What is The Ruling Regarding a Women Going to Hajj Without a Mahram?


Answered by Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi | Translated by Sister Marwa

The original rule stipulated in shari’a that a woman is not to travel alone.  Rather, she has to be accompanied by her husband or any other mahram of hers.  This rule is supported by narrations of Bukhari and others that Ibn-Abbas (ra) said, that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “A woman should not travel except with a mahram, and no man should visit her except in the presence of a mahram.”

Abu-Hurairah related the following on behalf of the Prophet (pbuh), “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel for one day and night except with a mahram.”

Abu-Sa’id reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “A woman should not travel for two days except she is accompanied by her husband or a mahram.”

Ibn-‘Umar reported, “She should not travel for three nights except with a mahram.”

Apparently, different narrations are due to the context of the questioner.  So, answers were given according to each  question.  Abu-Hanifa, however, considered the narrations of Ibn-Omar as more probable.  His believes that a mahram is considered a necessity only within the distance of qasr (shortening of prayers).  This is according to the narration of Ahmad.

These ahadith are about all kinds of travel, whither an obligatory travel such as for a visit or trade or seeking knowledge or else.

This ruling is not because shari’a mistrusts woman as some people may fancy.  To the contrary, this is a precaution for the sake of her reputation and dignity.  Shari’a seeks to protect her in case the sick at heart should seek to harm her.  It is to protect her from transgressors, brigands, especially in an environment in which a traveler crossed deadly deserts in a time that security and civilization were yet to prevail.

But what is the shari`ah ruling if a woman did not find a mahram to accompany her in a legitimate travel, whether obligatory, preferable, or allowed travel and she had some trusted men or women or the way was safe?

Scholars investigated this issue when they came across two problems: the obligation of women to perform hajj vs. the Prophet’s (pbuh) prohibition of a woman’s travel without a mahram.
Some of them adhered to the superficial meaning of the reported ahadith.  Thus, they prohibited woman from travelling without a mahram, even for fulfilling the obligation of performing hajj.Some of them like Abul-Walid al-Yajy, a maliky judge, excluded elderly women from this prohibition.  “This is a specialization of the general when looking to the meaning,” said Ibn-Daqiq al-Eid.Some of them excluded a woman accompanied by trusted group of women.  Some said it suffices to have a company of a Muslim, and trusted woman.Some said it suffices to make sure that the road is safe.  This is what the great scholar Ibn-Taymeya preferred.  Ibn-Muflih said in al-Furu’, “A woman could perform hajj without a mahram as long as she is safe.”  “This applies to all kinds of travel (for good cause).” he added.  This is also what Al-Karabesi cited from ash-Shafi’i in the section of “Voluntary hajj”.  Some of his followers said that it also applies to all kinds of non-obligatory travel, like visiting somebody or for trade.  Al-Athram reported that Imam Ahmad said, “Having a mahram is not a prerequisite for obligatory hajj,” he added, “this is because a woman can go to hajj with women (in general) and also with anyone she feels safe with.”Ibn-Sirin said, “She should go with good Muslims.”

Al-Awza’y said, “She should go only with persons of good reputation.”

Malik said, “She should go with a group of women.”

Ash-Shafi’i said, “She should go with a free, Muslim, and trusted woman.”  Some of his followers said, “She could go alone in case she is secured.”

Al-Hafidh Ibn-Hajar said, ” In the Shafi’i madhhab it is known to put the presence of the husband, mahram, or trusted women as a prerequisite for a women to perform hajj.” Some others say, “Only one trusted woman is enough.”

“She can travel alone if the road is safe.” This is another opinion cited by al-Karabesi.  He corrected it in al-Muhathab.

If this applies to hajj and umra, then it should apply to all kinds of travel as it has been reported by some scholars, because the main aim is to protect women and secure them.  Therefore, as long as the road is safe, and there are trusted women or men, she can go without mahram.

There are two evidences that a woman can travel without a mahram as long as she is safe and accompanied by trusted people:

First, it has been reported by al-Bukari in his Sahih, that Omar (ra) gave permission to the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) to perform hajj.  He sent Othman Ibn-Affan and Abdul-Rahaman to accompany them.  Omar, Othman, Abudl-Rahman along with the Prophet’s wives, all approved it.  Nobody of the companions denied what they did.  This is considered unanimous resolution.Second: what has been reported by Bukhary and Muslim regarding the hadith of Adyy Ibn-Hatim, to whom the Prophet (pbuh) talked about the future of Islam and how it will spread throughout the world.  Among of what he said was, ” … you will certainly see that a lady in a Howdah traveling from al-Hira, heading for Makkah, without her husband, fearing none but Allah…”This hadith implies not only that what the Prophet (pbuh) said would happen, but also that is it permissible.  It was mentioned within the context of praising the widespread of Islam and the security it would provide.Here, we want to add two important rules:

First, rulings regarding human interactions are meant to take into consideration the meanings and aims behind them.  Unlike the rulings of worship, whose origin is to worship and submit to Allah, without thinking about their implications.  This was clarified  and assured by al-Shatiby.
Second, whatever has been prohibited for itself could be permissible only if there is a necessity.  Whatever has been prohibited for the sake of preventing evasive legal device (sad al-zara’i), could be permissible only if there is a need for it.  Surely, women’s travelling alone was prohibited for the sake of preventing evasive legal device.

Moreover, travel in our time is different from what it used to be in the past.  For then, travel was full of danger.  People had to cross deadly deserts, sometimes encounter robbers or brigands and the like.  Nowadays, however, we travel by ships, airplanes.  Usually, these vehicles take large numbers of people. This is what eliminates the fear for a woman travelling alone, because she will not be alone in any particular place.

Therefore, there is no harm in a woman performing hajj (without mahram), as long as the circumstances are settled and safe.

May Allah grant us success.

Originally published by Al-Qaradawi

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16 Comments

  1. Ali says:

    Assalamu Alaykum

    Can a shaykh be a mehram for a group of women doing umrah or hajj?

    Assalamu Alaykum
    Ali

  2. Mesam says:

    Good post and translation. May Allah reward you.

  3. abu majeed says:

    As-Salamu alaikum Akh Ali,
    He may not be the Mahram, but according to the scholars he may take the place of her Mahram.

    And Allah knows best

  4. Alhamdullilah says:

    Jezakum Allahu khayran, truly apprecaite the post.

    Question for someone of knowledge, please: there are so many prohibitions mentioned by the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallama about women traveling without a mahram in the above post.

    But the only proofs I understood from the above post with regards to its permissibility is:

    - The incident of Aieshah radi Allahu anha and going for Hajj [but I had also learned that Umar radi Allahu anhu did not want to allow this, but Aieshah radi Allahu anha was persistant, wa Allahu 'alam, and because of this he let them go, radi Allahu anhunn, with the security of the state and major companions to go with them, radi Allahu anhum]

    - The hadith about a woman traveling without fearing anyone but Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala..[but then i've heard that just because it's mentioned it will happen does not mean it wipes out the prohibitions..]

    - And finally safety nowadays

    I am very seriously trying to understand this issue in light of the proof. Are those three aforementioned points enough to cancel out all the prohibitions?

    But then, Aieshah radi Allahu anha, a faqih herself, must have understood the proof differently to feel it is permissible for them to undertake Hajj…. and there have been great scholars, as mentioned above, who allow this and they have to have strong evidence for permissibility in light of the fact that there is clear prohibition.

    So what is that evidence which they are understanding as permissibility??

    Please help! I am really trying to analyze this subject inshaAllah and would greatly appreciate the thoughts of people of `ilm.

    jezakum Allahu khayran.

    • sidra says:

      when the wives of the prophet pbuh went to Hajj as ladies group the khalifa ummar send with them two sahabi one is usman bin ufaan who is the son in law of the prophet pbuh and also mahram for the wives of the prophe pbuh and 2nd abdul rahman bin auf but instructed them not to walk with the them but one is front of them and another is behind from them and when they did tawaf kaba not men will allowed to do tawaf kaba but these days women who r going without mahram is not allowed in sharia one mahram is compulsory and you can not make any immam to be mahram for any woman cuz mahram is the one woman can marry or her husband only is the mahram(brother,son, father, uncle, son in law whom she can not marry.

  5. abu majeed says:

    As-Salamu alaikum dear brother,

    In Fiqh there is something called an 'illah and it is the underlying cause beihind a prohibition. In many cases our scholars have eitehr agreed upon it because it is mentioned in the text and in others they have concluded it as a deduction. The safety argument is strong simply because it is one of the 5 objectives to protect our family's rights and its honor and the reality of Arabia was that it was defintely unsafe to travel distances (especially in the night). So this is the sole reason why many scholars have reassesed this issue. When safety is present then the ruling is removed this is the principle of fiqh al-hukm yadoor ma'a 'illatihi (The rulings presence stays with its cause)

  6. Tazeen says:

    Thnx. I was researching on the topic since I arrived here in Saudi Arabia and was quite confused.

    My mind was not able to understand the logic of traditional scholors.

    Alhamdulillah I got the answer.

    I am gonna translate that in urdu. If any one knows Yousuf Al Qarzawi book name where it is published do tell me.

    Regards

    TAzeen

  7. Fatima says:

    What about if a woman can only afford to pay for her travel only. What about single mothers who work with International Organizations and have to travel frequently to be able to support their children ( in this world some Muslim Men abandon their children, hence leading to women having to take care of their kids). Does this mean since such women travel without an escort, they are sinners. Does it mean they have to beg on the streets and not work. Further do they require an escort to beg on the streets too to feed their children.

    • Anne says:

      Asalaamu aleikum sister,

      I have looked into this as well and it seems there are some organizations that take sisters only. Others make it permissible for a single woman to join any group if she is over 40. But somewhere I read that the Saudi government does NOT issue visas for unaccompanied women. Muslims with non-Arabic names will in addition have to proof that they are actually Muslim, married or not.

      hope this was helpful and may Allah (swt) bless you with an opportunity to make hajj one day.

      Masalaama,
      Anne

  8. Mubeen says:

    a human much needed a member in her whole life. in his childhood he neede his parents, a wife in his young age, and a his childerns in his old age. the man has some different nature from woman.in islam a man is allowed to go any where, but the woman has not this right. there are some reasons under this restrict. a wife will like to go for hajj with his husban because she is not able to go alone, but the husband can go alone.i appreciate your article i got much knowledge from this article.

  9. Paul Bartlett says:

    Salaam to all. Interesting that there have been some new comments to this old thread.

    I think what we all have to recognize is that human circumstances change, and there may be situations today which the Sahaba and the early jurists might literally not have been able to imagine, so their considerations simply did not and could not take into account what we face today.

    In the western countries today, it is entirely possible, indeed it happens, that unmarried women of mature age come to Islam. In the Islamic sense (I am not a scholar, admittedly), they individually literally have *NO* Muslim mahram. They are actually all alone Islamically. Given the sad situation of many (western) converts, they have little prospect for an Islamic marriage, so they will remain without a mahram — no Muslim husband, father, son, brother, uncle. Islamically they are alone, and the early jurists might not have been able to envisage such a situation.

    In these situations (which might have seemed extreme or even incomprehensible to the early scholars), does a devout convert woman have no choice but to ignore one of the Pillars of Islam if she is otherwise able to fulfill it? Is she not permitted to travel in the company of other mature and responsible women? Even if she is a true Muslim but has a western name? (In many cases, taking a “Muslim” name is not an obligation.) Some of the comments here tend to indicate that there are circumstances in which she might be able to fulfill this obligation.

    But what about other circumstances? What about something like marriage? The blunt reality is that there may be a devout convert woman who has no mahram to serve as a wali. This can easily be the case in the west. Why should a mature, responsible woman who has been living on her own for many years in circumstances that the early jurists might not have even been able to imagine need a wali if she is willing, able, and seeking to marry? Can she not be a responsible person in her own right? Can she not make her own decisions and choices? We are not talking here about some blushing teenage virgin who has lived outside her father’s house.

    Allah (swt) knows best. Surely I do not. But I think that some scholars and jurists have to get their heads out of the middle ages and realize that whether they like it or not, in the western countries times have changed, and they have to deal with those circumstances.

    • Paul Bartlett says:

      Sorry, typographical error I did not catch in time. Make that, “We are not talking here about some blushing teenage virgin who has never lived outside her father’s house.”

  10. Salam, where can we read the original text? May Allah bless You! Salam

  11. ishaqah says:

    My 51 year old married sister would like to go for hajj with our mothers sisters daughter and son that’s a Moulana we can’t effort to send her husband but he has given permission

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