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Ihram (إحرام iḥrām, from the triconsonantal root Ḥ-R-M) is, in Islam, a sacred state which a Muslim must enter in order to perform the major pilgrimage (Hajj) or the minor pilgrimage (Umrah). A pilgrim must enter into this state before crossing the pilgrimage boundary, known as Miqat, by performing the cleansing rituals and wearing the prescribed attire.
Ihram clothing is simply an item of clothing to be worn during the pilgrimage, but there are many competing views on the proper wearing of ihram. For example, the exact number of days a pilgrim is required to wear ihram varies according to the type of pilgrimage (Hajj) the individual is performing. The simple, white Ihram clothing is intended to make everyone appear the same, as Muslims believe that in the eyes of God there is no difference between a prince and a pauper. For women there is no clear prescription. Women's clothing, therefore, varies considerably and reflects regional as well as religious attitudes. In general female Hajji (women who have completed the Hajj) clothe themselves in long robes, covering the body from head to foot and leaving the face and hands exposed.
A person in the state of Ihram must not tie any knots or wear any stitched items. Sandals and flip flops must not be stitched either and should allow the ankle and back of foot to be exposed (some other schools of thought also agree that the front of the foot must be shown as well). Whilst in the state of Ihram a Muslim must also not use any scented things at all on himself or on the robes, if the robe has been fouled by najas (dirty) material, such as excrement, or has been wiped, rubbed or touched by scented liquids (intentionally) then a new ihram must be worn, otherwise there is a high possibility that the Umrah or Hajj will be invalidated.
Aside from being as clean as they are for prayer, male Muslims are expected to not cut their nails, trim their hair and beards, and have to wear Ihram clothing, which is a white, seamless garment. Many also shave their head as this is considered hygienic, but the vast majority wait until after they have finished Umrah or Hajj to shave their heads, as this is a requirement to leave the state of Ihram. Females are also expected be clean. During the pilgrimage, sexual activity, smoking, swearing, shaving and cutting one's nails are forbidden.
Other forbidden activities include killing animals, using profane language, quarrelling or fighting, and taking oaths, in addition to any other regularly prohibited acts. Males should also refrain from looking at women and women should exercise strict modesty in their appearance and not apply make-up, perfume (males must not wear deodorant) or any other cosmetics.
Also, Muslims are not allowed to use scented soap. Unscented soap is on sale for pilgrims during hajj though. All flirtatious, arrogant and rude thoughts are to be put aside, as well as day to day life. Muslims must forget about studies, business and relationships and focus on God.
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