Ihram is a state of consecration into which all who travel to Makkah for Hajj or `Umrah must enter at a particular point on their journey. The state of consecration continues until certain rites have been completed concerning either Hajj or `Umrah. Ihram has both limits of place and time. One does not enter into the state of ihram until reaching a particular point (miqat) on the journey to Makkah. The point differs according to the direction from which one is coming and one’s intention.

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada , states the following: Generally speaking, some scholars tend to insist on the view that while traveling for `Umrah, we are not supposed to cross the miqat except in a state of ihram. However, if a pilgrim’s intention is to travel to Madinah first and assume ihram from there, following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), I don’t see any reason for such rigidity.

I have arrived at the above position based on the fact that there is no explicit text to suggest otherwise. In matters of `ibadah (acts of worship), we cannot prescribe any firm rule without a clear text. Furthermore, whenever no such explicit text exists, the original rule of permission must prevail. This ruling is also in full conformity with the principle of ease and latitude inherent in Shari`ah. Allah says,[He has not instituted any hardship for you in your religion](Al-Hajj 22:78). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained this point further by saying “This religion of ours is simple and easy to follow; whoever makes it rigid will only be defeating himself by his self-imposed rigidity.”

In his farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) applied the above maxim while answering numerous questions that were put to him by his Companions, who had performed certain rituals either before or after, etc. He answered all of them saying “you are excused.” We should, therefore, never lose sight of the inherent flexibility and latitude of the pristine Shari`ah.

In conclusion, there is nothing wrong if, while going for `Umrah, a pilgrim assumes ihram from Madinah, if they are going there first with the intention of retracing the steps of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as he journeyed to Makkah for `Umrah.