THE spirit of Haj is turning to Allah wholeheartedly in humble and passionate yearning and ardent love and devotion. This spirit should rule the hearts of all pilgrims at all times, regardless of gender differences.

Men and women during Haj also share equally in the various dos and don’ts. Both must refrain from all forms of intimate sexual contact with spouses. They also must shun all vain talks, wrangling, and quarrels.

Likewise, both males and females must absolutely avoid using any kind of perfumes or scents, clipping nails, removing, plucking, trimming or shaving of hair, etc.

It is, however, permissible for both males and females during ihram to bathe or take showers or wash.

Likewise, they are permitted to use ordinary shampoos, soaps or creams, lotions, etc. so long as these are not scented.

Specific issues or regulations that concern women exclusively during Haj can be listed as follows:

Unlike men, women are allowed to wear their normal clothes regardless of whether they are sewn or not. There are no restrictions whatsoever on the kind of clothes they can wear during the state of ihram so long as they are not dyed in saffron or scented. Thus it is permissible for them to wear even clothes with colors or designs; although women pilgrims may do well in keeping it simple and avoid attractive designs and colors. After all, it should be noted, the hallmark of Haj is simplicity and humility before the Creator.

Women, again as opposed to men, are also allowed to wear shoes, slippers or sandals as they choose.

Women, however, are not allowed to wear either face-veils or hand-gloves during ihram; they must not cover their faces while in a state of ihram.

Women who are menstruating should assume ihram after a bath and recite Talbiyah and engage in dhikr and dua. However, they must not offer Prayer.

Menstruating women can perform all of the rituals of Haj with the sole exception of Tawaf (going around the Kabah). As far as performing Tawaf is concerned, they should postpone it until such time that they are free from menses and have cleaned themselves through ghusl (bathing).

If, however, because of special circumstances beyond their control, they find themselves unable to stay in Makkah (for instance, they have no choice but to leave with the group because of inability to change or reschedule travel plans), then they are allowed to perform Tawaf while still menstruating after cleaning themselves and wearing pads, etc.

The above ruling is given by Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. It has been based on a valid principle of Islamic jurisprudence which states that any condition — upon which the validity of a certain act of worship is dependent — can be waived if a person cannot fulfill the same; and the act of worship thus performed will be considered as valid without it. An example for this is covering oneself during Prayer. Thus if a person finds himself unable to cover his awrah (what must be covered) because he could not find anything to wear, then he must still pray without covering himself and his prayer will still be considered as valid, although in ordinary circumstances such a Prayer will be considered as null and void.

The same rule applies to a menstruating woman who must leave Makkah because of special circumstances beyond her control. The normal condition of cleansing from menses for the validity of Tawaf is waived in her case, and her Haj will be considered as perfectly valid.

Finally, rules for women are relatively more relaxed in regards to throwing pebbles at the Jamrat in Mina (stone pillars). Thus women, as well as those who are weak and elderly, are allowed to leave Muzdalifah early before Fajr in order to perform the rite of throwing pebbles before the crowd arrives in Mina.

In conclusion, I must point out that while it is important to pay due attention to the formal aspects of Haj, one must never lose sight of the inner dimensions of Haj.