Perhaps we can define ihram as a state of consecration into which everyone who travels to Makkah for Hajj or `Umrah must enter at a particular point on his journey. The state of consecration continues until the completion of certain duties of either Hajj or `Umrah.
Ihram has both place and time limits. One does not enter into ihram until one reaches a particular point on the journey to Makkah. The point differs according to the direction from which one is coming. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) defined these points—known as miqats—in the following order:
People coming from Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah start their ihram at a place called Dhul-Hulaifah. It is better known today as Abyar `Ali, which is barely 10 kilometers from Madinah on the way to Makkah.
People coming Syria, Egypt, Palestine and beyond these have Al-Juhfa as their miqat, which is very close to the city of Rabigh.
People coming from Yemen have Yalamlam as their miqat, while those who are coming from the central and the eastern provinces in Saudi Arabia start their ihram at Qarn Al-Manazil near Ta’if. These were the points defined by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Later, `Umar added another point because people from Iraq complained that if they were to make their journey through Qarn Al-Manazil, they would add quite a long distance to their journey. `Umar told them to head straight on to Makkah, but they should define a point on their route that is parallel to Qarn Al-Manazil. This spot has come to be known as Dhat-`Iraq, which is the miqat of people coming from Iraq and beyond.”