visible. The attire should not attract attention and should adhere to the principles of modesty in Islam.

Symbolic Significance of Ihram

Unity and Equality:

One of the most profound aspects of Ihram is its representation of unity and equality. By wearing simple, identical garments, all distinctions of wealth, social status, and nationality are removed. Pilgrims stand together in the same attire, signifying that in the eyes of Allah (SWT), everyone is equal. This unity is beautifully captured during the congregational prayers and the Tawaf, where millions of Muslims from diverse backgrounds worship together in harmony.

Purity and Humility:

The white color of the Ihram garments symbolizes purity and cleanliness. Pilgrims enter a state of Ihram with the intention of purifying their hearts and souls, seeking forgiveness and mercy from Allah (SWT). The simplicity of the attire reflects humility and a renunciation of worldly possessions and vanity.

Reminder of Death and the Afterlife:

Ihram garments also serve as a reminder of the shroud that Muslims are wrapped in after death. This symbolism encourages pilgrims to reflect on the transient nature of life and the importance of preparing for the Hereafter. It fosters a sense of spiritual awakening and a renewed commitment to leading a righteous and pious life.

The Process of Entering Ihram

Niyyah (Intention):

Before donning the Ihram garments, pilgrims must make the intention (Niyyah) to perform Hajj or Umrah. This intention is a crucial step, as it signifies the beginning of the sacred journey and the transition into the state of Ihram. The Niyyah is made verbally or in the heart, affirming the pilgrim’s devotion and commitment to fulfilling the rites of Hajj.


After wearing the Ihram garments, pilgrims recite the Talbiyah, a devotional prayer that expresses their readiness and eagerness to answer Allah’s call to pilgrimage. The Talbiyah goes as follows: “Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk, Labbayk Laa Shareeka Laka Labbayk, Innal-Hamda Wanni’mata Laka Wal-Mulk, Laa Shareeka Lak” (Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily, all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner). This chant is repeated frequently, instilling a sense of unity and devotion among the pilgrims.

Entering the Sacred Precincts:

Once in the state of Ihram, pilgrims proceed to Makkah to perform the Tawaf (circumambulation of the Kaaba) and other Hajj rituals. The state of Ihram must be maintained throughout the pilgrimage until the completion of the required rites, including the symbolic stoning of the devil, sacrifice, and shaving or cutting the hair.


The history and significance of the Hajj garments, or Ihram, reflect the profound spiritual journey that Muslims undertake during the pilgrimage. These garments symbolize unity, equality, purity, and humility, embodying the core values of Islam. By donning the Ihram, pilgrims not only prepare themselves physically for the Hajj but also embark on a path of spiritual purification and renewal.

Understanding the history and meaning behind the Hajj garments enriches the pilgrimage experience, allowing pilgrims to connect more deeply with the rituals and the divine purpose of their journey. As Muslims from around the world gather in Makkah, dressed in the simple, unifying attire of Ihram, they embody the timeless principles of their faith and the enduring spirit of Hajj.

May Allah (SWT) accept the Hajj of all who undertake this sacred journey and grant them the strength and guidance to fulfill their obligations with sincerity and devotion. Ameen.

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