On the 7th to 13th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, a pilgrimage begins. At this time of year, millions of able bodied Muslims journey to Mecca. This pilgrimage is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam and is an obligation of every Muslim man and woman.
The Story of the Pilgrimage
According to Hadith, or traditional teachings, the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, dates back to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham). It is believed that God ordered Ibrahim to send Hagar and Ismael, alone, into the dessert. Lost and thirsty, Hagar searched for water for her small child. Crying, Ismael stamped the ground and water sprang from the sands beneath his feet. That water became a well that is now known as the Well of Zamzam, which is in Mecca. In honor of this and just as the Prophet Muhammad had in the past, Muslims undertake a life affirming pilgrim to Mecca.
Dress for the Hajj
During the Hajj, there are strict dress codes for men and women. Male pilgrims are required to dress the ihram. Women pilgrims are to wear the hijab.
The Ihram and Dress
Ihram is a state of being as well as the name of the garment worn during Hajj. Ihram represents holy virtue (simplicity, purity and virtue) and a pardon from all past sins. The garment consists of two sheets of white hem less cloth, with the top draped over the torso and the bottom secured by a white sash.
During Hajj, men cannot wear gold jewelry, such as rings and watches. They should not wear items made of silk or other items that are considered adornments. Also, head coverings are not allowed, and footwear should not cover the ankles.
While in the state of Ihram, men must not tie any knots or wear stitched items, including sandals. A money belt is the only exception to an accessory for the Ihram.
The Hijab and Dress
Per the four major Sunni schools of thought, a woman’s entire body, except for her hands and face should be covered for Hajj. Her garment the hijab is a standard white garment, which is neither form fitting or flashy. Modest long skirts and shirts can substitute as long as they cover all required parts of the body.
A khimar or shaylah, a scarf or cowl, can be worn to cover the head. And, as with men, foot ware cannot cover the ankles. And no adornments are allowed.
As for little girls, the hijab is not required until the child is older, preferring after reaching puberty.
The Significance of Dress for Hajj
The reason for such a strict dress code for the pilgrims lies in the reason for the pilgrimage itself. Hajj rituals are set to discourage negative aspects of human frailty, such as pride, vanity, greed, conceit, and promiscuity.
The pilgrimage is to serve as a spiritual cleaning. Dress for Hajj should make people feel humbled and more empathic toward the concerns of others, especially the poor and the needy. The pilgrim is designed to promote a sense of connection between pilgrims and to other brothers and sisters of Islam.
The pilgrimage to Mecca stands as one of the important pillars of Islam. Each Muslim in there lifetime must journey to Mecca and seek spiritual cleaning and clarity. Dress codes are strict and if not complied with can invalidate a pilgrimage.
For more information regarding Hajj and dress codes, there are several useful sources in local bookstores and libraries. There are also helpful website that can be found on the Internet, such as the following: