Generally, Ihram relates to the uniform consisting of two white sheets to be worn by the male pilgrims on their pilgrimage to Kaaba. It must be noted that wearing Ihram is mandatory for all Muslims while performing Umrah in the sacred city of Makkah. When pilgrims gather in the Masjid-ul-Haram, all distinctions of class, culture, race, and most importantly the distinction of dress are eliminated. Everyone stands equal before the eyes of Allah (SWT). Pilgrims put aside their differences and gather under one religious umbrella to seek the rewards from the Almighty. The basic difference of clothing is put aside first. The uniformity of the dress establishes a collective identity of Muslims as a whole.
Ihram is much more than just dressing, it is a state of simplicity. The dress is worn to underline this fact. When one assumes the state of Ihram, there are some rules of Umrah that the pilgrims need to follow. Certain Halal things like wearing stitched clothes, using perfume or cutting hair are prohibited to him in the state of Ihram. Therefore, once a pilgrim decides to perform Umrah and form the intention, he must assume a state of purity and minimalism. This is the reason why pilgrims wear Ihram before embarking on Umrah.
• Performing Ghusl and Applying Perfume
Upon reaching the Miqat (site for entering the Ihram for Hajj and Umrah), pilgrims are recommended to have a bath and perfume themselves since that is what our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to do. After reaching Miqat, the Prophet (pbuh) would remove his sewn clothes and have a bath to enter the state of Ihram.
It was reported by Aisha (RA), "I used to perfume the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), for his Ihram before (putting on the clothes of) Ihram, and on removing the state of Ihram before offering Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka`bah)" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim
The Prophet (pbuh) also ordered Aisha (RA) when she was menstruating to take a bath and enter the state of Ihram. He also commanded Asma Bint Umays when she gave birth to a child, to clean herself and wear pads, and then to assume Ihram. Therefore, it is quite clear that women can enter Ihram during menstruation or postnatal bleeding after cleaning themselves and perform the rituals like other pilgrims except Tawaf around the Kaabah.
• Clip Nails and Pluck Hair
Before assuming Ihram, it is recommended to trim the moustache, shave hair of the armpits, remove pubic hair and cut the nails. Pilgrims should do this to avoid removing hair during Ihram and because the Prophet (pbuh) commanded to take care of these things at all times.
It was reported by Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra (pure instinct): Circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, cutting the moustaches short, clipping the nails, and depilating the hair of the armpits." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
It was also related by Anas (RA) when he said, "The Prophet (peace be upon him) told us to cut the moustaches short, clip the nails, remove the hair under the armpits, and shave the pubic hair at least every forty days. (Sahih Muslim)
However, it is prohibited to either cut or trim the beard at any time. Rather, it should be allowed to grow, as it was narrated in the Hadith by Ibn `Umar (RA) that the Prophet (pbuh) said,
“Do the opposite of what the pagans do; keep the beards and cut the moustaches short."
Moreover, it was also related by Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Prophet (pbuh) said,
“Trim closely the moustaches, and let the beards grow; and thus act against the Magi."
Male Muslims are required to wear the two unstitched white sheets called an Izar (the sheet worn below the waist) and a Rida (a sheet covering the upper body). They are also recommended to wear sandals or slippers that leave the upper foot uncovered.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "One should assume Ihram (for Hajj and Umrah) while wearing an Izar, a Rida, and a pair of sandals."
Female pilgrims are allowed to assume Ihram wearing whichever colored clothes they like; the only condition is that they should not imitate men in their dress. However, women are not permitted to wear a face veil and gloves in the state of Ihram. The Prophet (pbuh) forbade women to wear veil and gloves while in Ihram.
After purifying the body and putting on the Ihram clothing, a person should silently form the intention of entering the state of Ihram for Umrah. The intention is the most important part of the rituals as Prophet (pbuh) said,
"(The rewards of) deeds are based on intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what they have intended."
It is also permissible to pronounce the intention followed by Talbiyah in loud and clear voice. However, it is preferred to utter Talbiyah after getting in the car or any other mode of transport a pilgrim is using.
The Prophet (pbuh) pronounced the Talbiyah after settling on his camel and upon setting out from the Meeqat.
Note: It is recommended to consult and seek an opinion from scholars on doubtful Islamic matters.